With the weekend ahead, I schemed on how I could venture into the woods with my ENO hammock camping gear, and be able to separate from the real world for a bit.
So with this in mind, I mapped out a loop around the southern end of the gorge starting with the climb up from Lake James to Shortoff Mountain - then through the Chimneys and over Table Rock Mountain. From there I would descend to the Linville River and hike along its banks right to the Mountains to Sea Trail. To finish this adventure, I would climb back up Shortoff to complete the 20-mile loop.
Into the Woods with an ENO Hammock by my Side
The Linville Gorge is a part of Pisgah National Forest and spans 12,000 acres as the Linville Gorge Wilderness Area. The Wilderness Area designation is important because trails are not maintained or well-marked, making this area strikingly wild and rugged. The landscape is covered with dense hardwoods and pine forests, making it ideal for hammocking along the ridge or down by the river. Some call it “the Grand Canyon of NC”, but I think it’s better than the Grand Canyon! The trail’s challenging nature keeps it less crowded and makes it ideal for those seeking solitude and peace in the woods.
Off to Find the Perfect Hammock Camping Spot
Hiking at the base of Shortoff Mountain is rocky and arid! Small lizards and grasshoppers skirted past me trying to avoid the Red Tail Hawks flying above, and as I hiked on, I began to see Lake James appear behind me. Eventually, the trail tops out and you cam see the edges of the gorge, which are much smaller than the Grand Canyon, but still geologically interesting and beautiful in their own right.
Between Shortoff and the Chimneys, the trail becomes densely packed with lush vegetation. This section was clearly less traveled and trail became crowded with blooming Laurels, thorny shrubs, and pine tree making me feel enclosed in a bubble of nature.
The trail passes what appeared to be highland bog - a rare high elevation wetland where the soil is constantly saturated and organic matter accumulates, making it difficult for most species of plants to survive. I would definitely recommend enjoying these wetlands only from a far. It is a fragile natural habitat, that is best left alone. There are a lot of unique flora and fauna that like this type of habitat making it an important area to protect and enjoy from afar.
I continued to pleasantly meander along the ridgeline that abruptly ended with the trail then becoming a steep incline to reach The Chimneys. From there it was a challenging climb, and at the top my legs told me it was lunchtime and time to find a shady spot to rest and snack.
The Chimneys earned their name for the rock formations prevalent throughout this section. The trail required climbing over a few boulders and sliding between skinny rock corridors, which was pretty cool and slightly difficult. Many people had already set up their hammock camps on the peaks to enjoy the spectacular 360° views.
At the base of Table Rock Mountain, I hung a left and descended into the gorge. Luckily, there were many small streams to refill my bottles that were dry from the afternoon of hiking. I passed a couple of climbers who were bouldering along the Linville River, which is always a cool sight.
From there is the bridge that crosses the Linville River. It was washed out a couple of years ago, so it required fording the river, and after slipping into the water and soaking my bag, it was best to embrace the moment and take a swim.
Once my ENO gear was dry, I packed up and found a campsite along the river. This part of the trail is smooth and lush, passing daffodil flats and many nice campsites adjacent to the river. There were plenty of trees to hang my hammock from, and I looked forward to hammock camping in the area for the night.
I slept soundly in my TechNest Hammock and Blaze UnderQuilt with the sounds of the flowing water and the night's breeze under a beautiful clear sky. The best part about my ENO gear set up is I know the set up and take down only takes a couple minutes, and tomorrow I will be back to exploring in no time.
My Adventure Comes to an End
Eventually, the trail connects to the Mountains to Sea Trail near Pinnacle Mountain and crosses the Linville River for a second time. This southern crossing is much easier as the river is shallow and lazy.
The climb from the base of Shortoff mountain was steep, and the cool morning weather was quickly replaced by the summer heat with rocky terrain radiating the bright sun. The shy lizards I had noticed at the beginning of the trip appeared more resilient here, and their habitat felt inhospitable for a tired and thirsty hiker and I couldn't wait to reach my stopping point.
Overall, I ended up completing the loop in just over 24 hours ready for another nap in my ENO.
Get Your Own ENO Gear for Your Next Adventure
Next time you want to get into nature for recreation, rejuvenation, or relaxation, bring your ENO Hammock camping gear. Hiking, camping, swimming, or a relaxing afternoon view. Who knows where your ENO hammock will take you next!
Elijah Hawley has worked at Eagles Nest Outfitters for four years and is a member of the sales team doing ecommerce and wholesale inquiries. Elijah is an avid reader, backpacker, member of ENO’s party planning committee, and enjoys any excuse to be outside.