Lake James — Shortoff Mountain Trail

Linville, North Carolina 28646

Lake James — Shortoff Mountain Trail

Lake James — Shortoff Mountain Trail Professional Review and Guide

"Psst! Put down that trail guide telling you that the way to get to the best view of Linville Gorge is via a strenuous 11.2-mile march. I’ve got a shortcut that’ll get you there in about 2 miles.

The backdoor route up Shortoff Mountain begins inconspicuously enough, through a young forest in which a variety of successional first responders jockey for sunlight. It’s a bit scrubby. But as the Shortoff Mountain Trail quickly ascends—at times on an old roadbed, at times switchbacking up single-track—it assumes a more mature, mountain-like feel."

Lake James — Shortoff Mountain Trail Reviews

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10/24/2010
I am not your typical athletic hiker - this trail was difficult for me to hike, but well worth the effort - I could have spent a week sitting on one of the numerous rocky overlooks. Regardless of where you are standing or what direction you are looking - each and every view was awesome. Wish I would have taken a backpack and spent the weekend - hiked in October - perfect weather and unbelieveable color.
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6/17/2010
Moderate hike provides great view of the Linville Gorge
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3/25/2010
Awesome hike. This is a cheaters trail to some chimneys.
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7/1/2009
Your own post apocalyptic world right in your backyard...
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3/8/2009
Launched from top of Wolf Pit Rd as described with my 10 year old this am; the second prettiest and warmest day of the year so far in 09. As noted in the article and other reviews, keep right at a couple of early intersections, until you see the Mts-to-Sea trail crossing (about 2/3rds the way up; double white circles to left); stay straight at that point rather than taking the straight upward route to the right. The views of the gorge are magnificent and unique relative to those of the area from Hawksbill or TableRock. For an extra bonus, follow the trail a bit (.5 mi) past the last ovelook campground. There, after passing a small, clear shallow pond, you can catch a few more looks to the west and north into the Chimney Gap. For a shortcut home, when you turn around take a left down the trail before heading back to the Shortoff overlook and catch the trail to the left back at the Mt-to-Sea trail crossing. Great Day.
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1/1/2009
I was so happy to read about this hike, and try it this crisp (25 degree) January morning. We set out around 9:30...the climb up is moderate, but I think it will be strenuous in the summertime due to the burned out trees and no shade from the sun. Gorgeous views of Lake James the entire ascent. The trail is well marked...however, at the first fork you come to, keep going up. (Right) Once we reached the summit, and checked out the guide's "hot tub sized ledge," we continued on the trail and found an overlook where we climbed down a little ways (reasonably safely) and sat on a ledge eating hot soup and gazing in amazement at the views. Great day hike!
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12/31/2008
As an upstate NYer, the bright sunshine and crystal clear blue skies provided a perfect respite from winter back home. What a way to close out the year! The gravel Wolf Pit Road's end had a turnaround and some parking spots cut into the woods at the trailhead. The ascent starts immediately and be sure to catch the unmarked 90 degree, right hand turn about a quarter-mile in. Sometime since the last posted review, a fire charred most of the trees in the trail's first 1-2 miles, giving it the feel of the "Elepant's Graveyard" in Disney's animated film The Lion King. (If anyone knows more about when the fire took place, I'd be grateful to know). The trail as you climb is littered with rocks of all sizes and seems to be a stream bed in many parts. Although steady, the climb to the summit isn't exceptionally strenuous. Views of Lake James to the south improve with altitude, and the fire cleared the sight lines. As picturesque as the lake views are, it's the Linville Gorge and other distant peaks that make the trip worth it. Once you reach the eastern edge of the gorge, you'll find dozens of ledge spots to soak in the scenery. Some of the ledges are situated yards and even feet from the trail. You can also bushwhack a short distance for more remote cliff sitting. Bring your camera for some great shots (will post some photos in early January). The wind was gusting up to 50 miles an hour at points. It was eerily quiet at times but necessary to hold on for dear life at others. Looking north provides a panoramic view of the Linville River and rock ledges on both sides of the gorge. Shortoff's summit is more of a plateau (from trail guide) that winds for a good half-mile or so. The Chimneys are visible and majestic. With more time, I would have hiked to them and into the canyon. The half-day proved thoroughly enjoyable & well worth it!
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10/18/2008
Great trail--well marked. The views from atop the plateau are pretty incredible. Nice camping area with plenty of flat, cleared space. Great day or short overnight hike...
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8/19/2008
Hiked it on 8/17/08. A very nice day hike. Located at the end of Wolf Pit Road, just as described; sufficient parking for about a dozen cars. Due to the fires during summer of 2007, much of the southern slope is burned out, but already there are signs of regrowth, but it will be years before full foliage returns. However, this offers clear view of Lake James and the Linville Gorge. A fairly strenuous hike on a hot day (little shade), but quite doable with plenty of water. Did not make it all the way to the plateau as had limited time. Great views.
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6/4/2008
I grew up in Morganton, so I've hiked this trail many times. It's easily my favorite local hike. It's not as pretty now since the fire, but it's still a beautiful view from the top.
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Lake James — Shortoff Mountain Trail Photos

Trail Information

Linville
Nearby City
4.4
Distance
1,321 feet
Elevation Gain
Out-and-back
Trail Type
Moderate
Skill Level
1.5 to 2.5 hours
Duration
Best in Fall
Season
Trails Illustrated Linville Gorge/Mount Mitchell, Pisgah Ranger District; USFS Linville Gorge Wilderness; USGS Ashford
Local Maps