The Shortoff Trail on the south rim of the Linville Gorge begins just north of Lake James, the placid endpoint of the wild Linville River.
We ascended through brush and scrappy trees just recovering from the 2007 fire that swept across Shortoff Mountain. While desolate, the landscape is still varied and interesting, and offers a great case study for the aftereffects of a forest fire. Plenty of pines and a few hardy deciduous trees have broken through the scorched soil to stake their claims. The trail itself is somewhat eroded, but easily divined. In the hot, sandy soil, we saw many lizards and toads basking and looking for prey (or waiting to become prey).
The initial stages of the trail will give you great views of Lake James to the south; as you ascend you’ll begin to see glimpses of the gorge’s southern end. It only takes about a mile and a half of fairly easy hiking to reach a point where you can look out to the jagged rock faces that make the Linville Gorge so unique.
Eventually, we came to a promontory that gave perfect views toward Table Rock and Hawksbill. This trail offers a unique and seldom-seen perspective on the two great massifs of the Gorge. While the West rim has a dedicated road with trails descending into the gorge, the East rim offers a trail that mostly follows the ridgeline—this gives you the chance to see the gorge from an elevated position.
Hike it: Like every hike in the Linville Gorge, The Shortoff Mtn. Trail is not easy, but it is still quite accessible and well worth your time. If you’re up for a multi-day adventure, this trail will eventually take you all the way to Table Rock.
- Length: 4.4 miles
- Duration: 3-4 hrs.
- Difficulty: Moderate-Difficult
- Hike Configuration: There and back
- Blaze: Mountains to Sea (white blaze) for first part; no blaze after that
- Condition: Rugged
- Trailhead: Small gravel parking area at end of Wolf Pit Rd.
- Traffic: Light
- Directions: 1.) From Boone, your best line is to take NC 105 to Linville, then turn onto NC 181 South. 2.) Once you’re down the mountain, look for Rose Creek Road to your right. 3.) Follow Rose Creek until it terminates at Fish Hatchery Road and take a right. 4.) This road will end at NC 126; take a right and follow 126 for about a mile until you see Wolf Pit Road on your right. 5.) Follow this road to its terminus at the trailhead.
From points south (Marion and Morganton), simply connect to NC 126 (if you’re coming from Marion, Wolf Pit Road will be on your left; from the east, you’ll find it on the right).
Entry by Charles