Linn Cove Viaduct has become an iconic photograph and location in the High Country. There is really no wonder why.
When it was completed in 1987, for just $10 million, the bridge was heralded for being a significant engineering accomplishment. The 1,243 foot segmental concrete bridge hugs the slopes of Grandfather Mountain in Linville, North Carolina. It was the last portion of the Blue Ridge Parkway to be finished and the reason was no one knew how to create a safe, curve hugging road bridge that spanned such a long stretch of trail.
The viaduct was absolutely crucial though, because a traditionally built route through the portion of Grandfather Mountain that it snakes across, would have actually caused a great deal of biodiversity and terrain damage.
Linn Cove Viaduct was designed and built by Figg and Muller Engineers, Inc. Eugene C. Figg and Jean Muller received international accolades for their use of segmental construction methods of bridge building. Figg was from Charleston, South Carolina and based in Florida, and his partner, Muller, was based in Paris. Construction began on the project in 1979, some 8 years before it was completed. It consists of 153 different segment pieces. Each of them weigh 50 tons!
The segments were pre-constructed at a facility located at the south end of the parkway and were then transported to the bridge site. Each section had to be lowered into place by a custom crane that was built just for this project. Imagine all that the engineers and builders went through during each wet and rainy season, and snowy season atop Grandfather Mountain. Since it’s completion the bridge has received 11 design awards.
If you wish to view the bridge and enjoy the ride across it, drive North on the Blue Ridge Parkway in Boone / Blowing Rock areas and you’ll find it at Milepost 304. There is a Linn Cove Visitor Center that spotlights the engineering process and pays tribute to it through historical photo exhibits. It is located on the south end of the Viaduct, heading towards Grandfather.
Want to hike around the Viaduct? There is a great one mile loop hiking trail that you can hike for a upclose view of some of the concrete segments. Look for the paved trail at the visitor center and follow it. It also leads to the famous Tanawha Trail (a portion of the Mountains to Sea Trail), which is a longer hiking route that is popular with visitors to the area, as well as locals. Linn Cove Viaduct has been described as almost ‘floating’ in the air, above the foliage and terrain of the mountains below. The paved portion of the Linn Cove Viaduct trail ends at about the 1/3 mile mark. You can continue up a dirt trail further, and climb by/over a huge boulder for another 1/3 mile where there is a rock you can stand on for a great photograph. After you climb, and switchback over the Viaduct, there is a side trail to the right. You can look for the sign on the left at the Intersection of the side trail so you know that you are in the right spot.