Hike of the Week: Art Loeb Trail

Hike of the Week: Art Loeb Trail

Looking for inspiration for your next outdoor adventure? Welcome to our Hike of the Week series, where each week we highlight a great day hike or backpacking trip to motivate you to get out there and explore it for yourself!

This week's focus is on the Art Loeb Trail, located in the Pisgah National Forest of North Carolina. 

Featured Photo: Blue Ridge Mountains (photo by Shutter Runner)

Why this Hike?

This 4-day hike will challenge you to earn the awe-inspiring views of some of the most notable peaks and ridges in the area. The popular North Carolina trail will take you up steep ascents, past meadows full of wildflowers in the spring, over the Blue Ridge Mountains, and even bring you close to an area made popular by a novel and its subsequent film.

  • 30 miles in length (point to point)
  • 4-day, 3-night trip 
  • Get to view or summit many of the notable peaks in the area, including Black Balsam Knob, Tennent Mountain, and Pilot Mountain (All of which stand over 5,000 feet high)
  • 4,000+ feet of elevation gain from Davidson River to the highest point of Black Balsam Knob
  • Numerous campsites are available along the route. There are also primitive shelters located at Deep Gap and Butter Gap.
  • Best time of year to go: March through November
  • There is a spur trail near Deep Gap that leads to Cold Mountain (where the identically named book and movie were set).
  • Fun fact: Each year on the Winter Solstice an adventure run is held.

Before you pack your bags, here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • The Art Loeb Trail is one of the most difficult trails in the state, mainly trekking across mountain tops and ridges instead of valleys.
  • Not marked at all in Shining Rock Wilderness area near the northern end of the trail; You will need solid compass and map-reading skills and/or download a good map to your phone
  • No campfires allowed in Shining Rock Wilderness
  • Water sources can be hard to come by
  • Steep ascents and exposed ridgetops
  • Bear canisters are required
  • Despite its length, this is a popular trail with many using it for section hiking and day-use.
  • Since this is a point to point trail, you will need to drop a second car off at the northern trailhead at the Daniel Boone Boy Scout Camp or arrange for shuttle service. (See link in Resources below)

How do I get there?

If you are flying into the area, Asheville Regional Airport is your best bet for a short drive to the trailhead. Once you have landed, head southwest on NC-280 W. Travel about 15.4 miles until you reach US-276 N (also known as Pisgah Highway) and turn right. Drive 1.3 miles and turn left. The trailhead will be about 300 feet down on your left. From the airport to the trailhead is a short 25-minute drive.


The following map outlines our recommended route.

We recommend a 4 day, 3-night trip for the Art Loeb Trail.

  • Day 1: Gloucester Gap (12.3 miles)
  • Day 2: Black Balsam Road (7.2 miles)
  • Day 3: Deep Gap (6.8 miles)
  • Day 4: Daniel Boone Boy Scout Camp (3.8 miles)

Trail Description

Beginning from the Davidson River Trailhead (southern end of the trail), you will start your first day by heading in a mostly westward direction. Your first challenge is a steep ascent up Shut-In Ridge. You may feel like you're on a roller-coaster by the end of the day after traveling up knobs, back down into gaps, and along ridgelines. The trail begins to curve northwest around Cedar Rock Mountain before reaching Butter Gap shelter, which has a reported spring nearby, so be sure to take advantage of that to fill up on water supplies. Not far past here you will make your way through Gloucester Gap, where you will be staying for the night. 

On your second day, you'll continue heading northwest for a while as you climb to the top of Pilot Mountain. Next, you'll start hiking north to the Pisgah Ledge, which towers over 6,000ft. You'll pass through hardwood forests on your way up the next steep climb to Silvermine Bald. This is said to be one of the most remote areas on the trail, though it is in close proximity to the Blue Ridge Parkway. The path then levels off as you pass through spruce and fir forests before reaching Black Balsam Road. 

Start your third day by making the climb to the popular Black Balsam Knob. Being the highest point along the trail, you can expect to see plenty of other hikers here. Be sure to check out the plaque commemorating Art Loeb at the top of the knob as well. Both Black Balsam Knob and this section of the trail, in general, are reported as having some of the best views in the area. As you continue hiking north, you'll trek across Tennent Mountain and more mountain balds, which can often be cold and rainy year-round. Next, you'll enter the Shining Rock Wilderness area (and view the actual Shing Rock) and pass through an area called The Narrows before reaching your rest stop for the night at Deep Gap. Remember, campfires are not allowed here. If you're interested in extending your trip an extra day, you can check out the nearby spur trail that leads to the top of Cold Mountain. 

Your last day will be a short and relatively unremarkable one, although the descent is a steep one. Once you reach the Daniel Boone Boy Scout Camp, there is a creek to cool off in and a parking lot is available for dropping second cars off and shuttle services. 

What will I need?

You are sure to work up a healthy appetite on this trail, so you'll want to bring a durable, lightweight cooking pot to make some filling meals at the end of each day. 


Our titanium cooking pots are a durable, lightweight option, which is perfect for this multi-day hike with lots of elevation gain.

It gets pretty warm during the summer months, so a mesh tent and lighter duty quilt may be something to think about if you plan your trip during this time. Another option is to invest in a high-quality, lightweight tent

As mentioned, water sources can be scarce, especially during the summer, so definitely bring some extra water and a quality water filter

You may also want to bring some lightweight trekking poles to help you up the steep ascents of the hike. 

For a comprehensive list of what to pack for your trip, be sure to check out our Ultimate Backpacker's Packing List. It even includes a convenient printable checklist!

Do I need a permit?

No permits are required along the trail.


General Information on the Art Loeb Trail
More Detailed Information on the Trail
Art Loeb Trail Shuttle Service

The Art Loeb Trail is a challenge, but rewards hikers with some of the most stunning views of the landmark peaks in the area. Have you hiked this trail? What other trails would you like us to write about? Leave your suggestions in the comments section below!

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