Linville Gorge: The best of the Blue Ridge Mountains

Sunset Over the Blue Ridge Mountains

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North Carolina wilderness area blew me away

I’ve seen it on Google Maps for years. I’ve heard how beautiful it is. But I never took the time to investigate North Carolina’s Linville Gorge. Man, was I missing out!

My travels finally took me on a line that was close to the Blue Ridge Mountains gorge earlier this month, so I made the short detour to check it out. That afternoon at Linville Gorge blew me away.

I spent that evening atop the 4,000-foot Hawksbill Mountain, one of the iconic peaks in the gorge. The wind was howling when I stepped out the truck in the parking lot, and it only grew worse as I hiked up the mountain.

“It’s blowing 60 mph,” a woman walking the opposite direction told me about halfway up. “You’ll never be able to get good photos up there, even with your tripod.”

Well, that was just a personal challenge. Fact is she was right about the winds. I have rarely been in winds so high — and I live in South Louisiana and have weathered major hurricanes. At one point, the wind almost knocked me down. I had to take a couple of steps.

My goal was a sunset photo, but that meant shooting into the teeth of the gale. Unfortunately I could see my camera shaking even locked down tightly on my tripod.

I knew the planned photo was out.

However, I glanced 180 degrees from where the sun would set, and was struck by the beautiful evening light on neighboring Table Rock Mountain. I did a Facebook Live while I worked on it, but still I could see camera shake.

I started investigating the mountain top to see if I could find somewhere with more protection. Finally, I located the perfect spot and created the print titled “Evening Light on Table Rock.”

Evening Light On Table Rock

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I headed off to Buggs Island Reservoir in Virginia for another Bassmaster event.

But I couldn’t get Linville Gorge out of my head.

A few days later I left Buggs Island with four days before I was due in Alabama. I headed right back to Linville Gorge for a much more focused visit.

My time there was incredible. According to my iPhone, I took 48,154 steps for 19.2 miles with 1,840 feet of elevation change. That’s not counting the 5.2 miles and 1,000 feet of elevation change my first evening there the week before.

It was worth every step. Linville Gorge is a true natural treasure. I honestly believe it’s the best of what the Blue Ridge Mountains have to offer.

Upper Linville Falls

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There are waterfalls, a raging river, soaring mountain peaks and — of course — panoramic views of the iconic layered mountain ridges best viewed from one of the mountaintops as the sun sets.

The only challenge is that this is a national wilderness area. As such, Linville Gorge's 39 miles of trails are to as well maintained as in national parks; in fact, many are primitive. Many of the trails are rated difficult to most difficult.

That was part of the fun for me. Also, I enjoyed time at the wonderful Linville Falls Lodge, one of the original Blue Ridge Parkway motels built in 1937 and still in the same family. My room was just minutes from the west side of the gorge.

Sunrise Storms Over Hawksbill Mountain

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From incredible sunsets and sunrise to amazing waterfalls and hiking trails, Linville Gorge now ranks as one of my favorite sections of the Appalachian Mountains.

I absolutely can’t wait to go back.

Click here to see the full Linville Gorge Collection!

Linville Falls Plunge Basin

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Last Light Over the Blue Ridge Mountains

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