View – the trail ascends from north of Lake James to the eastern ridge of the Linville River in the Linville Gorge Wilderness area. The initial ascent features some long range views of Lake James. As the trail ascends to the Linville Gorge eastern ridge, the trail parallels the river and the gorge and passes numerous rocky overlooks that have views of the gorge and also of the western ridge and north towards Table Rock Mountain and Hawksbill.
Hike Profile – an out and back hike that follows the Shortoff Mountain Trail from the trailhead at the end of Wolfpit Road to the summit of Shortoff Mountain in the Linville Gorge Wilderness area. From the parking area, the trail ascends at a comfortable, constant rate via a couple of switchbacks for 1.5 miles to the edge of the summit of Shortoff Mountain. For the next mile, the trail is nearly flat until you reach the true summit of Shortoff Mountain. It is a very pleasant climb with many opportunities for awesome views.
Trail Surface – an easy walking dirt and loose rock trail for the most part. Off the main trail are short, side trails that require some minor rock scrambles to get to the view spots. There are some wet, muddy sections near the summit of Shortoff Mountain. Low clouds and misty conditions are common and the rocks become quite wet and slippery especially near the view spots. Be very careful in these conditions. People have fallen to their deaths in this area.
Environment – the hike starts in a pine and hardwood forest but it quickly enters an area that has seen two extensive forest fires. Most of the hike is through areas of new growth with low bushes, saplings and grasses. Table Mountain pines are prevalent here and grow on rocks near the edges of the cliffs. We hiked in late fall and the foliage colors were spectacular!
Navigation – the Shortoff Mountain Trail goes through the Linville Gorge Wilderness area and trails in wilderness areas are not usually marked. This trail has a couple of key intersections and these intersections were well marked at the time we did the hike.
The first intersection occurs very early in the hike and you must take a right at this point and continue climbing to the north. There was a sign at this intersection (see the Photo Gallery for details). Part way up the climb to the top of the ridge, the trail hits the Mountains to Sea Trail (MST) at a three-way intersection. Bear right to join the MST to the summit of Shortoff Mountain. Taking a left on the MST at this point will take you down to the Linville River. Again, refer to the Photo Gallery for details. As the trail approaches Shortoff Mountain, it makes a soft landing on the flat summit so there is no obvious destination. We hiked about a mile on the flat part to a wide rocky overlook that had great views looking north.
Directions to Trailhead – from Asheville, take I-40 east to Exit 94 – Dysartsville Road. Go north on Dysartsville towards Lake James. This road ends at SR 70. Take a left onto SR 70 and proceed west. Take a right on Bridgewater Road, and proceed north towards Lake James. At this point you have two options:
- Go up the west side of Lake James by taking a left onto Benfields Landing Road, then a right onto SR 126 and finally a left onto Wolfpit Road.
- Go up the east side of Lake James by continuing on Bridgewater Road which becomes North Powerhouse Road at the intersection with Benfields Landing Road. Take North Powerhouse Road, then a left onto SR 126 and finally a right onto Wolfpit Road.
Wolfpit Road is a dirt road typical of National Forest Service roads. At the end of Wolfpit Road is a cul-de-sac and a small parking area for several cars. The trailhead is located at the north end of the parking area.