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Backpacking Linville Gorge

posted Aug 21, 2012, 4:31 PM by Justin P
Sunday, Casey and I headed to Linville Gorge Wilderness for backpacking adventure!  We parked along Kistler Memorial Highway at the trailhead for Babel Tower (240) and hiked down.  Although the trail is mostly downhill, at about 800 feet in 1.3 miles, its pretty steep, especially carrying a backpack.  And I knew the trip back up to the car would be even tougher!  But once we arrived at Babel Tower, it was so worth it.  The views from the tower of the gorge, river, and surrounding mountains were absolutely beautiful.  And being a Sunday night in a wilderness area, there was no one else around.  We set up camp and explored a bit around Babel Tower and went to bed early.

In the morning, we had breakfast and started out on an ambitious hike.  We followed the Linville Gorge Trail (231) down to the river until Devil's Hole.  The Forest Service map shows the Devil's Hole Trail crossing the Linville River at this point, but an obvious crossing spot was not clear.  This was going to be tricky!  After scouting a bit, we identified a series of shallow spots and rocks along the river bed where we could make our crossing, zig-zagging around to find the best spots.  Soon, we made it across and gathered water at a small waterfall flowing into the river.  Then we took the Devil's Hole Trail (244) up.  At first the trail followed the stream that we had gathered water and wasn't too bad.  But when the trail diverges from the stream, it got quite steep, making the 1.5 mile hike seem a lot farther.  We stopped for a bite to eat at the top of the trail and then hiked along an unnamed trail (it's not on the forest service map) to Hawksbill Mountain.  Surprisingly, this trail wasn't too strenuous and we quickly made it to the summit.  Bare rock and low vegetation made for phenomenal views of the gorge and beyond.  We had lunch up here and spent some time enjoying the views and taking photos.  Then we made our way back down.  The Devil's Hole Trail was just as steep going down, but the real challenge was at the bottom.  We had to cross the river again!  It was a bit easier on the way back, since we knew the way to go, but a little bit treacherous nonetheless.  Across the river, we headed back on the Linville Gorge Trail and stopped at a camping spot just before the trail goes up to Babel Tower to get more water.  Then one final ascent to return to our campsites.  We ended up doing about 10 miles in 10 hours.  But I've heard Linville Gorge miles are about twice the miles anywhere else, since they're so rugged and challenging.  Tuesday morning, we packed up camp and hiked back to the car.
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