Linville Gorge Wilderness area

Area Status: Open
This area is Open

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.


At a Glance

Reservations: Reservations for permits 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. To reserve a permit, contact the Grandfather Ranger District, 828-652-2144. Permits fill up quickly – please call in advance to ensure a spot.
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 overnight camping on weekends (Friday and Saturday nights) and holidays from May 1 through October 31. Day use permits are not required. Permitted users are limited to 50/night.  The district office can permit 35 users per night by reservation. The Linville Gorge Information Cabin (516 Old NC 105, Marion, NC) can permit 15 users for walk-ins only. Walk-in permits are made available for the current weekend each Friday at 10am at the Info Cabin. For more information contact the Grandfather Ranger District, 828-652-2144.
Usage: Heavy
Restrictions: Length of stay is limited to 2 nights, 3 days. Group size is limited to 10 people. 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 Morganton, take US 181 and head north for approximately 23 miles to Forest Service Road (FR) 210 (Gingercake Road). Turn left onto FR 210. At the first fork, turn left and continue through Gingercake Acres subdivision.

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.

General Notes:

Grandfather Ranger District
109 Lawing Drive
Nebo, NC 28761
(828) 652-2144

Discover a Trail

NOTE: All trails within the Wilderness are primitive trails with very strenuous hiking.

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


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: The Spence Ridge Trail bridge at the Linville River is currently washed out.  Hikers must execute a wet crossing to proceed.

Recreation Map

Map showing recreational areas. Map Information


Camping & Cabins

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Dispersed Camping

Recreation areas with activity Dispersed Camping:

No-Trace Camping
Visitors are asked to minimize impact to the wilderness and follow these rules:

  • Avoid holidays and weekends.
  • Avoid popular and overused areas.
  • Never cut standing trees or damage and pick plants or wildflowers.
  • Pick up all litter.  Pack out all garbage.
  • Avoid campsites that are overcamped.
  • Use existing fire rings.  Better yet, use a backpacker stove for cooking.
  • If you must have a fire, create a shallow depression on mineral soil for the fire and keep it small.
  • Destroy evidence of the fire. Replace and scatter twigs and leaves cleared for fire or sleeping.
  • Bury human waste six inches deep and at least 100 feet from water.


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Areas & Activities


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  Elevation : 
1,300 feet - 4,120 feet