Linville Gorge, where miles are measured differently

“We’ve only done five miles?” one of the backpackers asked with a mix of disbelief and despair.

“Yes,” I said, “but they’re likely the hardest five miles you’ve ever done.” Until tomorrow. I kept that last part to myself.

GetBackpacking! Linville Gorge

Our nine-person GetBackpacking! group had started that morning at 9 from our campsite atop Shortoff Mountain on the east rim of Linville Gorge. We followed the MST on a steep descent to the Linville River, crossed a 60-yard-wide stretch of water, then made the long descent back up the rugged west rim. Challenging, but nothing like the rollercoaster Leadmine Trail we would take back down to the river. By the time we saw water again, it was 5 o’clock and our legs were done. We took the first suitable campsite.

How far?

About five miles.

The 11,651-acre Linville Gorge was among the inaugural class of wild areas saved by Congress with the 1964 Wilderness Act. The gorge has a well-deserved reputation as one of the wildest, most rugged spots in the East: from beginning to end, a distance of about 13 miles, the Linville River drops 2,000 vertical feet. From rim to river, the elevation change is as much as 1,300 vertical feet, nearly straight up in spots. It’s a difference best appreciated from the river looking up. Miles are measured differently in Linville Gorge.

The backpackers in our group were not accomplished veterans with multiple thru-hikes under their belts. All had gone through our GetBackpacking! Intro to Backpacking program, most within the past year. They were freshly minted, eager to see what they were capable of.

A lot, it turned out.

Check out the slideshow of our trip. If you’re inspired, start your journey into the wild by enrolling in one of our two GetBackpacking! Intro to Backpacking classes scheduled for fall. Both include three training sessions followed by a two-night graduation trip to South Mountains State Park. Click on the link for details about each class:

  • September. Starts Sept. 10 and culminates with the two-night graduation trip Oct. 6-8.
  • October. Starts Oct. 15 and culminates with a two-night graduation trip Nov. 3-5.

Join us, and maybe next summer you’ll experience a Linville mile.

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