The challenging Art Loeb Trail is a 30-mile trail located in Pisgah National Forest. The northern end is at the Daniel Boone Boy Scout Camp near Cold Mountain, while the trail's southern end is near the Davidson River Campground, near Brevard, in Transylvania County. The Art Loeb Trail crosses four 6,000-foot mountains, including Black Balsam Knob (6,214 ft) near the Blue Ridge Parkway and Tennent Mountain (6,040 ft).
National Geographic Adventure magazine listed the trail as one of the 30 Best North American Hikes, praising the views offered on the high Appalachian Balds, the challenging climbs, and the trail's diverse landscape.
This trail is a memorial to Art Loeb, an activist from the Carolina Mountain Club. At Black Balsam, the trail's high point, is a plaque commemorating Art Loeb. Traveling mainly along peaks and ridges rather than in the valleys, the trail offers many views along the way to its lofty high points. It skirts along the southwestern rim of the Davidson River valley, then skips across some of the highest peaks in the area before descending Cold Mountain to the Daniel Boone Scout Camp.
Along the way, you'll see some of the finest scenery in western North Carolina and you'll view or cross many of the well-known mountains in the Appalachians. Many use this trail for an extended backpacking trip (at least 2-3 days) since there are plenty of campsites along the trail. Most use shorter sections of the trail for day hikes, or use connecting trails to form loops. Most of the trail is overlapped by the Mountains-to-the Sea Trail which is blazed with 3-inch white dots.
Starting at the Davidson River near the Davidson River Campground, near Brevard, NC, the trail climbs generally west-southwest and curves around Cedar Rock Mountain. Next, the trail swings west-northwest and ascends Pilot Mountain, where it turns north toward the main Pisgah Ledge, the backbone of the mountains in this region. It ascends to over 6000' above the Blue Ridge Parkway at Silvermine Bald - a more remote location on the trail - before climbing to Black Balsam Knob, the most popular section of the trail. The views and uniqueness of this section of trail are unsurpassed in the region. Finally, it travels across several more mountain balds and through the Shining Rock Wilderness past Shining Rock itself, then up Cold Mountain, before descending steeply to end near the Daniel Boone Boy Scout Camp on the Little East Fork Pigeon River.
Looking down on the Art Loeb hiking trail as it crosses the ridges near the Blue Ridge Parkway
The trail is split into four sections:
Section 1: South of Pisgah Ranger Station to Gloucester Gap: 12.3 miles.
Access: Turn onto the road to the Davidson River Campground near Brevard, NC, 0.2 mile south of the Pisgah District Ranger Station on U.S. Highway 276 and park in the Art Loeb Trailhead parking lot.
Starting at the Davidson River the trail climbs in a west-southwest direction and curves around Cedar Rock Mountain and then proceeds onto Gloucester Gap, traversing up and down the ridges and gaps along the way.
Section 2: Gloucester Gap to Black Balsam Knob: 7.2 miles.
Access: Start from Gloucester Gap, which is 4.5 miles west of the State Fish Hatchery on Forest Service Road 475. Do not leave cars overnight here.
From Gloucester Gap the trail swings west-northwest before making the ascent to Pilot Mountain, the former site of a fire tower with panoramic 360-degree views. Beyond Pilot Mountain is Deep Gap with a shelter and spring. The trail then cuts through Farlow Gap, crosses the Blue Ridge Parkway at Shuck Ridge, and then proceeds to make the steep climb up to Silvermine Bald where you’ll reach an elevation of over 6,000 feet where he trail makes the short climb to Forest Service Road 816 on Black Balsam Knob.
Section 3: Black Balsam Knob to Deep Gap: 6.8 miles.
Access: From U.S. Highway 276, travel 8 miles south on the Blue Ridge Parkway and turn onto Forest Service Road 816. Go one mile to the crest of the hill where the trail crosses over and look for a small pull-off.
The first half of this section of the Art Loeb Trail is perhaps the most spectacular. The trail crosses over Black Balsam and Tennant Mountains, both exceeding 6,000 feet in elevation. . Beyond Black Balsam the trail crosses into the Shining Rock Wilderness and passes over several mountain balds, including Shining Rock itself. This section of the Art Loeb Trail ends at Deep Gap and the intersection with the Cold Mountain Trail. There are several campsites along this section.
Section 4: Deep Gap to Daniel Boone Boy Scout Camp: 3.8 miles.
Access: From the Daniel Boone Boy Scout Camp off of U.S. Highway 215 four miles south of Bethel, NC. Please notify camp staff if you plan to leave your vehicle at the camp.
This is a short, but very steep section of the Art Loeb Trail that leads to the Cold Mountain Trail, a spur trail that leads to the summit of the highest peak in the Shining Rock Wilderness. You won’t find any signs or trail blazes on this section.