Overview and Route Description
This route is neither long nor complicated, and it does not reach a summit. Instead, it is a descent. But it is here in the interest of something good to do other than stopping at overlooks while traveling the Blue Ridge Parkway. This page will be one of a series of Blue Ridge Parkway routes that lead into or to a spectacular destination without a major (half-day or more) time commitment while also steering clear of crowds for the most part.
Linville Falls is one of the most spectacular sights along the Blue Ridge Parkway. At once, it is among the highest single drops in the Blue Ridge and also perhaps the most powerful; most Blue Ridge waterfalls are pretty cascades along mountain creeks often called rivers but not really living up to that name, but at Linville Falls, a legitimate river constricts to pour through a narrow opening and then plunge-- hence the name of the basin-- into one of the East's longest and wildest gorges.
Most visitors to Linville Falls use the easy, popular trails along the south side of the river to view the upper falls, the brink of the lower falls, and see the falls from high, distant viewpoints. Plunge Basin, however, though it is not some wilderness secret, sees far fewer people, presumably because it requires some effort to reach. In about 0.7 mi, a trail descends a few hundred feet to Plunge Basin-- not much to scream about, but apparently enough to deter most people.
The trail drops steeply to Plunge Basin, and a little scrambling upstream gets you close to the falls. There are also some ledges on the cliffs adjacent to the falls that let you get close enough to get wet.
0.4 mi along, a spur descends 0.2 mi to Plunge Basin Overlook, where an opening at the top of a sheer cliff affords a view of the falls not far below. Visiting both the overlook and Plunge Basin itself is therefore a round-trip hike of 1.8 mi. Of course, once you are in the basin, you can ramble downstream as much as time and the terrain allow.
Linville Falls is at MP 316 along the Blue Ridge Parkway. A signed spur leads for a mile to a large parking lot, and the trails begin by the small visitors center and restrooms.
Portions of the Parkway often close in the winter. If the Parkway is closed here, you can still access Linville Falls by parking at the intersection of U.S. 221 and the Parkway and then hiking north about a mile to the spur for Linville Falls.