The movie-star mountain
10.6 miles: Difficult
This hike has always been a locals’ favorite, but has become even more popular thanks to the best-selling book and popular movie of the same name. The rocky, exposed summit offers great views, making the trip even more rewarding.
Be advised, however: this trip is for experienced hikers in good physical condition. The shorter route from the Daniel Boone Boy Scout Camp gains 2,800 vertical feet in 5.3 miles. Two alternate routes cover less steep terrain: The Art Loeb Trail via the Ivestor Gap Trail covers 13.6 total miles and the Art Loeb Trail from Forest Service Road 816 measures 16.8 miles round trip. Both alternate routes allow hikers to see the Shining Rock Ledge, with its rock outcroppings, and offer outstanding views along the way. The Ivestor Gap Trail version skips a small portion of the Art Loeb Trail to cut some distance, sacrificing some great views from Black Balsam and Tennent Mountain.
On the trail
From the Daniel Boone Boy Scout Camp, take the Art Loeb Trail up the switchbacks all the way to Deep Gap. At Deep Gap, take a left on the Cold Mountain Trail. From the Ivestor Gap Trailhead, take the Ivestor Gap Trail to Ivestor Gap. Take a right at the junction to join the Art Loeb Trail, and then take a left on the Art Loeb Trail to reach Deep Gap and the Cold Mountain Trail. To include the Black Balsam and Tennent, follow the Art Loeb Trail all the way from Forest Service Road 816 to Deep Gap.
From Willow Winds, take Interstate 40 to exit 31. Follow NC 215 south for 9.9 miles. Turn left on SR 1129. The Art Loeb Trailhead lies 3.5 miles down on the right. Directions for alternates: See driving directions for Black Balsam loop.