Shortoff Mountain Trail at Linville Gorge

Shortoff Mountain Trail: hiking Linville Gorge

Hike to the summit of Shortoff Mountain, scoring gorgeous views of nearby Lake James and carving across the view-packed southern rim of Linville Gorge.

 

trail info

TRAIL LOCATION: at Linville Gorge, east of Asheville near Lake James

GEAR: Osprey Stratos 24 Backpack w/ our favorite day hike gear and Canon 6D DSLR

OFFICIAL MAP: Nat Geo 779 Trails Illustrated Map

The Shortoff Mountain Trail presents breathtaking view after breathtaking view throughout this seven-miler at Linville Gorge, one of western NC’s most ruggedly beautiful outdoor playgrounds. The trail packs in a moderately steep climb from the start, but then mellows in the middle, making the hike doubly camera-worthy and workout-worthy, too.

Shortoff Mountain is one of the Asheville area’s most popular hikes, and for good reason – the views are sublime, stretching south to the placid waters of Lake James, and north into the deep-carved, rugged, waterfall-filled Linville Gorge. The trail’s terrain is rocky, angular and dramatic, framing the exceptional wide panoramic views that pepper this hike’s journey, including the nearby summits of Table Rock Mountain and Hawksbill Mountain, and the Linville Falls waterfalls in the far distance, nestled deep within the gorge.

Hike the Shortoff Mountain Trail to stunning views into Linville Gorge and of nearby Lake JamesAbove: hike the Shortoff Mountain Trail to stunning, lofty views of nearby Lake James

Mile for mile, this hike packs in a ton of scenic beauty on its seven-mile round trip – and the initial climb is a great, unrelenting workout, too. The mountain was home to several semi-recent forest fires, leaving the terrain open and the views all the more beautiful. The forest has begun its dramatically beautiful rebound, framing the dramatically barren shells of singed trees with lush undergrowth and abundant wildflowers.

Hike to beautiful views into western NC's Linville Gorge from the rocky summit of Shortoff Mountain

The mountain’s relatively moderate 3,000-foot elevation makes for a toasty warm hike in the summer, a fantastic mild trek in the shoulder seasons of autumn and spring, and a downright chilly, wind-blown adventure in the frosty winter months.

Shortoff Mountain Trail: the hike

The hike begins at the dead-end of the gravel-paved Wolf Pit Road near the northern shore Lake James (view maps and driving directions), hiking westbound and beginning a nearly unrelenting climb to the Shortoff Mountain summit. The hike climbs through rocky terrain and hangs a right at a hand-painted sign at .15 mile. Gorgeous views of Lake James begin to emerge at .5 mile as the trail carves through a series of sharply angled switchbacks before reaching a signed 4-way intersection with the Mountains to Sea Trail at 1 mile.

Hiking Linville Gorge in western North Carolina: the Shortoff Mountain Trail

The hike continues westbound through the intersection, following the sign’s direction to Shortoff. The southward views of Lake James get appreciably better and more dramatically wide open as the hike ascends, climbing a set of stone stairs at 1.15 miles.

Hike to beautiful views of Lake James and into Linville Gorge from the rocky, rugged Shortoff Mountain summit

The trail crests the mountain’s near-summit at 1.3 miles, catching some stunning views of Lake James and into the southern stretches of Linville Gorge. The terrain is rocky, jagged and rugged – and multiple overlooks make a great venue to take a view-packed breather.

Linville Gorge best hikes: the Shortoff Mountain Trail packs in view after stunning view on a 7-mile adventure

The trail levels briefly before resuming the climb, veering northbound and diving into a young, scraggly, scrubby forest. The trail crosses a seasonal, trickling spring at 1.5 miles, just before reaching a large campsite with splintered side trails to stunning views. The trail passes a second, generously-sized campsite at 1.6 miles before arcing eastbound, diving through a grassy forest filled with gnarly-branched rhododendron and scattered campsites.

The trail levels, rolling gently as it skirts the summit of Shortoff Mountain and catches stunning, soaring views into Linville Gorge from a rocky expanse littered with angular outcrops and wind-swept grass.

Catch stunning views from Shortoff Mountain's summit, stretching to the nearby Table Rock Mountain and into the depths of Linville Gorge in western NC

The hike descends briefly, catching more northbound views of the nearby Table Rock Mountain and the Chimneys, two of Linville Gorge’s most popular climbing venues. The trail dips through a shallow saddle at 2.9 miles before resuming the climb, ascending through a dense forest of rhododendron and pungent-scented, onion-like galax to Shortoff Mountain’s highest elevations.

Hike to beautiful summit views from Shortoff Mountain at the southern end of Linville Gorge near Asheville

The trail peaks at 3.75 miles, the views opening generously wide from a rugged, nearly-vertical outcrop. From here, the trail continues northbound, descending through Chimney Gap, passing an intersection with the Chimbric Ridge Trail and climbing to the Chimneys. This hike turns from Shortoff’s summit, retracing its outbound steps to the Wolf Pit Road trailhead and catching stunning return-hike views throughout the way. The trail reaches the Shortoff Mountain trailhead at just under 7.5 miles, completing the hike.

More Linville Gorge hiking adventures

If you loved the views from Shortoff Mountain, there’s a whole lot more of Linville Gorge’s beauty left to explore. Hike the Table Rock Trail to the summit of the flat-topped, craggy summit of Shortoff’s nearest neighbor, catching gorgeous views in wide, sweeping panoramas. Climb to stunning views from the Hawksbill Mountain Trail, the perfect place to catch an epic sunrise or sunset over Linville Gorge. Chase an up-close view of Linville Gorge’s stunning waterfalls on the Linville Falls Plunge Basin Trail, descending to the gorge’s floor to reach an enormous pool below Linville’s largest waterfall. Or check out the full list of our favorite Linville Gorge hiking, camping and backpacking adventures for more trip inspiration in this rugged outdoor wonderland.

 
 
 

Shortoff Mountain Trail: Directions & Details

Parking

Free parking is available at the Shortoff Mountain Trailhead, located at the end of the unpaved Wolf Pit Road near Lake James.

Please Remember

Always leave no trace and follow these trail etiquette tips.

GPS Coordinates

35.824200, -81.889717     //     N35 49.452 W81 53.383

Driving Directions


Elevation Profile

Shortoff Mountain Trail at Linville Gorge: Elevation Profile

Shortoff Mountain Trail Map

Trail data and photos © Summit19 Studio LLC. This map is not a substitute for official trail maps or topographic maps.
 
Eric Champlin is a writer and photographer who loves to hike, run, backpack, kayak and cycle the southeast. He’s the editor and founder of Atlanta Trails and Asheville Trails, online magazines that cover the South’s best outdoor adventures. His mission? To inspire others to get fit outdoors and explore the South’s incredible scenic beauty.

Eric is also a freelance writer, photographer and creative director.