North Carolina

Length of stay: 1 day
Visited: November 2021

North Carolina was one of the original thirteen colonies and was the first state to declare independence from England. It is often referred to as the Tar Heel State because workers here used to produce tar, pitch and turpentine from the state’s pine trees. North Carolina is also known for its beautiful sandy beaches, rolling hills and rugged mountains.

We had another long day ahead of us as we planned to drive through North Carolina towards South Carolina. While it was dark and dreary outside, the forecast was calling for favourable weather this afternoon. We left our hotel shortly after 8a.m and drove for a couple of hours to get to Linville Gorge.

Linville Gorge is commonly known as the Grand Canyon of the East. It is located in the Pisgah National Forest and there are a variety of trails and viewpoints to see the gorge up close. We planned to hike to Linville Falls, which marks the beginning of the Linville Gorge.

Linville Falls is located in the Blue Ridge Mountains. There are two hiking trails that lead to the falls. We parked at the Linville Gorge Wilderness Area Parking near Highway 221, but the other option is to park at the Linville Falls Visitor Centre along the Blue Ridge Parkway. From the Linville Gorge Wilderness Area parking lot, we found the trailhead and map of the Erwins View Trail (1.6 miles / 2.6km round trip) which features five viewpoints.

The first overlook is at the Upper Falls where the Linville River cascades down into the narrow canyon. Despite the fact that it was a Monday morning, the trail was pretty busy, largely because there was a big group of kids who were here as part of a field trip.

We then followed the path (mostly uphill) to the Chimney View Overlook which provides a view of both the upper and lower falls. The overlook is named for a rock formation that resembles a chimney by the waterfall.

We continued our slow slog uphill to Erwins View and Gorge View, both of which provide more nice views into the gorge and river below. Dodging around the group of kids added an extra element of challenge on the trail.

Afterwards we drove to the other parking area at the Linville Falls Visitors Center and hiked to the Plunge Basin Overlook (0.5 miles / 0.8km one-way) for another nice view of the lower falls and chimney rock formation. This trail was thankfully less busy.

After eating a quick lunch, we drove to the nearby Linville Caverns. But it turns out that the field trip also included a visit to the caverns and the place was packed with kids. The next available tour was four hours from now, so we left. We haven’t had much luck with any cavern tours so far.

But not to worry as we had other plans for the day. We hopped back in the car and drove to the Chimney Rocks State Park to spend the remainder of the afternoon. We were a bit hesitant at paying the $34 entrance fee as that seemed quite steep, but after visiting, all I can say was that it was totally worth it. I imagine this place requires a lot of maintenance with all those boardwalks and staircases. But more to come on that shortly.

It’s a long drive up the mountain with lots of twists and turns to reach the main entrance for Chimney Rocks. From the parking lot there’s a small elevator to get to the top of Chimney Rock. Alternatively there’s a set of stairs for those that want an extra challenge or don’t want to wait in line if it’s busy since the elevator is kind of slow and doesn’t hold that many people (even less so these days because of the pandemic). We opted for the elevator though since it wasn’t very busy.

To access the elevator, we walked through a tunnel in the rocks. Along the way there’s a few storyboards that provide more information of how the tunnel and elevator were constructed. The elevator took us up 26 stories near the top of Chimney Rock.

From the elevator, there’s a few nice viewpoints of Lure Lake and the surrounding valley. A few of the trees still had some leaves and it felt very much like fall. It’s a short stretch up a set of stairs to reach the Chimney Rock formation.

From there we then hiked along the Exclamation Point Trail (0.6 miles / 1km round trip, rated moderate to strenuous). The trail leads up a series of staircases and climbs about 200 feet above Chimney Rock and provides nice views of the surrounding area.

There are three overlooks along the trail: the Opera Box (which consists of a viewing platform between the rocks), the Devil’s Head (a large rock balancing on the side of a cliff) and the Exclamation Point (which provides a nice view of the entire gorge and surrounding mountains). The trail is predominantly uphill and consists of lots of stairs and switchbacks. We’re glad we left our jackets in the car. While most of the trail was sheltered, the end of the trail at the Exclamation Point was extremely windy.

We debated about hiking along the Skyline Trail which starts at the end of the Exclamation Point Trail and meanders through the forest along a ridge. But we weren’t sure we’d have enough daylight as we also wanted to hike along the Hickory Nut Falls and visit all the viewpoints on the way down Chimney Rock. So we turned around and walked back the way we came and were thankful to be out of the wind.

When we reached Chimney Rock, instead of taking the elevator back, we walked down along the Outcroppings Trail (0.4 miles / 0.6km round trip, rated moderate to strenuous). The trail consists of a network of about 500 steps and a series of boardwalks and features a number of viewpoints and overlooks. Some highlights include the Pulpit Rock, Subway, the Grotta, Vista Rock, Crevice Path and Gneiss Cave.

At the end of the Outcroppings Trail, we found an access point for the Hickory Nut Falls (1.4 miles / 2.3km round trip, rated moderate). The trail weaves through the forest to the base of the falls, which is one of the tallest waterfalls east of the Mississippi. At the end of the trail there’s a small viewing platform that provides a new view of the falls. We then turned around and walked back the way we came.

After finishing up our hike, we then drove to our accommodations in South Carolina.


93 thoughts on “North Carolina

  1. Rose says:

    That is a beautiful area! You weren’t too far from where we were late last year. We visited Grandfather Mountain, Banner Elk, Boone, Blowing Rock, Lenoir… We took a couple grandbabies on our road trip with us to visit other loved ones we hadn’t seen since the beginning of pandemic. We had so much fun!

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      I had no idea that North Carolina was so scenic. Sounds like you had a wonderful road trip there as well with your family. We debated about visiting Grandfather Mountain since it was along the drive, but we simply didn’t have enough time.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks for your kind words. We were lucky that we had such fabulous weather late in the fall when we took our road trip south of the border, which made hiking very enjoyable. North Carolina has a lot of great trails and such beautiful scenery in the mountains.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      There are definitely a lot of steps at Chimney Rocks State Park! The nice thing is that they also have an elevator to take you up to (and down from) Chimney Rock to bypass most of the steps. After a long day of driving, we didn’t mind the exercise so much as it was a good way to stretch out legs.

  2. Pepper says:

    Oh, my goodness! I didn’t realize that North Carolina was so beautiful. Those trails look amazing. Thanks for the great photos. 😊

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks for your lovely comment. I had no idea that North Carolina was so scenic either, which made the drive (and the hiking) very enjoyable. We had a wonderful time at Linville Gorge and Chimney Rocks State Park just soaking in the nice weather and the views.

  3. kagould17 says:

    Spectacular late fall scenery in a beautiful part of the world. You would not think the area would be so rugged, but the low mountains, gorges and waterfalls are stunning. That is a buttload of steps ion the Chimney Rock area, but like you said, worth the admission fee for the views and hikes. Thanks for sharing Linda. Allan

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      I was surprised to see that there were still some leaves on the trees so late in November. I could only imagine what this area would look like when it’s at its peak in terms of fall colours. In the end I’m glad we paid the entrance fee as this really was a highlight during our (brief) time in North Carolina. And we certainly got our workout that day. Thanks for reading. Linda

  4. John says:

    Wow, this place is very beautiful! Thank you for the wonderful photos. $34 dollars is very steep but as you mentioned, the maintenance costs must be high.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      I was surprised at how high the entrance fee was compared to what we pay to enter a provincial or national park in Ontario. But I’m glad we still went as the trails were in amazing condition and the views were incredible.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Right!? I’m glad I’m not the only one that thinks that’s an outrageous entrance fee, especially considering that we bought our annual provincial park pass for $100. But it’s always nice to treat yourself while on holidays and we figure we’re only here once. The views were amazing and we couldn’t have asked for better weather.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      I was pleasantly surprised to still see quite a few leaves on the trees near the end of November. I can only imagine what it would look like in the peak of fall in terms of the leaves changing colour. I had no idea that North Carolina was so scenic either. I’m glad we had such a gorgeous day for hiking and checking out the views.

  5. Little Miss Traveller says:

    What a gorgeous area Linda. It’s so nice to learn about North Carolina as I’d obviously heard about it but knew little about the state. The trails you followed look stunning. Happy Easter to you both!

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      This was our first time visiting North Carolina and I didn’t really know what to expect in terms of the scenery. I was pleasantly surprised at how many beautiful areas there are in the mountains, which made for some great hiking trails. Hope you enjoyed your Easter as well. Take care. Linda

  6. leightontravels says:

    The trails and views are amazing, love the late autumn hues. Quite a lot of steps (and dollars), but certainly worth it with so many different paths and viewpoints. Did you find US parks to be generally pricier when it comes to entrance fees?

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      I was surprised to see so many leaves still on the trees in North Carolina considering it was the end of November. It definitely contributed to the nice views. Entrance into the State Parks in the US is a bit of a mixed bag. Some of them are free, while others require an entrance fee. Chimney Rocks was one of the pricier ones we’ve paid, but I guess it costs money to make all those boardwalks and steps!

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks for your kind words. It was a long drive through North Carolina, but at least the scenery was spectacular. I’m glad we had such wonderful weather to enjoy the views and go for a few hikes.

  7. Christie says:

    Very spectacular vistas! Quite expensive, never heard so much $$ for a state park (well, the past few years are adding up a lot of $ to anything), but obviously worth it😊

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      I’m glad I’m not the only one that thought the entrance fee to Chimney Rocks was outrageous. This is probably the most we’ve paid to visit a state park in the US. I don’t understand how some of them are free, while others aren’t and that the price tends to vary. Either way, I’m glad we still went as the trails were lovely and the views were incredible. We only live once.

  8. salsaworldtraveler says:

    Welcome to my home state. I moved to North Carolina about 15 years ago and was surprised to discover so much awe inspiring terrain. Your post makes Linville Gorge a must-see place to visit in the near future.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks for your lovely comment. I didn’t realize that you lived in North Carolina! It’s such a beautiful state with lots of great trails and viewpoints. I would love to return to explore it more fully. Linville Gorge was easily one of the highlights from our entire road trip.

  9. Ab says:

    What a spectacular day exploring different trails in North Carolina. I can’t wait to see what your South Carolina trails took you to.

    The Exclamation Point views really are spectacular. Definitely worth the steep $34 entrance fee (USD too!). Very interesting to think there was an elevator service too – something we don’t have over here.

    Those boardwalk trails and waterfalls sure are lovely.

    We thought about doing some Roadtrips in the US next summer and this may very well be on our itinerary.

    Happy long weekend!

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      I was debating about whether to skip Chimney Rocks State Park because of the high entrance fee, but I’m glad that we didn’t as it was one of the highlights of our time in North Carolina. The trails were in excellent condition, but I’m glad we took the elevator to the top of Chimney Rock as climbing up all those steps would have been intense and exhausting.

      That’s exciting to hear that you’re considering taking a roadtrip to the US next summer. As much as I love Ontario, it’s nice to get a change of scenery and to shake things up.

      Hope you had a wonderful long weekend as well and managed to get some rest and relaxation (and some chocolate eggs). We’re currently on Vancouver Island and heading to Tofino today.

      • Ab says:

        We’re eyeing Utah as I’m getting fed a lot of photos and ads on social media about their gorgeous looking parks! 😆

        Have a fantastic time in Vancouver! Can’t wait to read the update posts.

      • WanderingCanadians says:

        Utah sounds fun. There’s a lot of national parks in the south, which would probably make for a great road trip. It’s definitely high up on my travel bucket list.

        And thanks! Today was a bit gnarly with all the rain, but the scenery is stunning. I can see why it’s often referred to as the wet coast.

      • Ab says:

        You need to look up Toronto weather right now. People are having a meltdown over the snow. 😂😂😂

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      The scenery in North Carolina was stunning with all the mountains, gorges and waterfalls. It also helped that we had fabulous weather for being outdoors. Hope you had a wonderful Easter. Take care. Linda

  10. Diana says:

    Lovely! I’ve been to Linville Falls but I didn’t do any of these other hikes. Looks like a return trip is in order. I especially love the views from the overlooks.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      North Carolina seems to have it all with its beautiful sandy beaches to the east and mountainous landscape to the west. I was blown away by the scenery. I have a feeling I’ll be back someday.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      The scenery in North Carolina was stunning. I was surprised to still see so many leaves on the trees considering it was the end of November. Thankfully we had such fabulous weather for being outdoors. Hope you had a happy Easter as well. Take care.

  11. travelling_han says:

    Oh wow, I never knew North Carolina was so beautiful! I love the fact that so many of the parks in the US have clearly marked trails – we don’t have the same here and always get lost! The views are incredible 🙂

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      North Carolina was such a lovely state to pass through. I am terrible with navigation and directions, so I appreciate a well-marked trail. I’m also not a fan of trails that require any amount of bushwhacking. That’s a hard pass.

  12. Bama says:

    Finally blue skies in the US! Those are some really nice hikes, despite the groups of schoolchildren you encountered. It looks like the ‘Grand Canyon of the East’ didn’t disappoint at all. Glad you experienced it on a nice, sunny day.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      It was such a gorgeous day for being out on the trail. On one hand the group of schoolchildren was a bit annoying to hike around, but at the same time, that sounds like such an amazing field trip for them. I wish my school had done something like that when I was a student!

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      It was nice to see some of the fall colours in North Carolina even though we were visiting very late in the fall. We couldn’t have asked for better weather either. It was perfect for hiking. Thanks for reading and leaving a comment.

  13. annemariedemyen says:

    Beautiful photos. It is amazing how every state has such unique and stunning scenery. I would gladly skip over the huge cities but I could lose myself forever in the natural beauty of their wilderness.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      The landscape in North Carolina was stunning, which made for some scenic hiking and driving. Linville Falls was one of my favourite trails that we hiked during our road trip. It was nice to see the falls at different angles from all the various overlooks.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      North Carolina is beautiful. I’m glad we had such nice weather to enjoy the views and check out a few of the trails. The hiking was top notch. I was surprised to still see so many leaves on the trees even though it was late in November. Works for me as the fall is my favourite season.

  14. Violet Lush says:

    What a beautiful description. This jumped out at me immediately because I have just enjoyed a waterfall walk in Wales UK and it was breathtaking. I find the US fascinating though as the wild life can be a little more threatening. Is hunting of bears legal? The geology is also different as there must be different types of rock allowing for waterfalls, caves and mountains.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks for your kind words. I was impressed at the scenery in North Carolina as we were hiking and driving through. I haven’t seen too much wildlife while out on the trails in North America, mostly just deer and squirrels, but it’s always something to be mindful of. I think hunting grizzly bears is illegal in Canada, but black bears may be fair game depending on the area or season.

  15. Janet says:

    $34! Wow! I’m glad you chose to go in though. It was fun to read about and see the photos. I have family in North (and South) Carolina but have never been there.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      I know! We were shocked at how much they were charging for admission. We figured we’re only here once and we might as well treat ourselves while we’re on holidays. I’m glad we did as the trail system was very well done and the views were incredible. It sounds like a trip out east to the Carolinas are in order to visit your family and soak in the scenery.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks for your kind words. I was surprised that there were still some leaves on the trees even though we were visiting at the end of November. We couldn’t have asked for better weather during our road trip. It was a little chilly, which was perfect for hiking.

      • BrittnyLee says:

        I love the chilly weather in the fall. It’s so calming and you don’t feel all sticky and sweaty like in the summer months. I love hiking in the summer too but mostly when there’s a swim in the mix 😜🤣.

      • WanderingCanadians says:

        Definitely. That’s one of the reasons why I love hiking in the spring (minus the mud) and the fall. Plus the trails are typically quieter then and the bugs aren’t out.

      • BrittnyLee says:

        Exactly 💯 . The mosquitos can break 💔 a trip and ruin it . That happened to us when we went to Ricketts Glen. We got bit so bad we had to turn around . It was just a summer day where there was a high mosquito count .

      • WanderingCanadians says:

        I’ve been there before too and have had to abandon my plans because it turned into a bug festival. I really should get one of those bug hats and jackets.

      • BrittnyLee says:

        It’s the same for me !! I use alarms in my phone to help me remember everything lol 🤣🤣 I know it sounds goofy but it really helps with all I need to remember in a day haha

      • BrittnyLee says:

        It helps a lot. I work with kids and spend majority of my day with them remembering their schedule. When I get home, I’m not remembering anything without reminders haha 🤣🤣 . I definitely recommend it

      • BrittnyLee says:

        Trees still having beautiful leaves in November is very lucky 🙂 I’m glad you enjoyed your trip and had good weather. Bad weather can really put a damper on things .

      • BrittnyLee says:

        Exactly ! It’s so peaceful and it does soothe the soul, you’re right 👍 😊. There’s this nice spot by a bridge in Frances Slocum that I love to go to. It’s so relaxing sitting on the bridge and taking photos of any birds that drop by. You could hear their calls and their little feet patting on the wood. The stream that goes under it is pretty nice. It makes for an even calmer experience. I love bridges and streams too. There’s this ancient tree a few feet away too. My brother and I named it. I have to find the name though haha . It’s so ancient, it had to be named

      • WanderingCanadians says:

        Sounds like a lovely spot. There’s just something so soothing and relaxing about listening to the sounds of rushing water from the stream. I’m also a huge fan of bridges too. I love how they come in such different shapes, designs and colours. They are a lot of fun to photograph.

      • BrittnyLee says:

        They are so much fun to photograph! Yes! I love the older kind of construction of this bridges and covered bridges. They’re so beautiful ❤️

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      We got quite the leg workout with all those stairs!! They do have an elevator to bypass a big portion of them, but it was nice to stretch our legs after spending so much time in the car.

  16. Oh, the Places We See says:

    We’ll have to put that gorge view on our list of to-do’s next time we’re in NC. You’ve captured the natural beauty well. The whole state is pretty, or at least what we’ve seen of it. And it’s time for us to return — I love summer there, but fall is my fave.

    • WanderingCanadians says:

      Thanks for your kind words. The drive through North Carolina was very beautiful and I loved that there were lots of great hiking trails and scenic overlooks along the way. I can only imagine how much more gorgeous the area is when the leaves are changing colour. Hopefully you’re able to return to North Carolina sometime soon.

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