The Art Loeb Trail

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Boy Scout Camp TH

The Art Loeb Trail is a 30.1 mile long trail that traverses some of the most gorgeous ridge line in WNC. With that being said, it is also a brutal route. Depending on the direction that you're going, expect to get around 7 to 9,000 feet of ascent. The most common route is to head southbound from the Boy Scout Camp trailhead and ending at the Davidson River Campground trailhead. I've been on the trail a few times and even done an out and back on it. It's a trail that requires some thoughtful planning and guts - backpackers usually spend 3 to 4 days traversing this trail.

artLoeb sign

We're going to assume you want to start from the Daniel Boone Boy Scout Camp. It's a decent drive from Brevard, NC due to the windy roads, but not too bad. There are a few options like White Dot Adventures that can shuttle you out there. It's best to have a crew for this adventure as it is point to point and if you're not familiar with the area or comfortable with adventurous runs, a crew will help you out. From the trailhead, the trail takes you straight up to the trail for Cold Mountain. You'll cross a few stream crossings along the way if you think you'll need more water than you brought with you. From the top you'll head right away from Cold Mountain as you go through the Shining Rock Wilderness area. Fun fact - there are no trail blazes in the wilderness area. If you're prone to getting lost, I recommend bringing a phone with the Gaia App installed. From here you will travel through the Narrows and eventually get to Shining Rock Gap. You'll know you're there when you see a trail on your left and hear water flowing. This is a spring and a good place to fill up bottles if you feel you'll need it. There is another spring off trail not far away, but this one is way more convenient.

Once you make it through Shining Rock Gap, you get to my favorite sections. Starting with Flower Gap, you will go up and over several peaks and gaps hitting 6000 feet in elevation a couple times with Tennet Mountain and Black Balsam Knob. In addition, you also will be out of the wildnerness section and you will finally see the white blazes that the Art Loeb Trail uses. While this section is gorgeous, you will need to be cautious with the weather. This section is very exposed for the Carolinas and will feel much longer if you get caught in bad weather - like 45 mph winds and rain.

It's Windy

After the balsams section, you're on the MST briefly and then drop down to cross the Blue Ridge Parkway. In case you don't see it, the trail will be off to your left on the other side of the Parkway. From here you'll go down and down, then go over a knob and then finally down to the Deep Gap Shelter. There's a water spring here if you need to fill up. I've never had to use it, so not sure its exact location.

From Deep Gap Shelter, you'll make your last significant climb up and over Pilot Mountain. This peak is fun because it's a graudal climb and from the top you can see alot of the nearby peaks. Once you descend Pilot Mountain you'll cross over the road at Gloucester Gap. This means you have 12 miles left. It's a great crew spot if you're bringing crew with you. Even though there are no significant climbs in these last 12 miles, there is still plenty of climbing to go as you go up and down these little climbs.

The Balsams
On the last stretch to the finish, you'll pass through the last shelter at Butter Gap which means you are 8 miles from the end. You can refill bottles here if you need a little extra to get you through. As you get closer to the end you'll pass Cedar Rock which is a popular climbing area on your left. One deceiving aspect of the finish is that you will see lights and hear people from the campground way too early, or at least it seems. Just keep going until you get to the gate at the end of the paved trail. Art Loeb is a tough and rugged trail and almost seems out of place even in WNC. It has some big climbs which is common in WNC, but the exposed ridgelines and tough footing for most of the trail makes it hard. With that being said, getting through it all makes for an amazing experience and I hope you get out there and give it a go.

Happy Trails Ryan

I'm ready for more adventures!

Posted by Ryan James on 2021-12-30


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