Shortoff Mountain Trail
Shortoff Mountain Trail
Shortoff Mountain trail never seems to be included on any “Top Hikes” lists that I see from North Carolina, but it certainly deserves a spot. We’ve been ticking hike after hike off our list while living here, and this one blew us out of the water. With jaw dropping views of Lake James at the base of the mountain, and layers of mountains that can be seen beyond the lake’s waters this trail is hard to beat.
I’ve had my eye on the Shortoff Mountain trail for a while now, but it seems every time we try to do the hike something gets in our way. The trail head can be a little tricky to find, as the GPS will take you just past the road you need to turn on. We actually got so lost the first time we tried to find it, we gave up and did a different hike instead. Keep a lookout for Wolf Pit Road off of NC 126, which is the gravel road that will take you to the trail head. As you continue down the gravel road for about 3 miles, you’ll eventually reach a dead end where parking is available. Parking is limited, and this is an extremely popular backpacker start so the spaces fill up quickly.
Located within the bounds of the Linville Gorge Wilderness area, the Shortoff Mountain trail starts on the opposite side of many of the other hikes also a part of the wilderness area. This means new views! After powering through the inclined portion of the hike, which lasts for about 2-3 miles, you will reach semi-level land that is easy to walk along.
Unfortunately, the entire area was just ravaged by a forest fire of massive scale and has devastated a lot of the vegetation. On the drive to the trail, we were deeply saddened by the loss of vegetation and nature, and while on the trail the devastation was even more pronounced. This fire was caused by lightning, but many other fires are caused by human foolishness. It’s important to remember the Leave No Trace Principles and practice good fire safety. If you’re not sure what the 7 principles are, check out this article that explains them when you get a chance.
We wandered our way about the trail, not particularly concerned about how much time it was taking us. We stopped along the cliff faces and sat for a while, watching a hawk hunt prey in the swirling mountain winds. It refreshed us. Sometimes just being a part of nature is more important than how far you hike, or where you make it to.
While we could have continued on this trail towards Table Rock, we instead chose to turn back. At this point, we had walked about 4.5 miles, meaning our total hike distance was 9 miles. Coming down the mountain was a much different beast than going up. All was fine until we reached the steep downhill portion. There are seemingly never ending switchbacks, and while we didn’t have much problems going up, going down seemed much more tiring. All of our hard work was made worth it though thanks to the views of Lake James in the distance.
I think it’s safe to say we gained a new favorite hike to add to our ever growing list. I’m sure we’ll be returning to take on the trail for a longer distance soon. We have so much exploring to do!