I just completed a trip through the Linville Gorge in NC and wanted to post a trip report. Linville Gorge is an area NE of Asheville, NC and is part of the Pisgah NF. Permits are required from May 1 to Oct 31 and length of stay is limited to 3 days/2nights.
I drove from Raleigh (~4 hours) and got to the trail at 10:00 am on Friday Dec 19th. I parked at the Linville Falls parking lot which is on the north end of the gorge. My trip was 3 days and 2 nights with a base weight of 5.4 lbs.
I started by exploring the nearby falls area. Then I walked south about a mile down Kistler Highway (gravel road) to pick up the Pine Gap Trail which took me down into the gorge and connects with the Linville Gorge trail. The Gorge trail follows the river through the gorge offering great views and sounds of crashing water.
The weather was mild, 65 for a high. I found the trails difficult to follow at times as they are not blazed, rocky, and overgrown in areas. My pace was slower then expected, but I did manage to cover 13.5 miles before the sun began to set around 5:00pm. I made camp near Spence Ridge Trail Bridge. The night temp only dipped to 45 degrees with light winds. The next morning I decided to cross the river at the bridge as this is the only place where this is possible.
I climbed the steep Spence Ridge giving me access Table Rock & The Chimney's (3800' elev) which have great views of the 2000' foot drop.
The Mountain to Sea Trail took me to the south end of the Gorge where I forded the cold river to reach the other side of the gorge. Climbing back up I reached Pinnacle nearing dark. Total distance for day 2 was 16.5 miles. I camped near Pinnacle over looking the lights of civilization below. I set up my tarp as the rain started. It rained heavily for the next ten hours then changed to extremly strong winds. Realizing it took me 2 days to get to the southern end and I had one day to get back I decided to break camp early leaving at 6:00 am in total darkness. I found Kistler Highway (a one lane gravel road) and decided to hike it back to the car. This was great as it was a vast improvement to the rough gorge trails. It offered great views of the sun rise and also took me to Wiseman's view.
The temperatures continued to drop down to the mid 20's, but the real problem were the high winds on the ridge, upwards of 50 mph. The windchill motivated me to hike fast and I reached my truck at 10:20 am (12.7 miles).
Linville Gorge has got to be one of the "wildest" places in the Eastern US. I'd recommend it to anyone considering the area.