GetBackpacking! Early Season Basecamp Trip to Linville Gorge


Scooting down Linville Gorge’s Leadmine Trail

On this early season backpack visit to Linville Gorge we set up base camp atop Shortoff Mountain Friday afternoon, then spend Saturday in day packs exploring the gorge. Sunday, we hike out, then do a 4- to 5-mile hike on the Fonta Flora State Trail before heading home.

Out of stock


Sunset at Shortoff Mountain

It’s been a year and a half since we lasted visited Linville Gorge, and we miss it. In year’s past, we’ve tried to visit the gorge twice: one for a base camp trip, once for a circuit hike through the lower half of the gorge. Last year, we had three trips planned. Alas, they were not to be.

This year we hope to get at least two trips in, the first, a basecamp trip, the weekend of March 12-14. This will be a basecamp trip, hiking in late Friday afternoon from the Wolf Pit Road entrance and camping Friday and Saturday nights on Shortoff Mountain. Saturday’s day hike will depend upon the weather and water levels. Options include:

  1. Hike the Mountains-to-Sea Trail west down the mountain and across the Linville River at its widest, most tranquil spot. Conditions would need to be near-perfect for this option, meaning a temperature in the 70s at minimum with water no more than knee high. This is a wide crossing with slow water flow, best done in river shoes. Once on the other side, we would hike the MST up to the recently renovated Lead Mine Trail and drop down to the gorge for lunch and few minutes to play before heading back. Total distance about 8 miles. But again, only under ideal conditions.
  2. Hike the MST east, possibly dropping down the rugged Cambric Branch Trail, but likely continuing on past The Chimneys to Table Rock. A return trip from this point would be 12 miles total. 
  3. There is also the possibility of hiking the MST and checking out one of the more primitive trails that drops to the gorge.

This being an early season trip, Option No. 2 is the odds-on favorite: it’s challenging, but not a trail you need to be in mid-season form to tackle. 

Sunday, we will hike out and do a 4- to 5-mile hike on the nearby Fonta Flora Trail, one of 9 State Trails, along Lake James.

Only the hike in and out — 2.3 miles both ways — will be in full pack.

Temperatures can vary wildly this time of year. A week out we will begin monitoring the weather and provide a head’s up on what to expect. We will update the Monday before the hike and the Thursday before as well. In 2020, FYI, the high temperature on March 12 was 50, dropping to 38 the next day and 42 on the 14th, with overnight lows in the 20s. Yet two weeks later it hit 68 two days in a row, with overnight lows in the 50s. 

Our goal with this trip is to give you an early season taste of the gorge, while not making the visit an ordeal. Again, we’ve missed the gorge.

For this trip you will receive:

  • Guide to the Linville Gorge Wilderness, our look at everything you’ll need for the weekend, trip logistics and a map with route options.
  • GetHiking! Guide to Finding Your Way, a quick-tips guide for hiking off trail.
  • GetHiking! Guide to Water Crossings.
  • Zoom planning meeting on Tuesday, March 9 at 6 p.m. 

The Finding Your Way and Water Crossings guides will be provided upon registration; the trip guide will be provided shortly thereafter. You will receive an invitation to the Zoom meeting separately.


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