close
close

Hiking in North Carolina’s Linville Gorge Wilderness area

I headed out mid-afternoon for the Linville Gorge Wilderness near Morganton, North Carolina. Right from the trailhead I found dense groves of mountain laurel with bouquets of delicate pink flowers, as if the trail was decorated for a wedding.

The sun was hot, the trail was dusty and steep in places. Birds circled around me, fluttering from the trees to the undergrowth, sometimes so close they could touch.

    Mountain laurel growing along the trail in the Linville Gorge Wilderness.

Mountain laurel growing along the trail in the Linville Gorge Wilderness.

I like to escape like this during a working day. When I travel on assignment, I’m always looking for a slice of wildness that can be reached without a lot of hassle or planning. Sometimes it is as simple as a city park or a public garden.

One minute I’m sitting at my desk working, tense and caffeine-free. The next moment I’m breathing a little easier, I can smell summer and feel the touch of cobwebs on my face as I walk.

    In the Linville Gorge, wildness is found in large, sweeping vistas and in small details, buzzing bees, flowers and lots of silence.

In the Linville Gorge, wildness is found in large, sweeping vistas and in small details, buzzing bees, flowers and lots of silence.

At first glance, places like the Linville Gorge can seem a little intimidating. The area is vast and rugged

On this day I walked one of the easiest routes, with only a few steep parts. It quickly took me to a tall forest on the edge of the canyon, which felt completely lonely.

From balconies of rocks I could see no human structures. From horizon to horizon there was just wildness and sky and cliffs that looked like ancient castle walls.

    The Linville Gorge is framed by rock formations that in places resemble ancient castle walls.  Peregrine falcons follow here in season.  The area offers some of the most popular hiking trails in the eastern US

The Linville Gorge is framed by rock formations that in places resemble ancient castle walls. Peregrine falcons follow here in season. The area offers some of the most popular hiking trails in the eastern US

There were also small details, close enough to touch. A trickle of clear cold water in a mountain stream, a black snake coiled in the sun, a Luna moth peeling itself out of a cocoon.

When I stopped to catch my breath, I realized there were bees everywhere, eagerly foraging in the mountain laurel.

    A Luna moth emerges from its cocoon on an early summer day in North Carolina.

A Luna moth emerges from its cocoon on an early summer day in North Carolina.

It started towards evening when I got back. The light was golden. As I walked down, it was so quiet that I could hear the wind through the trees and the cheerful noise of Carolina chickadees streaming over the mountain.

Copyright 2024 NPR

Some of the best hikes are the ones that get you to these types of views without much effort or time, in Burke County, North Carolina.

Some of the best hikes are the ones that get you to these types of views without much effort or time, in Burke County, North Carolina.