Hike the Conley Cove Trail into Linville Gorge

Rockjock Trailhead to Conley Cove Trailhead

This lush and forested hike is a great summer crowd pleaser that will get your blood pumping. After winding down a narrow trail overgrown with rhododendron, you end up at the bottom of Linville Gorge, the mighty Linville River cool and beckoning.

Follow the gravel old 105 to the parking lot at the Rock Jock Trailhead. Follow this trail a short distance until it splits to the left for Conley Cove.

The Conley Cove trail descends over 1,200 ft. into the Linville Gorge, providing a glimpse into the dense and wild Pisgah National Forest. Shortly into your hike you'll pass by a small cave and cross over a shallow stream. As you wind down deeper into the gorge, you'll be thankful for the shade provided by the thick tree canopy during the summer months.  

Steep switchbacks continue to weave through the rugged terrain, and the trail is often narrow and pocked with Rhododendron roots. Their delicate pink blooms make for a scenic hike during the spring months.

As you continue your descent, notice the towering rock walls that draw climbers from around the east (as the Rock Jock name implies.) Though this is considered one of the easiest hikes into the gorge, parts of the trail are severely steep and you'll need to use both your hands and feet at times.

You'll begin to hear the rush of the Linville River as the trail finally flattens off into the bottom of Linville Gorge. If the weather is warm enough, Linville River has some of the best swimming holes around. Boulder hop down the river and scope out a prime picnic spot with the perfect swimming hole.

There are also several campsites located in the Linville Gorge, but permits are required May through October if you're planning to camp on a weekend or holiday. Free permits can be obtained by contacting the Grandfather Ranger District, 828-652-2144.

Enjoy your swim, but don't forget about the hike back up! The steep ascent may be slow-going, so be sure to allow extra time. If you're famished after your tough climb out of the gorge, stop by Christa's Country Corner and refuel on her fresh, made-to-order sandwiches on homemade yeast rolls. Oh, and did I mention ice cream cones for dessert? 

Pack List

  • Snacks/Lunch
  • Water
  • Sunscreen/Hat during summer months
  • Bug spray
  • Binoculars to spot wildlife
  • Swimsuit
  • Sandals for boulder hopping along the river
  • Towel
  • Rain jacket (the Linville Gorge is technically a rain forest, be prepared)
  • Hiking sticks
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RT Distance 2.6 Miles
Elevation Gain 1200 Feet
Activities Swimming, Hiking
Skill Level Intermediate
Season Year Round
Trail Type Out-and-Back
Features
Easy Parking
River
Scenic
Wildflowers
Wildlife
Swimming Hole

Reviews

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Overall rating: 

Favorite Trail within the Linville Gorge

I’ve done this trail five times start to finish and it never gets old. The trails definitely need a little maintenance in certain spots, but the reward of this challenging hike is so worth the trek down.


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