Art Loeb Trail
The 30.1 mile Art Loeb Trail is one of the longer and more difficult trails in the state, and it's also one of the more popular. This trail is a memorial to Art Loeb, an activist from the Carolina Mountain Club, and a man who "deeply loved these mountains."
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 Black Balsam area before descending Cold Mountain to the Daniel Boone Scout Camp. It takes the hiker to some of the finest scenery to be found in Pisgah, and you'll view or cross many of the landmark mountains in the region.
Many folks use this trail for an extended backpacking trip (at least 2-3 days) and plenty of campsites along the trail will facilitate that kind of trip. Others use shorter sections of the trail for day hikes, or use connecting trails to form loops. However you find yourself on the trail, it's one you're sure to enjoy.
The trail is divided up into 4 sections by the Forest Service, which we use here as well. Starting at the Davidson River near the Davidson River Campground, near Brevard, NC, Section 1 of the trail climbs Shut-In Ridge and travels generally west-southwest, where it takes you up and down knobs, along ridges, and down into gaps several gaps. It curves around Cedar Rock Mountain before crossing through Gloucester Gap to begin Section 2.
From there 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 ft. in elevation, at a point above the Blue Ridge Parkway at Silvermine Bald - one of the more remote locations on the trail - before taking a level course through cool coniferous forests to reach Black Balsam Road (FS 816).
Section 3 begins across the road and parking area by climbing to Black Balsam Knob itself (here is a photo gallery), where you're sure to find crowds. On Black Balsam Knob, the trail's high point, is a plaque commemorating Art Loeb and his eponymous trail. This is the most famous and most popular section of the trail, for good reason. The views and uniqueness of this section of trail are unsurpassed in the region. From there, it travels across several more mountain balds and through the Shining Rock Wilderness past Shining Rock itself, to end at Deep Gap. A spur trail leads to the summit of Cold Mountain.
Section 4 of the trail is the descent to the end near the Daniel Boone Boy Scout Camp on the Little East Fork Pigeon River. This section is often used by itself, in combination with the Cold Mountain spur, as a way to "summit" that peak.
The Art Loeb trail uses the same path as the Mountains to Sea trail along portions of its length. While out-and-back hikes on short segments of the Art Loeb trail are popular, many other trails also connect to it, making loops that use portions of the trail another option to experience it. Popular out-and-back options include the aforementioned hikes to Black Balsam Knob, to Silvermine Bald, and to Cold Mountain from the northern terminus. Loop options might include connections with Butter Gap or Cat Gap trails near Davidson River, Flat Laurel Creekand Little Sam trails near Silvermine Bald, or Graveyard Ridge and/or Ivestor Gap near Black Balsam. These are just a few possible loops that could be put together using this trail.