Linville Gorge Wilderness area


The Linville Gorge Wilderness, in the mountains of Western North Carolina, is part of the Pisgah National Forest. The gorge is formed by the Jonas Ridge on the east and Linville Mountain on the west and is bisected by the Linville River which drops 2,000 feet into the valleys below. The terrain is steep and rugged with numerous rock formations. It is covered by dense hardwood/pine forest and a wide variety of smaller trees and other plants. Recreation opportunities include hiking backpacking, rock climbing, fishing and hunting.

A free camping permit is needed on weekends and holidays May through October. Group size is limited to 10 persons. Each visitor or group may receive one weekend permit per month and may stay up to 3 consecutive days and 2 nights.


Discover a Trail


Pine Gap: 1.00 mile
Bynum Bluff: 1.00 mile
Cabin: 0.75 miles
Babel Tower*: 1.30 miles
Conley Cove: 1.35 miles
Pinch-In: 1.50 miles
Spence Ridge*: 1.75 miles
Devil's Hole: 1.50 miles
Jonas Ridge*: 2.40 miles
Little Table Rock*: 1.10 miles
Table Rock Gap*: 1.20 miles
Brushy Ridge*: 2.00 miles
Shortoff*: 8.00 miles
Rock Jock: 2.80 miles
Table Rock*: 1.20 miles

* Primitive trails with very strenuous hiking.


Pine Gap to Conley Cove: 5.00 miles
Table Rock to Shortoff: 4.50 miles
Table Rock to Spence Ridge: 2.00 miles
Table Rock Picnic Area to top of Table Rock: 1.20 miles
Table Rock to Chimneys: 1.25 miles
Mountain-to-Sea trial (Pinnacle-Shortoff-Table Rock): 11.00 miles

NOTE: Trails are signed at trailheads but are not signed or blazed once inside the wilderness. You should be able to read a topographical map and use a compass. You can purchase topo and other maps from the Grandfather District Office.

NOTE: A bridge crosses Linville River at Spence Ridge Trail.

At a Glance

Reservations: Reservations are first-come, first-serve beginning the first working day of each previous month.  For example, reservations for wilderness camping permits for June are accepted starting the first working day of May. Permits are limited to 35 by reservation and 15 by walk-in.
Rentals & Guides: Several outfitter guides have permits for the Gorge for rock climbing and other activities. Contact the District Office for more information.
Fees Free
Permit Info: A permit is required for camping on weekends( Friday, Saturday and Sunday) and holidays from May 1 through October 31. Permits are issued form the District Rangers Office by mail or in person. Day use permits are not required. Permitted users are limited to 50/night.  The district office can permit 35 users by reservation or walk-in. The Linville Gorge Info. Cabin can permit 15 users for walk-ins only. For permits contact Grandfather Ranger District, 109 EastLawing Drive, Nebo, NC 2876, phone 828-652-2144.
Usage: Heavy
Restrictions: No mechanical transport of any kind is allowed. No removal of plants, stone, moss for personal or commercial use.
Closest Towns: Linville Falls

General Information


For Eastern Section:

Follow the direction from Marion up to the Gingercake Acres subdivision.

  • The first parking area is for Devil's Hole Trail (Sitting Bear), two miles from Gingercake Acres.
  • The second parking area is for Hawkbill (parking area on left and trail on right) one mile from Devil's Hole.
  • The third parking area is for Spence Ridge and North Table Rock trails, one mile from Hawkbill.

For Western Section:

Parking lots accessing the western section of the gorge lead off Kistler Memorial Highway.


Access to Eastern Section:

From Marion, take US 221 and head north to the intersection of NC 183 and continue to NC 181. Turn right and go south on NC 181 and continue three miles to Forest Service Road (FR) 210 (Gingercake Road). Turn right onto FR 210. At the first fork, turn left and continue through Gingercake Acres subdivision.

To reach Table Rock Picnic Area, go one mile to the first intersection and turn right. Stay on this road, bearing to the right through several switchbacks to the picnic area.

Access to Western Section:

From Marion, take US 221 north to the intersection of NC 183 at Linville Falls. Turn right on NC 183 and go one mile to NC 1238, Kistler Memorial Highway. Trailhead and parking lots accessing the western section of the gorge lead off Kistler Memorial Highway.

To access Kistler Memorial Highway from Marion, take US 70 and head east to Nebo. At Nebo, take NC 126 across Lake James and continue eight miles. Turn left one NC 1238, Kistler Memorial Highway. Kistler highway is a gravel road and is very rough in places, especially for two-wheel-drive vehicles.


Camping & Cabins

Show detail SHOW


Hide detail HIDE

Rock Climbing

Recreation areas with activity Rock Climbing: Formed by Linville Mountain on the west and Jonas Ridge on the east, the gorge sits east of Mount Mitchell. Linville Gorge's unique assortment of rock formations on Jonas Ridge includes Sitting Bear, Hawksbill, Table Rock and the Chimneys.

These features are ideal for hiking, backpacking and rock climbing.  The area includes 39 miles of trails, offering experienced hikers a wonderful excursion. Some trails are quite steep and meander through dense forest, so novice hikers can get easily disorientated.  Several rock formations along Jonas Ridge offer a challenge for qualified rock climbers experienced in safe climbing techniques.

For a more solitary visit, explore the southern portion of the gorge, south of the Conley Cove Trail in the western half and south of the Chimneys in the east.  The northern portion of the gorge surrounding Brushy Ridge also receives low use and provides more solitude.  In addition, the rugged terrain offers a physical challenge.


Show detail SHOW


Show detail SHOW