One of my pals who has, unlike myself, hiked, scrambled and backpacked extensively in the western USA, always says that the only spot in the southeastern USA that can offer terrain and vistas anything like the west is Linville Gorge. And, in Linville, Babel Tower stands as one of the quintessential landmarks in the wilderness there.
Located in the northwestern section of the Linville Gorge, Babel Tower is an enormous section of pale rock that juts above a tremendous bend in the river. Below the tower are tossing rapids and deep pools where many people go to swim on hot summer days (when the water level's not too high).
The Babel Tower Trail is considered one of the easiest hikes in the
wilderness, which gives you some idea of the ruggedness of the terrain. Because the trail is no cakewalk. From the trailhead, one has a rocky, but relatively easy downhill slog of around 800 feet. After about 1.7 miles, you come to the aptly named Babel Tower. This is a giant pillar of almost white rock that rises hundreds of feet above the Linville River at its base. The drops here are precipitous. There are many scrambling trails to the bottom, but there are many dangerous hidden cliff faces, also.
To access the very summit of the Tower, there are a number of options. There are a number of technical climbs, plus some Class IV routes if you're an experienced rock climber. However, the safest way to the top is via a Class II/III manway that meanders through the rocks and trees on the left side of the tower. From there, you can gain the summit without any real exposure.
Babel Tower should be on most to-bag lists for visitors to the Gorge. It's a relatively easy roughly 3-mile in and out hike from the Kistler Highway. And the rewards are fine if the weather is clear and the visibility good. The summit provides fantastic views of the gorge and of the roaring Linville River hundreds of feet below.
Below the Summit.
From Asheville take 1-40 East to Marion exit NC-221. Drive North Aprox. 18 Mi. to Jct. NC-183 at linville falls Resturant. Turn right on # 183 go about 0.25 Mi. to Jct of Kistler Memorial Highway (SR-1238) turn right here. It is 2.7 Mi. to the parking area and trailhead on the left.
Inside the Linville Gorge Wilderness. All wilderness rules apply.
Wilderness. Ample camping throughout the gorge. There are campsites along the Kistler Highway, and developed camping at the Linville Falls area on the Blue Ridge Parkway, administered by the National Park Service.