A short but strenuous hike to the top of Babel Tower rewards you with epic views.
On the Northwest side of the Linville Gorge Wilderness, just off old highway 105, is the very strenuous but also very rewarding hike known as Babel Tower. While this trail is just over 2 1/2 miles, don’t be fooled by the short length. The elevation change and rough terrain make this a very demanding hike but your efforts are well rewarded with epic views of Linville Gorge and Linville River from the top of the massive Babel Tower. The trail also takes you down to the river for equally impressive views of the gorge.
The trailhead for Babel Tower is located on Old NC Highway105 which is an unpaved road just about 1 mile from Highway 221 in the town of Linville Falls or about 1 1/2 miles from Highway221 and the Blue Ridge Parkway Intersection. The parking area and trailhead are located roadside off Highway 105 about 2.5 miles or 10 minutes from the trailhead. While Highway 105 is unpaved, it is generally kept in good condition and shouldn’t be a problem to navigate for most cars. The small parking area is only large enough for about 8 or 9 cars but this isn’t a terribly popular hike due to its difficulty so usually you can find a spot without a problem. There is also a small sign visible from the road if it isn’t blocked by a car. While there are no restroom facilities at the trailhead there are facilities further up the road at the Wiseman’s View lot or towards the beginning of highway 105 at the visitors center. Babel Tower is about 75 minutes from Asheville North Carolina or Johnson City Tennessee.
The trailhead is right at the corner of the parking area right in between the two signs. This is a very thick and rocky area of the forest so expect a lot of roots and rocks on the trail as well as some overgrown areas late in the summer.
The trail initially starts out relatively flat and is quite pleasant. You will pass a few campsites that sit just off the trail before the incline starts to increase as you work your way down the ridge. After about 3/10’ths of a mile the forest opens up and you get a beautiful view of the gorge and the ridge you are hiking down. If you look closely you can see Babel Tower standing tall in the distance. The trail continues and gets steeper as you work your way down to the bottom of the gorge. In total, the trail will descend about 1,300ft. Keep this in mind for the return hike.
As you reach the tower, and the descent levels off, you will intersect the Linville Gorge Trail. While the trail goes in both directions, the switchback to the left is very obvious and is the trail down to the River that most people take. We stayed straight and visited the tower first.
The trail becomes somewhat loose at this point and as you approach the base of the tower it becomes very rocky. You basically stay to the left of the tower. A trail is there but sometimes you have to look for it. You don’t go very far until it switches back where you encounter a steep rocky section that you will probably have to use your hands to climb. At the top of this short class three climb is your reward!
As you pull yourself up to the top of Babel Tower you will enjoy a spacious flat area that would make for an epic campsite. The views from here are amazing. To the South, Linville River straightens out hundreds of feet below you and wanders down the gorge past Hawksbill and Table Rock Mountains. In almost every other direction, Linville River makes a near full circle as it is forced to go around the ridge you are standing on. It truly is a grand view that is well deserved after the hard trek to reach the top of Babel Mountain.
Be mindful that the drop-offs from the top of Babel Tower are everywhere and significant. Be very careful while you are on top of the tower!
When you have finished enjoying your time on Babel Tower, climb safely back down to the trail and then work your way back up to the trail that headed down toward the river. From here, you can either hike back up to the parking area or hike the short 2/10’s of a mile down to the river. We went down to the river.
As you are heading up the trail, stay right on the switchback that leads down to the river. It isn’t far to the river although this trail continue for several miles as it parallels the river. Look for a somewhat obvious path leading down to the river and take that down to the rocky shore of the mighty Linville River. There is a small waterfall that makes the area wonderfully loud and turbulent. That, mixed with the steep rocky cliffs that line the shore make for another beautiful spot to relax at and take some time to enjoy nature.
When you have finished your time on the shore of Linville River, head back to the trail and start your hike back up to the parking area. There is no way to candy coat this, the hike up is brutal. Remember that you are going to gain about 1,300ft in elevation in a little over a mile. Pace yourself and rest as needed.
When you reach the intersection with the Babel Tower trail, make sure you go right and head uphill. Other than this, this out and back hike is easy to follow as you make the steep walk back up to the parking area. Stay safe!