Shortoff Mountain is a 2883-foot summit on the rim of Linville Gorge in North Carolina. The 2.2-mile moderate hike from the Wolf Pit trailhead and parking area ascends 1321 feet, resulting in a 4.4-mile round trip. On the way up the mountain, you get increasingly panoramic views of Lake James. Once you summit the mountain, you’re treated to views of the gorge. It’s a fun climb with a fulfilling reward for your effort.
The Wolf Pit parking area is 2 miles up a gravel road. The road is accessible to all cars; you don’t need a truck or SUV. Parking is limited and there is no ranger station or privy. There wasn’t even a trail map in the information board when I was there. Since several trails converge in this area, there is ample blazing and signage. I thought it was very easy to navigate the trail. When in doubt, just keep going up.
I was planning to do the 22-mile Grand Loop around the entire gorge, but a series of unfortunate events led me to postpone that endeavor until cooler weather months. Most importantly, the spring near the summit of Shortoff was dry.
That said, Shortoff Mountain alone was enough of an attraction to make the trip worthwhile. There’s something impressive about standing on the edge of a cliff and watching hawks soar beneath your feet. It reminded me of a smaller, lower altitude version of Yosemite Valley.
The exposure on this hike is near-constant. There is some shade on the summit, but plan to be in full wind and sun on your hike. I did this on a 90+° July day and sweat was pouring out of me. Make sure to bring enough water and do not count on filtering more water on your hike.
There are lots of primitive campsites, both wooded and exposed, on top of Shortoff Mountain. This would be a great area to do an overnighter as long as you bring enough water. Just keep in mind that free permits are required for overnight camping on weekends and holidays from May–October.
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