Hikes n' Climbs Shortoff Mountain and the Linville Gorge

Shortoff Mountain and the Linville Gorge Shortoff Mountain and the Linville Gorge Hot

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Shortoff Mountain and the Linville Gorge

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Craig Patton and I decided to take the weekend and see what Shortoff Mountain had to offer. Craig had been fortunate enough to see the brown mountain lights on a previous trip in October 2010 and spent nearly the whole night watching them dance mysteriously in the valley.  As a special treat a fiery meteor streaked through the sky right over Linville Gorge, spectacular sights which I have an uncanny ability to miss.

While having been enticed by Craig now for almost a year, I jumped at the opportunity to explore a new place and see these lights for myself.  We landed at the Wolf Pit Road entrance... Arriving rather late we were greeted immediately by a thunderstorm.  After 10 minutes without it letting up, we decided on manning up and going for it.  This mountain has seen saw a fire in 2006 and thus most of the old-growth forest is heavily damaged or non-existent which left way for the scrub underbrush to get rather thick.  With the canopy gone, it has left a rather rocky and arid soil to be relentlessly subject to the sun. As a result of this hiking was more difficult than in other Appalachian locations, with a bit of loose rock, young pine trees, scrub brush along the path and quite a number of burned, fallen trees crossing the path at regular intervals.

Upon arriving at the summit, Linville Gorge presented itself, shrouded entirely in fog leaving my Brown Mountain Light viewing hopes dashed. Camping locations at the summit of Shortoff are limited, and probably totaling around 4 established locations, with only one having excellent campsite properties with soft level ground.  This site is about a 10 minute north walk from the southernmost rim campsite where we found a tolerable but uninviting campsite save for the improvised 2 or 3 stone recliners which a previously industrious camper had cordially left. Note that Shortoff has very little water available.  While a fellow hiker reported a pipe emerging from the ground about 10 minutes hike down the trail (from the summit) that used to run regularly, we couldn't locate this one.

The only water source we found was on an Easterly spur trail off of the rim trail located at the following coordinates.

35°50'8.77"N  81°53'43.67"W

This water was a mere shoe boxed sized puddle at the base of a tree, and it was a bit dirty with not much depth, so a mechanical pump filter and SteriPen UV light filter are recommended. We discussed exploring the bottom of the gorge, but the overgrowth was tortuous and the heat was exhausting.   After a 1.5 hour search for the descent trail, we abandoned our efforts for cooler and greener pastures over at Wilson Creek. Another hiker kindly reminded us of Panthertown Valley and the glories of the Wind River Range and the Grand Tetons.  We may not make the Tetons by next weekend, but Panthertown is on the radar.  He was of the opinion that the Brown Mountain Lights are exceedingly rare to see and that Craig had been lucky to see them. I guess I'll have to wait until another time to see them.

Off to Wilson Creek we go! So in Summary, if Shortoff is in your range and you're looking for something to do, it might be an OK trip, but there are more enjoyable places (See the Wilson Creek Review).  The scrub brush is annoying and the campsites, short of the one mentioned above are rough and uneven water is in short supply.  The view, over Linville Gorge is second to none however. If you want to go in the Fall, you will stand a better chance of seeing the lights.


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Editor reviews

Shortoff Mountain and the Linville Gorge 2011-08-31 00:00:37 Shane Lewis
Overall rating 
Trail Conditions 
Camp Sites 
Water Availability 
Big Nuts Tilt 
Reviewed by Shane Lewis    August 31, 2011
Last updated: February 18, 2012
#1 Reviewer  -   View all my reviews

Shortoff and the Linville Gorge Review

Check it out if you're in to the lights or haven't seen the Gorge. Otherwise take a pass.


Good Points
The view from the gorge is spectacular. Morning clouds will sometimes accumulate in the valley and you will be above them on the ridge. Untapped Wilderness is at your fingertips, a chance of seeing the magical Brown Mountain Lights in the fall.
Bad Points
Poor Trail conditions, lots of burned fallen trees, poor water options, lots of scrub brush, better in the winter.
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