It is a strenuous hike to the top of Shortoff but well worth the effort.
On the southern side of the Linville Gorge Wilderness Area, just north of Lake James, is the strenuous hike to the top of Shortoff Mountain. While this is a strenuous hike up the mountain, it is absolutely worth the effort as there are breathtaking views from the numerous vistas on the plateau at the top of Shortoff Mountain. The roundtrip hike is about 4 miles although it can be a little longer or shorter depending on how far you hike once you reach the top. This also connects with the Mountain To Sea Trail and will continue to Table Rock mountain which is about 7 miles from the parking area.
The trail to Shortoff Mountain starts at the Wolf Pit Trailhead which is at the end of Wolf Pit Road in Nebo North Carolina. It is about 30 minutes from Morganton or Marion North Carolina. Wolf Pit Road is an unpaved road that is off NC Highway 126 on the North side of Lake James. You will go about 6 1/2 miles on Wolf Pit Road to a parking area at the end of the road. The parking area isn’t huge but you can park along the road if you have to. The trailhead is about 1 hour from Hickory North Carolina or 1 hour 15 minutes from Asheville North Carolina. There are no restroom facilities at the trailhead.
Shortoff Mountain has suffered a few forest fires in recent years; the most recent being early 2017. The fires have left the mountainside somewhat bare so plan accordingly and bring hats, sunscreen, and lots of water; especially in the summer.
The trail starts at the end of the parking area and is marked with a nice sign. The first mile up the mountain is going to be all uphill. Initially the slope isn’t too bad. Look for a marked turnoff to the right and follow that up the hill as the slope picks up a bit. There are numerous vistas to rest at with increasingly better views of Lake James as you get higher up. The trail will switchback several times and then merge with the Mountain to Sea trail about 3/4’s of the way up the mountain. Take your time and keep going up the mountain; resting as necessary. When you encounter some steps, and the trail gets even steeper, you are almost at the top.
As the trail starts to level off, there are some great views towards Linville River that start peering up the Linville Gorge. The trail will eventually become mostly flat as it traverses across the mountain top. You can hike along the top of Shortoff, enjoy the numerous views of the Gorge, and find that perfect spot to sit back, relax, and enjoy the beautiful scenic views.
Be mindful if you have small children as the drop-offs are severe and there are no protective railings or fences on any of the ledges.
The trail will continue all the way to Table Rock which is another 5-6 miles from the top of Shortoff depending on where you are on the summit plateau. Most people hike to a spot, relax and then head back to the parking area.
There is an interesting and somewhat rare mountain top pond along the trail if you hike far enough along the summit trail.
Wherever you choose to stop on your hike, we are pretty sure you will enjoy the view atop Shortoff Mountain. When you have finished enjoying the views, hike safely back to the parking area.