When I was growing up, my family spent many summers hiking in the White Mountains in New Hampshire. I grew up relishing the accomplishment of making it to the summit of a mountain and taking in the view from the top. Some of my favorite hikes passed by rushing waterfalls or intersected with small streams. Having to strategically crossing a stream successfully always made the hike feel more adventurous.
When I moved to North Carolina five years ago, I traded the White Mountains for the Greak Smokey Mountains, which sprawl between North Carolina and Tennessee. Thanks to the North Carolina gold rush, you can explore caverns and abandoned mines within some of the mountains in addition to hiking to the top. Cavern and waterfall hikes are the perfect pairing for a day trip, especially if you add in a scenic drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway that runs though North Carolina.
Located in the Pisgah National Forest near Marion, NC, the Linville Caverns are submerged within Humpback Mountain. Open to visitors since 1937, they were discovered by fishermen in the early 1800’s. Tour guides escort visitors though the caverns, pointing out rock formations, giving a detailed history of the caverns, and doling out interesting facts about the spider and bat populations dwelling within.
Nearby are the Linville Falls, a three tiered waterfall that pours into the Linville Gorge. There are several trails visitors can hike in the area, but the Gorge Trail offers the best views overlooking the Falls.
The Linville Falls are easy to access of Blue Ridge Parkway, and if your looking for a lunch break during your trek, Spears BBQ & Grill is nearby. They offer outdoor seating and an expansive menu that includes BBQ, seafood, and vegetarian dishes.