Blue Ridge Parkway Getaways: Linville Falls and Gorge

For a series of quick getaways from the Queen City, look no further than The Blue Ridge Parkway. Here's an itinerary the kids will enjoy.
Tamela Rich
Upper Linville Falls at Milepost 316.3

For a series of quick getaways from the Queen City, look no further than The Blue Ridge Parkway. The Parkway connects the 469-mile span between North Carolina's Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Virginia's Shenandoah National Park. You will encounter Nature at her finest, but won't encounter a single stop sign or commercial vehicle along the way.

The Parkway brings you to hundreds of towns, historical sites, and natural wonders, making it a favorite place to return to season after season, year after year. Slow down and enjoy the 45 mph speed limit and limited cell phone access. You deserve a break from the bustle of your everyday life.

Download my quick planning guide to the Blue Ridge Parkway free. 

I plan to blog about the Parkway throughout the year since it covers such a wide territory and offers so much to do in every season. With Memorial Day Weekend later this month, I'm kicking off the Parkway series with an itinerary for Linville Falls and Gorge.

Linville is perfect for a day trip, and if you can spend the holiday weekend in the mountains, extend your itinerary to Linville Caverns too. While you're in the region you'll have plenty of opportunities to enjoy an afternoon picnic at one of the the Parkway's scenic overlooks.

I discussed this itinerary on Good Day Charlotte too. 

Planning a visit to the Blue Ridge Parkway: America's Favorite Drive from TamelaRich on Vimeo.

Linville Falls and Gorge

You can reach Linville at the Parkway's Milepost 316.3 via several routes from Charlotte but the most direct of them is Highway 321 North, passing through Morganton. If you only have a day to explore the area, get an early start since it will take a little over two hours to arrive.

Linville Falls is a three-tiered waterfall plunging into Linville Gorge, the "Grand Canyon of the Southern Appalachians." Watching the waters fall over 2000 feet into the gorge, everyone will appreciate the role that waterways and streams have played in the overall ecology and beauty of our region. It's a great way to put all the earth science from the classroom into context.

Here's a quick video I took of the upper falls-they get more dramatic later in the hike.

Blue Ridge Parkway: Linville Falls (panorama) from TamelaRich on Vimeo.

The remedy for nature deprivation

If your kids complain in advance about going into nature for the day-"What are we gonna do?"-don't let them talk you into doing something commercial instead. They won't know until they get out there how much they'll enjoy themselves.

Modern people are suffering from nature deprivation, according to Richard Louve, who studies and writes about this extensively.

"The future will belong to the nature-smart-those individuals, families, businesses, and political leaders who develop a deeper understanding of the transformative power of the natural world and who balance the virtual with the real. The more high-tech we become, the more nature we need." ~Richard Louve
There is even a field called "ecotherapy" that helps us restore wellbeing through contact with nature. Maybe some day our doctors will say, "Take a two-hour hike and call me in the morning."

Eat at Louise's Rock House

Near the Falls is Louise's Rock House, a spot that the kids will continue talking about long after you're home. The restaurant sits at the meeting point of three counties: Avery, Burke, and McDowell and you can choose the county you wish to eat in, since they're clearly marked at the ceiling.

The food is cooked in Avery County, but the waitresses pick it up in Burke. Your car will be parked in either Burke or McDowell. Located where Highway 221 meets 183 in Newland, NC. Bonus: your meal won't break the bank.

The mysterious lights at Brown Mountain

Coming home after dark, try to spot blue or yellow lights on Brown Mountain. They've been reported for years and are best seen from Jonas Ridge Hwy/Hwy 181 about 12 miles north of Morganton. The lights are not man made, and scientists are trying to figure out what causes them.

Linville Caverns

If you have a weekend to spend in the area, visit Linville Caverns on your way home through Marion. It's "North Carolina's only commercial cave" and home to bats. Yes, I want you to take your kids to see bats so they (and perhaps you) can shake off all the fear-mongering that's been perpetuated against these beneficial mammels.

The Caverns' underground trout stream is another way to introduce the kids and re-introduce yourself to our miraculous world. Have a great time out in nature and post your snapshots on my Facebook Page, please!

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Tamela Rich is an award-winning author, storyteller, adventurer and mom. Known as the "American Road Trip Expert," she is passionate about sharing tips on transformational experiences for every member of the family. Her motto is to "Pack Light. Travel Slow. Connect Deep." For more information, visit