Thursday, September 1, 2011

Where I’ve Been


Cathedral Falls outside of Linville NC.  This is our first, and probably only, swimming hole that we have sought out this year.  Last year we found 3.  This is the picturesque scene that we had all to ourselves today.


And here is a little video of it.

Brad jumping

It didn’t come without some work though.

Here is the description in Blue Ridge Outdoors:


Highlights: Scenery, rock jump, solitude

Many kayakers consider the class V Cathedral Falls the highlight of their wilderness paddle down the unpredictable Linville River. Upstream of the falls, the entire river narrows to half its size as it cuts a path through the rock walls of the Cathedral Gorge. The river opens again after the final drop, a 15-footer surrounded by steep rock walls. That’s where one of the most perfect swimming holes lies. The falls may be a blast for kayakers after a heavy rain, but visit in late summer during low water, and it’s an ideal spot for a lazy day of swimming. The pool is deep, the scenery is outstanding, and there are a number of rock jumps ranging in heights. There are even smooth, broad rocks for sunning. And you’re deep in the belly of one of the wildest, most remote gorges in the South, so don’t expect crowds.

Nearby: You’ve got several miles of hiking along Spence Ridge Trail and the Linville Gorge Trail just to access Cathedral Falls and get back to your car. If that’s not enough, keep going south on the Linville Gorge Trail, which follows the river into the most remote stretch of the gorge, accessing countless more swimming holes in the process.

Closest Town: Linville, N.C.

Directions: From Linville, take Highway 181 south for three miles to FS 210 (Gingercake Road). Stay to the left when the road forks and follow the gravel road to the Spence Ridge Trailhead parking.

First, the split from Gingercake Rd was a lot longer then expected.  No big deal though.  Being off the beaten path is exactly what we’re looking for.  Next was the trail to get there.  It should only be about an hour hike for someone with no kids who is only mildly better with direction than I am.  We came to this weird fork where we could go straight or make a hairpin curve that went further down.  There was a sign that said Spencer Ridge Trail, but it was a little lop sided and appeared to be a sign for the trail that we had just come out of.  Wrong.  We went straight and ended up on what a non hiker, such as myself, would call extreme, strenuous or very difficult.


After basically reaching the summit of somewhere, I began to ponder the sign that I had seen before.  We went back down and decided to try out the path with the crooked sign.  Bingo!  This path fallowed water nearly the entire time which clued us in that we were finally on the right path (literally!).  The cascades became louder and we reached the foot bridges into the swimming hole.


The description rang true.  Plenty of broad flat rocks for sunning, deep pools, and multiple large rock jumps.  We found a place that was safe enough for the kids to walk and climb, then Brad and I took turns jumping into the water.  We also had a little picnic on the large rock in the center of it all.


Ignore my fat self in the background in just a sports bra and running skirt. We were the only one’s there!  After some swimming and a bite to eat we headed back.  We knew this part would be a challenge.  The kids were tired and cranky and would inevitably want us to carry them.  That is exactly what happened.


We took turns carrying each kid and making them walk a little.  My shoulders were prime seats that both kids were fighting over.  I guess the backpack made it more comfy for them and it actually made it a little easier to carry them that way.  But only a little.  Like when you cast your vote for president because one sucks only a little less than the other. 

We took one rest break and stopped once to refill our water bottles.


I was channeling every bit of marathon strength I had on the way back.  It was uphill the entire way and I had a kid on my shoulders for 75% of it.  My calves, quads, feet and back were killing me.  It took us about an hour fifteen to get back to the car which was a lot less than I had anticipated.


That was the dustiest dirt road that I’ve ever driven. 

Brad and I both agreed that this great little location just took the top spot for “cool places we’ve been in Carolina”.  It even says it on the trail out.


And we got a nice family pic out of it.



It was a nice time and great workout.


Tread it up


  1. WOW beautiful beautiful place! We haven't hiked forever due to the fact that we know we will have to carry kids, it's no fun! :) Thanks for sharing!

  2. We LOVE Linville and the falls. So close to Boone, I used to go out there sometimes when I lived in Boone but I haven't been in years. I've been craving some mountain time lately and you're not helping that.

  3. John, you have got to find this swimming hole! Pictures do not do it justice.

  4. Beautiful!

    What a cute family picture!! And I totally laughed when I saw your son sitting on your shoulders. That made me tired! How did you manage? LOL on finding your marathon strength.

  5. That trail that goes straight is the Little Table Rock trail, one of the steepest in the gorge (1000' in a little less/over a mile), and if followed all the way, would lead to the Table Rock Summit Trail. Definitely worth a visit if you ever get a chance.

    It's beautiful down by the river!