The Erwins View Trail is the most popular trail at the recreation area and provides an opportunity to view the waterfall from three unique points. The entire trail is less than a mile one way and easy to follow, although moderately steep at a few points. It's slightly longer than the Plunge Basin/Gorge trail, but a much easier hike. From the visitor center, the trail crosses Linville River on a footbridge and follows the river downstream towards the falls. The first overlook, Upper Falls Overlook, is at about 0.5 miles. This overlook provides nice views of the Upper Falls, small twin cascades above the main waterfall. After the cascades, the river flows through a narrow gorge before making the big plunge. This overlook is the only spot for a good view of the river snaking through the gorge above the waterfall. This overlook is located on a rock outcrop on the river that is fenced in. Do not climb on the rocks past the fence. A fall over Linville Falls would result in certain death. A park ranger told me once that Native Americans used the waterfall to execute people as there is almost no chance of survival. Continuing on the trail, the next overlook is Chimney View Overlook, located in front of the waterfall and a little higher up. This overlook has great views of the falls and is the only spot to see both the main waterfall and the upper cascades. Lastly, at just under a mile, is Erwins View. Erwins View is the furthest viewing spot and so the waterfall is quite far away, but the view with the surrounding mountains is beautiful. Near Erwins View is Gorge View. You can't see the waterfall from here, but looking downstream, you can see into Linville Gorge. Overall, this trail provides a lot of great scenic opportunities for less than a 2-mile round trip.
Linville Gorge is a federally-designated wilderness area in the Grandfather Ranger District of Pisgah National Forest. It follows the Linville River from Linville Falls to Lake James, with Jonas Ridge on the east and Linville Mountain on the west. With 39 miles of trails and some pristine backcountry campsites, Linville Gorge is a great destination for hiking and backpacking. Being a wilderness area, however, the trails and campsites are very primitive. Most trails only have a sign at the trailhead and no blazes or other signage along the trail. Campsites have no amenities and permits are required on weekends and holidays in the summer.
Although there are only a few miles of hiking trails at Linville Falls, there is a lot to see here - you get a lot of scenic bang for your hiking buck. The Erwin's View Trail starts from behind the visitor center and crosses the Linville River and after a ways, there is a view of the upper falls - twin falls, actually. Then, back to the trail and on to Chimney View. Here, there is a good view of the main falls. There are two more views on this trail, Erwin's View, which is a more distant view of the main falls and to Linville Gorge, and Gorge View with a view of the gorge downstream from the falls.
The Plunge Basin Trail also starts from the visitor center and splits into two paths. The Plunge Basin Overlook is a close up view of the main falls, and Linville Gorge goes down to the base of the falls. Neither path is more than a mile, although a little more strenuous than the Erwin's View Trail.
Favorite thing: I am optimistic that these are pages that I can build upon and add to as time goes by, and I'm compelled to do it! Such a beautiful place in the midst of nature and I only saw a couple of hundred yards of one trail... I must have more! My senses demand it and shall not be denied.