On a dark night in the Linville Gorge area of Morganton, North Carolina, you might witness the one of the Blue Ridge Mountain’s biggest mysteries, the Brown Mountain Lights. For hundreds of years people have seen ghostly lights moving through the valley from certain vantage points in Burke County. This unexplained phenomenon has baffled scientists, government researchers, and local residents alike, and while there are many theories as to what the lights may be, no one truly knows for certain what causes them.
Local folklore suggests that the lights are paranormal in nature, including tales of tragedy for early settlers, and Native Americans. Scientists have tried to apply a more reasoned approach suggesting something like natural gasses as the cause. Despite multiple theories no one has been able to bring forward any evidence to solve this mystery once and for all.
Where and When to See the Brown Mountain Lights
There are multiple vantage points in the Linville Gorge where the lights have been spotted, but the most popular area is the Brown Mountain Overlook. From Morganton, head north on Highway 181, and you’ll find a lookout between mile marker 20 and 21. Also check out Wiseman’s View, which is approximately five miles south of Linville Falls. It’s located on State Road 1238, which is a gravel road.
It’s important to note that the lights don’t always appear, but eye-witnesses have seen them all throughout the year. October and November are reported to be the best months to try and catch the show. There also tends to be an increase in sightings after it rains.
Daytime Exploration in Morganton
The Brown Mountain Lights only come out at night so before you stake out your vantage point, use your daylight hours to explore the area. There are multiple outdoor adventures including hiking, fishing, biking, and boating. One of the more popular spots near the Blue Ridge Parkway is Linville Falls, a beautiful waterfall destination. You can also hike Hawksbill Mountain to find sweeping 360-degree views of the surrounding mountains and valleys. Table Rock, a hot spot for hikers and rock climber alike, also boasts a spectacular view. The terrain is steep in some places, so it may not be the best hike for beginners.
If a foodie adventure is on your list, then head to the Apple Hill Orchard & Cider Mill. Pick you own apples, take a wagon ride to tour the orchard, and find a wide selection of mountain-made food and drink including their award-winning cider, pies, apple butter, fudge, jam, and preserves.
In and around the town of Morganton, there is plenty to explore. Grab a bite to eat at Food Matters Market & Café and prepare a late night picnic for your Brown Mountain Lights viewing party. You can tour multiple wineries along the Catawba Valley Wine Trail, sample the suds at a Morganton brewery tasting, and the downtown area has many eclectic shops filled with locally-made art, books, vintage wares, and boutiques.
WATCH: The Mystery of the Brown Mountain Lights
Here’s a clip from a Knoxville news station that sought out to see the Brown Mountain Lights. It includes interviews with the Burke County TDA and it provides more in-depth details behind the mystery.