Camp on Shortoff Mountain in the Linville Gorge

Shortoff Mountain Trailhead, Morganton, North Carolina, United States

  • Activities:

    Camping, Backpacking, Hiking

  • Skill Level:


  • Season:

    Year Round


Camp out in one of the most rugged gorges in North America. No need for a permit if you're camping outside of the summer. Take in views of Lake James and the Gorge as you hike to your campsite. Duration: Overnight.

The Linville Gorge Wilderness Area, also known as the Grand Canyon of the East, is one of the wildest, most rugged gorges in the eastern United States. It's also an outdoor paradise for hikers and backpackers. Camping here is always a treat and you are sure to enjoy your time spent in the gorge.

During peak seasons, May 1st- October 31st, you must obtain a permit to camp in the gorge. However, because this is a wilderness area, camping is allowed year round.

On this particular trip, our group arrived at the trail head (Wolf Pit Rd) in mid December and started out toward our campsite on Shortoff Mountain. Along this hike you will have incredible views of Lake James and beyond as well as a view of the gorge that will take your breath away. This hike is moderately strenuous. Once on the ridgeline you will have multiple campsites to choose from, some right on the gorge rim and some farther back in the wood line.

Pack List

  • Matches and/or lighter
  • Sleeping bag
  • Hammock and/or Tent (check weather)
  • Waterfilter (there is water on the ridgeline in the form of a pond and a water tree)
  • Don't forget your food!
  • Camera
  • Deck of cards
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We are residents of the community at Shortoff Mountain and Wolf Pit has become almost impassable due to lack of maintenance. We are gathering this petition to submit to various government agencies in hopes of getting regular maintenance to the road for everyone.

11 days ago
11 days ago

Decided to try camping in the middle of January while a winter storm was approaching, and discovered Shortoff while growing the Outbound app- it looked like a perfect fit! Our group started out the hike in the middle of a rainstorm, and hiked an hour and 15 minutes until we found a prime campsite on the ridge, with great trees for hammocks, flat spots for tents, and even a small “cave” to build a fire in away from the rain and wind. After we got camp set up, the rain and wind died down, and we had an amazing evening around the fire while the temperatures dropped from 60° all the way down to 24°. Warning! The winds here are no joke! Check the weather before you go out- and if there’s supposed to be winds, a hammock might be a bad idea. I was definitely wishing I was in a good tent instead of an exposed hammock. Even with the cold temperatures and the rain, Shortoff was an amazing experience and we will definitely be back when the weather is a little nicer!

about 1 month ago
about 1 month ago

Did this trip last night and Im already planning my second one back. absolutely beautiful

5 months ago
5 months ago

The "road" in is an unmarked, one lane, gravel ordeal so potholed it will make your car rock like it's in a Jeep commercial. Follow it all the way to the end (past the rusted "no motor vehicles beyond this point" sign if you take your eyes off the road to spot it on a tree) where you'll find a cul-de-sac and large signpost marking the trail head. The hike up is quite exposed to the sun but affords great views of Lake James below. As you near the top, the path rounds the rim of the gorge, revealing a network of cliffs. Visiting out of season offers the convenience of no permits, but the cliffs look best when contrasted against fully green trees. Prime campsites abound along the ridge, but the best (read: "most exposed") is about 2.5-3 miles or <1 hour up. Just past a pond, an unmarked fork breaks off perpendicular to the left. Follow this to the edge for a wide open spot with a perfect view of Table Rock Mountain. Be aware though, the wind along the gorge rim can kick up instantly and with alarming force (gusting 30+mph the night we stayed). Use the heavy fireplace rocks to weigh down your tent stakes or choose a more protected site if you'd rather not lay wake all night wondering if the tent poles will snap. Arriving for sunset behind the opposite rim is best and avoids making the exposed ascent in direct sunlight. Bear encounters are possible (if less likely than in the Smokies), so practice proper food protocol. Finally, trails in the Gorge Wilderness area are mostly unmarked, so take extra care and a map.

almost 2 years ago
almost 2 years ago

Samuel Martin

I'd rather be camping

Are we missing something? Suggest an edit

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