Posts Tagged ‘Wiseman’s View’

Standing atop Wiseman’s View at night is a little scary.  The moonlit canyon inspires feelings of smallness, ineptitude, and a general sense of insecurity at one’s own ability to survive in such a place.  Yet in spite of these feelings, people such as myself are repeatedly drawn to this spot and to the Linville Gorge which plummets over a thousand feet below it.

Charles and I are on our way home, driving up from a long day of enjoying the sights and sounds of Asheville.  The moon hangs like a polished orb above us and is so bright we can almost see without the car’s headlights.  As we drive, a wood cock dashes across the road and I almost wreck the car trying to get a look at this seldom-seen bird.

It’s about the time we get to North Cove that I blurt out “Hey babe, let’s drive up to Wiseman’s View on our way to Boone.  The moon will be amazing and we may even see the brown mountain lights.”  I know that Charles, in his obsession with the Gorge and unquenchable moon-lust, won’t be able to say no.

And so we find ourselves driving up a narrow, gravelly, wet road on the west rim of the gorge.  On our way up, we enjoy views of Hawksbill as the leaves are not yet able to obstruct our view.  Surprisingly, quite a number of car campers have braved the wet roads and cool, windy night to stake out campsites along the road.

At the top, we park the car, throw on our jackets and walk out to Wiseman’s View.  Charles has a flashlight, but because the moon is so luminous, he stashes it in his coat pocket.  As we stand on the windswept overlook, Charles and I are bathed in moonlight and the sound of the rushing river below.  An enormous rainstorm the night before has risen the water level several feet and it sounds like a raging bull beneath us.  Looking out into the Gorge, we see two small campfires twinkle along the river; Charles and I muse about what it would be like to camp so deep in the Gorge on such a raw spring night.

We stand a while longer on the outlook, silently hoping to see a glimpse of the famous Brown Mountain lights that we were lucky enough to spot one weekend while camping along the river.  The lights are most commonly seen just along Table Rock.  Because it’s such a beautiful and mysterious night, I feel sure we’ve got a good chance.

See it:  The Linville Gorge is mysterious, dangerous, wild, and even mythical.  That’s why year after year so many people visit it.  Wiseman’s View is especially popular as it affords fantastic views of the Gorge just minutes after stepping out of your vehicle.

To get to Wiseman’s View, turn onto the Kistler Memorial Hwy. (formerly NC 105) from Hwy 183.  On your way up, you’ll pass the following places:

1. Alternate parking area for Linville Falls
2. Information Cabin (on your right)
3. Parking area for Pine Gap Trail
4. Parking area for Bynum Bluff Trail
5. Parking area Cabin Trail
6. Parking area for Babel Tower Trail
7. A sign will point the way (to the left) for Wiseman’s View.

You’ll also pass numerous car campsites.  These sites usually operate on a first-come, first-serve basis.  The campsites are easy to access, relatively large, and some can accommodate more than one vehicle.  Fires are permitted.

If you’re interested in the Gorge in general, you might enjoy the following links, which offer additional information on the Gorge as well as the Brown Mountain Lights:  Tips on Linville Gorge, Linville Gorge & Brown Mountain Lights.

Charles, inspired by our experience, wrote the following poem:

Wiseman’s View

We live here on the cusp of tame and wild:

civilization’s trappings (gaudy signs,

bright lights to mend the darkness, barking dogs

to insulate a house) can disappear

in seconds from a simple change of course.

We spent a day in artful buildings cast

by clever men:

before us lay their bright

ingenious pinnacles, and we drove home

through dynamited corridors of granite.

At last, we turned away from the perfection

and shame of man’s devices on a road

into the gorge.

Before us now lies darkness,

the cenotaph of Table Rock, the plunging

reality of cliffs and river pure,

two token campfires in the scary wild.


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Below is a brief overview of things you should know about hiking in The Linville Gorge Wilderness:

Entry Fees:

  • There are no entry fees to enter or camp in the Gorge


  • Permits are required for camping only on weekends and holidays from May 1 through October 31.  Permits are not required November 1 through April 30.  Permits are not required for visitors who do not stay overnight.


  • Weather in the Gorge varies according to whether you are on peaks like Table Rock or down in the Gorge itself.  Weather on peaks and high outcroppings is often windy and cool in summer months.  Near the river, it can be hot and muggy.  Spring and fall temperatures are typical to the area.
  • Flash floods can be a serious threat.  Try to camp at least a few feet above the river.


  • Primitive and extremely rugged.  Allow for additional hiking time as one mile is like two.  Many trails are poorly marked, so bring your back-country navigational skills.


  • Backpacking experience, navigational skills, good physical condition, emergency preparedness skills

What to Bring:

  • An extra layer of clothes
  • A daypack with extra food and the usual emergency items
  • Swimsuit (if hiking to the river)
  • Trekking poles or hiking stick (these are a must!)
  • Camera
  • Map
  • Compass


  • Swimming, hiking, backpacking, top-roping, climbing, sport climbing, birdwatching, fishing


Eastern Rim

Short off Mountain
Cambric Ridge
Table Rock
Spence Ridge
Jonas Ridge
Devil’s Hole
Brushy Ridge

Western Rim

Pinch in Tr.
Rock Jock Tr.
Conley Cove Tr.
Sandy Flats
Babel Tower Tr.
Bynum Tr.
Cabin Tr.
Bynum Bluff Tr.
Pine Gap Tr.

Gorge Trail

The Linville Gorge Trail follows the Linville River its entire length at the bottom of the canyon.


While there are lots of serious hiking and backpacking trails in the Gorge, there are also more accessible hikes such as Wiseman’s View and Linville Falls.

Additional Information:

  • Don’t underestimate the Gorge–it is a wild, isolated, and sometimes dangerous place.
  • Avoid hiking solo and always tell someone about your plans.
  • Fires are permitted.
  • Hiking down into and out of the Gorge can be treacherous as it is extremely steep.  Use a stick or trekking poles.
  • Each year, a number of individuals are rescued from the Gorge.  In the summer of 2010, for example, my husband and I passed two young men who we later discovered were rescued just hours later due to illness.  The terrain was so intense that they were unable to hike out on their own.  Their story is not unique.
  • If you use a pack cover, it may get shredded.  The vegetation can be dense and unforgiving to pack covers, not to mention your legs and arms.  Try to wear long pants, if possible.  Consider replacing your expensive pack cover with a trash bag.
  • External frame packs can make Gorge hiking tough, due to dense vegetation and steep descents.
  • Look out for the Brown Mountain lights toward Table Rock.  I swear my husband and I saw them while camping in the summer of 2010!
  • The Gorge can be crowded during the high season (May-September), especially during weekends and holidays.  Avoid the crowds by going on a weekday.

Additional Resources:

North Carolina Outdoors

Pisgah National Forest

National Forests in North Carolina

Hiking the Carolinas


Linville Gorge Trail Data

Linville Gorge & Wiseman’s View

Books & Maps:

Linville Gorge Wilderness PDF

Linville Gorge Wilderness Area

Linville Gorge/Mt. Mitchell Map

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