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Wiseman’s View of the Linville Gorge Wilderness: A Crazy Drive for Epic Scenery

Last Updated on September 3, 2020

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Wiseman’s View of the Linville Gorge Wilderness is one place I always tell people about. Of course, I also warn them about the drive to get up there. If you’ve been up to this awesome spot in Western North Carolina, you’ll know why it’s worth the four-ish mile trip over rocks, holes, and various twists and turns up Kistler Memorial Highway.

And when you head up toward Wiseman’s View for the first time, you’ll need some extra patience. The epic scenery that you’ll find at the end of this crazy drive and super-easy walk is absolutely worth every grimace and swear word you shout as you make your way.

An added bonus is all the fun that you can find around this place. And there’s plenty of it, whether you hop on the Blue Ridge Parkway or opt for a quicker, less picturesque route.

Either way, anyone who wants epic scenery and bucket list-worthy looks at the Grand Canyon of the East should start with Wiseman’s View. But before you set off, though, this guide will share how to reach it. We also offer background info and the aforementioned additional fun in nearby places.

Wiseman’s View might be a short walk but it’s still worthy of mention in our Bucket List book. It also features in our guides to hiking in North Carolina and hikes near Boone, Blowing Rock, and Banner Elk.

We also fit it into any weekend in Morganton and Burke County and our favorite day trips from Asheville.

Wiseman’s View of the Linville Gorge Wilderness Area

Note: A lot of the background info on Wiseman’s View and Linville Gorge came courtesy of William Powell’s epic Encyclopedia of North Carolina. Thank you to local libraries for keeping this on your shelves and for not yelling at me when seeing me reshelve this one-of-a-kind!

Linville Gorge Background Info

Wisemans View Overlook View Image

Before Europeans came, the area that’s now known as the Linville Gorge Wilderness and elsewhere in Western North Carolina was inhabited by Cherokee tribes. In fact, it’s well-known that the Linville River is known as “Ee-see-oh” in Cherokee language, meaning “river of many cliffs.”

The name “Linville” comes from a hunter named William Linville, who was killed (along with his son) near today’s Linville Falls by a Shawnee war party who were prepping for a battle with the Cherokee.

Always Protected

The Gorge wasn’t formally protected by the government until the 1950s. Thankfully, its extremely rugged terrain prevented any successful industrial logging attempts beforehand.

That’s why the area is still home to old-growth forests that have largely remained untouched. As a result, prominent botanists such as the 18th century’s Andre Michaux and 19th century’s Thomas Nuttall loved coming here to collect specimens.

After World War II, John D Rockefeller donated funds to purchase the Gorge’s upper section. From then, it was preserved as Linville Falls Recreation Area.

Today, the US Forest Service manages Linville Gorge as part of Pisgah National Forest. The latter covers more than 510,000 acres all in North Carolina and one of the state’s four national forests (along with Nantahala, Uwharrie, and Croatan).

Wiseman

Finding info on the Wiseman behind Wiseman’s View was pretty tough. I scoured a variety of sources and narrowed it down to a settler who immigrated to the area from England in the 18th century.

Directions to Wiseman’s View: The Drive

Linville Falls General Store Image

The most complex thing about Wiseman’s View is the actual drive up to it.

When on US-221 in Linville, turn onto NC-183. One mile down that road, you’ll see a Linville Gorge sign on right. That will take you onto Kistler Memorial Highway (also known as 1238 and old NC 105). This is part of the Pisgah Loop and where the fun begins.

For the next four miles, you’ll rethink your decision to come to this place. The road is a mix of dirt and gravel, with plenty of potholes and ruts. It’s like this because extensive road work might disrupt the pristine nature of Linville Gorge, so don’t be too bitter about it.

Just exercise caution and don’t be afraid to drive slow. SUVs, trucks, and other higher clearance cars are best for this drive, though I’ve done it twice with Toyota sedans.

Note: If there’s bad weather and you have a low-riding car, it might be best to not attempt the drive.

Regardless of all these warnings, the fact that Wiseman’s View is at the end makes the journey absolutely worth the trouble. During the drive, you’ll immediately see the Linville Falls parking area and a variety of camping spots.

You’ll eventually see the parking lot, which is small but hasn’t been full any of the times we’ve gone up.

The Short Walk to Awesome Views

Wisemans View NC Beginning of Trail Image
There are plenty of benches and warning signs along the short walk.

Once you’ve arrived at the gravelly parking lot, it’s pretty much easy peasy.

From the parking lot, you have a very short 2/10 of a mile walk to the platform. Even though the ride up to the parking lot is very rough, there’s an accessible path option and one with steps.

Note: There’s a single-person bathroom at the parking lot but no water available.

The Epic Wiseman’s View

Wisemans View NC Image

And just like that, you’ll arrive at the upper viewing area, which is wheelchair-accessible. There are more platforms that require steps, but either way, this is a view worth driving for.

From the east-facing platform, you’ll get the best view of Hawksbill Mountain and Table Rock Mountain. Of course, you’ll also see Linville River below. There’s a south-facing platform, too, which offers gorgeous views of the Gorge and mountains in the distance.

Nighttime Views: Brown Mountain Lights

We’ve not done this yet but one popular thing to come and see is the Brown Mountain Lights. This interesting phenomenon is a long-known series of “ghost lights” that appear near Brown Mountain.

Wiseman’s View is one of a few places that are good for seeing them. If you’ve ever been lucky enough to spot them, we’d love to know about it!

Things to Do Near Wiseman’s View

If you zoom out on a map before heading out this way, you’ll see that Wiseman’s View is surrounded by more than a few fun places.

Linville Falls

Linville Falls NC Image

We’ve already mentioned a couple of mountains, but could never leave out the amazing Linville Falls. It’s one of our favorite waterfalls to enjoy near Boone, Blowing Rock, and Banner Elk.

You’ll pass one of its entrances on the way up. Another way to access its main Visitors Center is right off the Blue Ridge Parkway (MM 316).

Our guide shares more about hikes and the beautiful views you’ll find at this very popular set of waterfalls.

Famous Louise’s

The Linville Falls community also includes a great general store and Famous Louise’s Rockhouse. The latter is situated on three county lines. But don’t worry, the food is still delicious, whether you want to sit in Avery, Burke, or McDowell.

Linville Falls Winery

Linville Falls Winery Newland NC Image

And just up 221 is Linville Falls Winery. It’s in a lovely spot, family-owned, and where you’ll find delicious High Country wine. Stop by for a tasting and take home at least a bottle (Elevation is our favorite). We’re always looking forward to our next visit!

Linville Caverns

About five minutes down 221 from the General Store is Famous Louise’s is Linville Caverns. They were first discovered in 1822 and have been open for tours since 1930. You can learn about the Caverns’ history, their fall and winter residents (bats) and more about the subterranean world that lurks inside the Blue Ridge Mountains.

The Blue Ridge Parkway

The Blue Ridge Parkway always deserves attention and here are a few places to go within an hour of Wiseman’s View.

North-Bound

You can hop on it near Linville and within an hour, reach some of our favorite spots in Western North Carolina. Boone and Blowing Rock are within an hour of Linville north on the Parkway, even if NC-105 is a faster route.

Stick to the Parkway, though, and you’ll cross Grandfather Mountain and the famed Linn Cove Viaduct. The parking lot for Rough Ridge Trail is one of a few spots worth stopping for between Linn Cove and Blowing Rock.

South-Bound

Switzerland Inn Little Switzerland NC Image
That view from the Switzerland Inn…

Head south and after a lengthy series of curves, the awesome Switzerland Inn and accompanying town of Little Switzerland will pop up. The restaurant side of the Little Switzerland Cafe and General Store makes some of North Carolina’s finest barbecue. Spend time in the attached Little Switzerland Books & Beans

Hop off the Parkway for a bit and head up 226 to Spruce Pine. It’s an interesting town that’s home to more than a few interesting festivals throughout the year. A couple of them include SPACE in June and the NC Mineral & Gem Festival in August.

There are also overlooks that’ll pique your interest while driving on the Blue Ridge Parkway, so feel free to stop at any one of them to stretch your legs and enjoy amazing views!

Our Thoughts and Yours, Too!

Wiseman's View

While the walk to Wiseman’s View might seem short and sweet, we just couldn’t leave out the crazy drive that leads up to it and all the background behind it and Linville Gorge Wilderness.

Since we highly value our trips to Western North Carolina, we always come with a gameplan to accomplish a lot. That’s why we also wanted to include some of our favorite places near Wiseman’s View.

And as we keep returning to this wonderful part of North Carolina, we’re interesting in hearing from you as you explore it, too!

If you’ve ever visited this part of the state or even have the fortune of living here, we’d love to know what you think of this area. Also, we’d love to know about your favorite spots to enjoy here.

4 thoughts on “Wiseman’s View of the Linville Gorge Wilderness: A Crazy Drive for Epic Scenery

  1. Barbara Lingerfelt says:

    The road isn’t as bad as you make it seem! I’ve been many times in a regular car. The drive from the Lake James end, Highway 126 is s as mother story.
    PS. I’ve seen the Brown Mt Lights several times but never from Wiseman’s View!

    • Carl Hedinger says:

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting, Barbara. I still shudder over those potholes. Next time I’m going up in an SUV as a result! Cool that you’ve seen the lights, by the way. Hope to do so sometime soon!

  2. Nancy Daniels says:

    I stumbled onto you through one of my Likes. It is a warm feeling to read and see other people enjoying North Carolina. I tell people that you have to look hard to find an eyesore in this state. There is so much beauty and peace in the High Country especially.
    I need to travel to see the Gorge again. It has been years since I traveled that road. I guess no one has attended to it for any improvements. We picked up any trash that was left along the way on that trip. Some peeps don’t know how to leave it wild. I keep a bag in my vehicle to keep whatever landscape I am at clean and beautiful for the wildlife and the next visitors. Would like to go again this spring. Take care and keep traveling.

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