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Instead of several waterfalls on one trail, Linville Falls Recreation Area offers three trails to one waterfall with a total of six different views. Hosting about 50,000 visitors annually, Linville Falls is probably the most famous waterfall in the Blue Ridge. It was designated a Natural Heritage Area in 1989.
Linville Falls is a double cascade with a vanishing act between the two falls. The upper falls is wide and gentle, pouring over several shelves for a total of fifteen feet. Here, the river is lazy.
Suddenly, the river disappears into a narrow, quartzite channel. Out of sight, it dives sixty feet through a winding chamber before reappearing as the lower falls, a thunderous forty-five foot drop. The force of this powerful river has shaped a large basin with towering cliffs. The river flows out of the pool, leaves the recreation area, and enters the Linville Gorge Wilderness Area.
The headwaters of the Linville River are on Grandfather Mountain, and the river flows to the Catawba Valley through one of the most rugged gorges in the country. The sheer rock walls of Linville Mountain (west) and Jonas Ridge (east) confine the water for twelve miles while it descends two thousand feet. The difference in elevation between the rim and river is about fifteen hundred feet.