Posts Tagged ‘Pisgah National Forest’

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).

Shortoff Mtn. Trail

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.

View toward Lake James

View toward north end of Gorge (rock on right side is frequented by climbers)

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.

View north toward Table Rock & Hawksbill

View toward Table Rock

Northward view from trail

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).

Additional Resources:  The Linville Gorge & Tips on Linville Gorge

Entry by Charles


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Below is a brief overview of things you should know about hiking in The Linville Gorge Wilderness:

Entry Fees:

  • There are no entry fees to enter or camp in the Gorge


  • Permits are required for camping only on weekends and holidays from May 1 through October 31.  Permits are not required November 1 through April 30.  Permits are not required for visitors who do not stay overnight.


  • Weather in the Gorge varies according to whether you are on peaks like Table Rock or down in the Gorge itself.  Weather on peaks and high outcroppings is often windy and cool in summer months.  Near the river, it can be hot and muggy.  Spring and fall temperatures are typical to the area.
  • Flash floods can be a serious threat.  Try to camp at least a few feet above the river.


  • Primitive and extremely rugged.  Allow for additional hiking time as one mile is like two.  Many trails are poorly marked, so bring your back-country navigational skills.


  • Backpacking experience, navigational skills, good physical condition, emergency preparedness skills

What to Bring:

  • An extra layer of clothes
  • A daypack with extra food and the usual emergency items
  • Swimsuit (if hiking to the river)
  • Trekking poles or hiking stick (these are a must!)
  • Camera
  • Map
  • Compass


  • Swimming, hiking, backpacking, top-roping, climbing, sport climbing, birdwatching, fishing


Eastern Rim

Short off Mountain
Cambric Ridge
Table Rock
Spence Ridge
Jonas Ridge
Devil’s Hole
Brushy Ridge

Western Rim

Pinch in Tr.
Rock Jock Tr.
Conley Cove Tr.
Sandy Flats
Babel Tower Tr.
Bynum Tr.
Cabin Tr.
Bynum Bluff Tr.
Pine Gap Tr.

Gorge Trail

The Linville Gorge Trail follows the Linville River its entire length at the bottom of the canyon.


While there are lots of serious hiking and backpacking trails in the Gorge, there are also more accessible hikes such as Wiseman’s View and Linville Falls.

Additional Information:

  • Don’t underestimate the Gorge–it is a wild, isolated, and sometimes dangerous place.
  • Avoid hiking solo and always tell someone about your plans.
  • Fires are permitted.
  • Hiking down into and out of the Gorge can be treacherous as it is extremely steep.  Use a stick or trekking poles.
  • Each year, a number of individuals are rescued from the Gorge.  In the summer of 2010, for example, my husband and I passed two young men who we later discovered were rescued just hours later due to illness.  The terrain was so intense that they were unable to hike out on their own.  Their story is not unique.
  • If you use a pack cover, it may get shredded.  The vegetation can be dense and unforgiving to pack covers, not to mention your legs and arms.  Try to wear long pants, if possible.  Consider replacing your expensive pack cover with a trash bag.
  • External frame packs can make Gorge hiking tough, due to dense vegetation and steep descents.
  • Look out for the Brown Mountain lights toward Table Rock.  I swear my husband and I saw them while camping in the summer of 2010!
  • The Gorge can be crowded during the high season (May-September), especially during weekends and holidays.  Avoid the crowds by going on a weekday.

Additional Resources:

North Carolina Outdoors

Pisgah National Forest

National Forests in North Carolina

Hiking the Carolinas


Linville Gorge Trail Data

Linville Gorge & Wiseman’s View

Books & Maps:

Linville Gorge Wilderness PDF

Linville Gorge Wilderness Area

Linville Gorge/Mt. Mitchell Map

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