Probably our most popular backpack trip in 2017 was our Intermediate Skills class at Linville Gorge, three days of exploring one of the most rugged, scenic and iconic spots in the Southeast.
Linville Gorge has been called one of the wildest spots in the eastern U.S. During its 12-mile run, the west rim rises, abruptly, 1,300 feet above the Linville River below. Trails that lead into the gorge from the west have horizon lines, that point at which, upon approach, the trail seems to wander off into space (in reality, it plunges down the side of the mountain). Because of its steep and rugged nature, there was minimal logging in the gorge, leaving virgin stands of towering timber. 11,651 acres of the gorge are designated wilderness, easily making the first induction after passage of the Wilderness Act in 1964. When one of these behemoth trees goes down there’s no effort to remove it from the trail, making for some of the most rugged — and impressive — scenery around. Our trip aims to expose you to this scenery on a modest budget of pain.
What do we mean by "Intermediate Skills." It's a designation we give to trips that require you have at least a beginner level of backpacking experience and are eager to expand those skills. On this trip, we will deal with two water crossings (of the Linville River), and navigating a wilderness area. You should also be in good condition for this trip and you'll be required to have basic backpacking equipment (a complete list of required gear will be provided after signing up). We offer guidance and support on this trip.
9 a.m. — Carpool leaves Triangle/Triad
Noon — Arrive at Table Rock Mountain Trailhead. Begin 6-mile hike along Linville Gorge east rim to Shortoff Mountain.
3-4 p.m. Arrive Shortoff Mountain. We camp here for the evening, enjoying some of the best views of gorge and of Lake James beyond.
9 a.m. - 4 p.m. From Shortoff, we take the Mountains-to-Sea Trail south, crossing the Linville River, which is about 60 yards wide at this point and typically knee deep, then picking up the Linville River Trail and heading north up the gorge. We will camp mid-gorge. An 8- to 10-mile day.
9 a.m. We’ll continue up the gorge, then cross the Linville River again. It’s narrower here, but the water may be deeper (thigh deep, though we will try to cross on rocks) and moving faster. We will evaluate several crossing options. We cross the river at the the Spence Ridge Trail, the “easiest” access into the gorge, and return to Table Rock and our awaiting cars. Expect to cover about 7 miles.
River crossings: There are two. Early on Day 2 we have a fairly mellow crossing of the Linville River below the mouth of the gorge. On Day 3, we cross a section of the river that was, for a short while, bridged. This is a more challenging crossing; you may get wet, but you will be near the end of the trip.
Trip size: 10 people (maximum for a group in a wilderness area)
Planning meeting: We will meet at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 8 at the Great Outdoor Provision Co. in Raleigh to go over the route (each backpacker gets a map of the gorge, plus a custom map of the trip and detailed agenda). We will discuss unique aspects of the trip and any special gear that might be needed.
Included with this trip
eguide, including: Maps and elevation profiles of the three days hikes; descriptions of each hike, with mileages; overview of the trip, with key logistic information; Gear Checklist outlining what, specifically, you'll need for this backpack trip, including recommended footwear, hiking/swim trunks, quick dry tops, day pack, sunscreen, bug spray, etc.