It is a strenuous 10.6-mile roundtrip hike to the Cold Mountain summit in the remote Shining Rock Wilderness Area of the Pisgah National Forest. Allow 6-7 hours of hiking time, plus breaks. The best months to hike are May through October. Snow covers the top of the peak for much of the other months. Take plenty of water. The challenging but not technical hike climbs 3,000 feet in elevation. The trail is not marked, but it is well-worn and easy to follow. The trailhead for the hiking trail (Art Loeb Trail) is located at the Daniel Boone Scout Camp.
The Art Loeb hiking trail to the Cold Mountain summit goes to the left from the parking area just after the Scout camp's last building. Leaving the roadside, the Art Loeb Trail switchbacks north to round a ridgeline at 1.1. miles at the first campsite. At 2.0 miles, the trail crosses tumbling Sorrell Creek with another campsite by the water.
The hiking trail continues to rise across the richly forested flank of the Shining Rock Ledge. Wildflowers were very abundant (including several varieties of Trillium), and will continue through spring and summer. At 3.8 miles, take a left at Deep Gap (site of another campsite). The peak is 1.5 miles north.
Near the Cold Mountain summit is the prime campsite, although be prepared for chilly nights on the hottest summer days. While temperatures reach 90 degrees on the hottest summer day at the base of the trail, daytime highs at the summit seldom go above 80 and lows are seldom warmer than the 50s. Very near the summit is a flat rock outcropping that provides 180 degree views. It's a perfect place for a picnic!
If you have questions about camping along the hike, contact the Pisgah Ranger District office at 828-877-3265.
To reach the trailhead to the Cold Mountain summit, drive through the Scout Camp. It begins on the left, just past the last building.
Directions from Asheville via I-40: (Approximately 35 miles) Take I-40 West to exit 33. Turn left on Newfound Road toward Canton. Go 1.6 miles, turn left at the stoplight in front of the big paper plant. Go a short distance and turn right on Church Street. Follow 19/23 south through downtown and turn left onto NC Highway 110. Go 5.3 miles, and Highway 110 will turn into NC Highway 215. Continue for 5 miles. Turn left onto Little East Fork Road. Go 3.8 miles to the Scout Camp.
Directions from Asheville via the Blue Ridge Parkway: (Approximately 53 miles) At Milepost 423.2, take NC Highway 215 and go 13 miles north. Turn right onto Little East Fork Road. Go 3.8 miles to the Scout Camp. On the way, you can stop at a roadside waterfall on the Pigeon River West Fork about four miles from the Parkway.
Other Hikes with Views of Cold Mountain
For the best views of Cold Mountain from other nearby peaks, hike to the top of Mt. Pisgah or Fryingpan Mountain Lookout Tower.