Access: I've read a lot about the road leading into this campground/trailhead area. There are two different ways to access it from what I can tell. I came in from the north (despite coming from I-40). Googlemaps took me all the way up Hwy 181 to Gingercake Rd, in the Gingercake residential neighborhood. From there, it is about 7 miles to the Table Rock Picnic Area. Approximately 5 miles of that is compacted gravel/dirt road. I did this in a Honda Accord. You DO NOT need an SUV or 4wd to do this route. You do need patience however. There are some spots where rocks are sticking up and if you don't have tires designed for SUV's, you could risk a puncture. There are some potholes to dodge and some washed out areas. All of this can easily be navigated. I saw a Prius that had made it up. Again, I did this with an Accord with zero issues. The last two miles is a relatively steep paved road. The alternative route up (which you pass on the way to how I went) is about 13 miles off of Hwy 181. I think this is the way that many people go and review that it is very rough. It brings you up to the Picnic Area from the south. The two ways merge just before the paved portion.
I should note that there are campsites all the way up once you hit the dirt portion of the road. Several of those campsites would be good options getting to the northern portion of the gorge.
At the Picnic Area, there is plenty of parking, a bathroom and well, a picnic area with tables and grills. To the right is the trail to Table Rock and beyond up to Hawksbill. There are no campsites, at least not to the point where you go up to Table Rock. To the left is the picnic area and then the campsite area. I would estimate there are at least ten spots where a tent could be pitched with an accompanying fire ring (made of rocks). This is on the ridge heading up to The Chimneys. I was there in winter and there were still at least four sites taken, so in summer I imagine you would have any privacy for what that's worth.
I stayed at the site further up on the right (they aren't numbered). This was the last spot before you really hit the trail (which by the way is immediate world-class views. I don't know if it was just in my head or not, but the winds were extremely high that night and it felt like some of the sites a little way down the hill closer to the parking lot (maybe 100 yards) had less wind. Not sure if that was real or not, but you may consider that a lower spot. All of the sites are between 100-400 yards from the parking lot. So no need if you decide to bring more than you might need.
Overall, can't recommend this location enough. Bring what you need though. There are not facilities and the nearest anything is essentially an hour away in Morganton.
Incredible spot that we will return to for sure.
We drove about 10 miles down NC105 to find a good spot that was available. Be sure to have 4WD (preferably a off-roading vehicle) to make it up some parts of the road.
The spot was massive and could easily fit 5+ vehicles and sleep 20 comfortably. The view was nice and we were able to see Lake James in the distance (due to being far down the trail).
First photo is at night, second is in the morning, third is a pull off further down the trail on the way to the exit.
Woke up in the morning to hunting dogs barking and a few gunshots. This didn’t bother us however but it’s something to note incase it would impact you.
A couple buddies and I went camping on table rock, found a cave, crawled through it for about 100 feet and found the most beautiful camping spot we have ever seen. 10/10 would never tell the spot
We’ve primitive camped in the Linville Gorge Wilderness for many years and absolutely love it. It’s peaceful and secluded and the views are absolutely gorgeous. My photos are from the Linville Falls side of the old highway that goes past the falls parking lot. Spaces are first come, first served dispersed camping. Leave no trace! We clean up after folks every time we camp up here and it’s just too sad that people will leave their trash. This area used to be the best kept secret in the NC mountains but is quickly gaining popularity.
To get to the dispersed camping area at Table Rock, you have to drive a long, winding road. It is a designated wilderness area, and most of the roads are not well-maintained. Access is not easy, and it is rough on your vehicle. If you know anything about Linville Gorge Wilderness, you know that the views are unparalleled. When you get to the camping area, it doesn’t seem like much, and you have to take everything in because you cannot park at the campsites. We were lucky enough to get one within a hundred yards from where we parked. This is a wilderness area, and there are no amenities. You have to pack in everything. The only things at the campsites are fire rings. However, we had a tremendous view overlooking the town of Marion and Lake James from our site. We looked at other campsites, but the one we chose couldn’t have been more perfect. Other than cooking and sleeping, you will not want to spend a whole lot of time at the campsite because of the trails and the views, unless you just want to relax in a chair and enjoy the view. The night we spent at the campsite, we were caught unprepared in more ways than one. We had spent most of the day hiking and taking photos and were caught in a thunderstorm. We also didn’t take time to look for firewood, and most of it was wet anyway. Our fire was small and didn’t last very long, but that didn’t matter since we had had a fantastic day of photography. We ended up eating a cold supper. If you go, make sure you gather wood during daylight hours or take your own firewood, although taking your own firewood means taking kiln-dried wood wrapped in plastic. If you go hiking along Jonas Ridge(I think that’s the name of it), you can get great views of Linville Gorge and Table Rock. The trail is not easy, and the rocky cliffs can be dangerous. However, the hike is well worth it because of the natural beauty.