4,000 foot Sitting Bear Mountain is situated on the east rim of Linville Gorge in Burke County, North Carolina. Linville Gorge Wilderness area which is part of the Pisgah National Forest – Grandfather Ranger district. The 12,000 acre wilderness area is one of the most rugged and scenic gorges in the eastern United States. The Linville Gorge Wilderness area is rich in both plant and animal life. There are five species of rare plants, several varieties of rhododendron which explode with color in late spring, and virgin forests hidden in the deep coves. Sand myrtle, red chokeberry, azalea, turkey beard, bristly locust, yellow root, silverbell, orchids, ninebark, and wild indigo are among the many plant species hikers may encounter on their trip. Animal species include deer, bear, squirrel, raccoon, grouse, turkey, vultures, owls, hawks, as well as brown and rainbow trout. Copperheads and timber rattlesnakes both make their home in the area. Topographic maps and other information can be obtained from Linville Cabin visitor’s center which is open April 15 - November 1 9:00 A.M. - 5:00 P.M. The rangers and volunteer staff who man the visitor’s center are extremely helpful and are happy to pass along their intimate knowledge of the region. Linville Cabin is located on Kistler Memorial Highway just past the Linville Falls pull-out on the west rim of the gorge.
The reward for ascending Sitting Bear, which includes what has to be one of the steepest sections of trail in North Carolina, is a limitless view of the Linville Gorge Wilderness from an overlook situated just below the summit off the Jonas Ridge Trail on the southern slope of the mountain. There is a nice boulder here which is a perfect place to sit, chill and take in the dramatic landscape. From this overlook there is a commanding view of Hawksbill Mountain (4,020 ft.) and Table Rock Mountain (3,680ft.) rising out of the east rim of the gorge to the south. You can also see Laurel Knob (4,040 ft.) to the west and Green Mountain (3,480) to the southwest. Thousands of feet below this vantage point is a spectacular view the Linville River cutting its way through deep gorge below.
The Jonas Ridge Trail goes right over the summit of Sitting Bear Mountain. The summit clearing is surrounded by a forest which obscures the views. As you follow the Jonas Ridge Trail across the summit toward Gingercake Mountain, there couple of overlooks on the right before the trail descends down the north side of the mountain.
From Asheville take I-40 West to U.S. 221. Follow 221 to the intersection of N.C. 183 at Linville Falls. Turn right of N.C. 183 and continue to 181. Turn right on N.C. 181 and go three miles Gingercake Road (F.S. 210). Turn right onto Gingercake Road (there will be a sign that reads “Gingercake Acres”). Bear left at the first fork and continue through the Gingercake Acres subdivision. The paved road will end once you are within the boundaries of the Linville Gorge Wilderness. From here, the road consists of a gravel/dirt surface which wind around the rim of the gorge. Some of the grades on this road are quite steep and may present problems for 2-wheel-drive vehicles in muddy or snowy conditions. Approximately 2 miles from Gingercake Acres is the trailhead for Sitting Bear Mountain. There are 2 signs at the trailhead. One reads “Sitting Bear,” the other “Linville Gorge Wilderness, Pisgah National Forest.” There is limited parking at the trailhead but usually this is not a problem. Most day-hikers choose to climb the more popular Table Rock Mountain and Hawksbills Mountain to the south.
From the trailhead, follow the spur-trail west to the Devil’s Hole Trail/Jonas Ridge Trail junction. The spur-trail will meander though a couple of campsite clearings. Make sure you don’t get turned around at these campgrounds. There are a handful of confusing “man-ways” that radiate from the two major campsite areas, but with a little scouting and map consultation, the main trail will be evident. (find distance to junction)
Once you have arrived at the junction there are three choices. For Sitting Bear Mountain, follow the unmarked trail straight. This is the Jonas Ridge Trail (FS trail 245). The trail that descends down into the Gorge from this point is the Devil’s Hole Trail (FS trail 244). It is marked by a sign. The trail on the far right is a user-trail that eventually meets up with the Jonas Ridge Trail. To avoid confusion, I would recommend taking the center trail. Follow the Jonas Ridge Trail to the summit. The final push to the summit is extremely steep. It could be very messy/dangerous when muddy.