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Art Loeb Trail: Discover North Carolina’s Premier Hiking Adventure

Smoky Mountain Views from the Balsam Mountain Range

The Art Loeb Trail system deserves a deep dive. It’s one of the longer and more difficult trails in all of North Carolina, plus it’s one of the most popular AND it offers some of the most unique and stunning views in all of the Pisgah area. It’s a trail system that will keep you engaged for day hikes in sections or challenge you for days on end as a backpacking adventure. See what I mean?  Let’s dig in, y’all!

The 30.1 miles of the Art Loeb trail begin in the Davidson River area of Brevard, in the heart of the Pisgah National Forest and end in the Daniel Boone Boy Scout Camp on the Little Fork of the Pigeon River. The trail is memorial to a gentleman named Art Loeb who was a Carolina Mountain Club activist and someone who deeply loved these mountains and it’s designated a National Recreation Trail (NRT).

This trail, that is free and open year-round, travels along peaks and ridges instead of the valleys, adding to its difficulty, but also to the breathtaking views you will never tire of seeing.

It skirts along the southwestern ridge of the Davidson River Valley, climbing past the Blue Ridge Parkway and traverses some of the highest peaks in the Black Balsam area before descending Cold Mountain to the Daniel Boone Scout Camp.

Art Loeb Trail Sections

The Art Loeb is so long that it is split into four sections for easier mapping and accessibility for day hikers.

  • Section 1 covers Davidson River to Gloucester Gap, climbing the Shut-In Ridge and curving around Cedar Rock Mountain and is 12.3 miles.
  • Section 2 begins at Gloucester Gap and reaches Black Balsam Knob, ascending Pilot Mountain, going along the main Pisgah ledge (or the backbone of these mountains!), gaining elevation to over 6000 ft. This segment covers 7.2 miles.
  • Section 3 is from Black Balsam Knob through the Shining Rock Wilderness to Deep Gap, is 6.8 miles, and is unsurpassed in its views and uniqueness.
  • Section 4 is the short 3.8 mile descent from Cold Mountain to the Daniel Boone Boy Scout Camp.  Do note that an easier way to summit Cold Mountain (which is a very cool goal) is beginning at the Daniel Boone Scout Camp.  Also noteworthy, all sections have various levels of difficulty.

hiker lacing up his boots

Exploring Options

Most folks use this trail system for day hikes and there are several out-and-backs and loops to take advantage of for a full day of play.  Some out-and-back suggestions are Gloucester Gap to Pilot Mountain and/or Black Balsam Road to Silvermine Bald, both in Section 2.  The most popular stretch is Black Balsam Road to Black Balsam Knob in Section 3.  And as mentioned above, from the end of the trail at Daniel Boone to the summit of Cold Mountain in Section 4.

Tips For Hikers

If a person were interested in hiking this trail in its entirety, plan on a 17 hour trek.  But another, and possibly more fun and less tiring option is a 2 to 4 day through-hike and camping journey.  If you can wrangle the time to explore this epic trail this way, then here are some tips.

  • No permits are required for hiking or camping along the Art Loeb.
  • There are plenty of established primitive campsites that are available first come.
  • Always practice LEAVE NO TRACE rules
  • Fires are NOT PERMITTED.
  • Parking at both the Davidson River and Daniel Boone trailheads are limited, so plan to be shuttled versus parking and leaving vehicles.

Whether you’re seeking a challenging day hike or planning a multi-day adventure, the Art Loeb Trail promises unforgettable views and lasting memories amidst the scenic beauty of Pisgah National Forest. Be safe, plan accordingly, and have fun exploring!