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Hiking Mt. Cammerer

Intro

Your journey to the top of Cammerer will begin on Chestnut Branch Trail, which runs beside a picturesque creek plunging its way through a rhododendron filled holler for the first mile and half. You will share this section of trail with a group of stoic, old-growth oak trees which were lucky enough to survive the pre-park logging rush of the 1930s. Turning right, and leaving the creekside, the trail gains in elevation towards the ridge line and its intersection with the Appalachian Trail.

What Makes It Great

This intersection is clearly signed and from here you’ll follow the AT south for three miles to the Mt. Cammerer spur trail. After two miles on the AT, there’s a photo-worthy rock outcropping on your left that overlooks the Big Creek water shed. Continue to climb through a fragrant grove of large hemlocks and balsam fir. Upon gaining the ridge line, you’ll will see a clearly-marked intersection for the spur trail that leads to the summit of Mt. Cammerer and the lookout tower. Take your time and relish the last .6 mile of easy trail to the summit as you capture sneak peeks of the views through a tunnel of mountain laurel. A short scramble up an easy rocky section allows your first glimpse of the lookout tower and its 360 degree views.

Who is Going to Love It

Hiking to the lookout tower at Mt. Cammerer is for people who like burly climbs and big views.

What to Bring:

Trekking Poles: The Smokies are notorious for rocky terrain that is perpetually slick from the area’s rain forest like climate. Throughout the hike, your eyes will wander from the beautiful flora to the long range views. Bring your sticks to avoid a slip whilst distracted by such beauty.

Time Lapse Camera: The lookout tower was positioned to have expansive views of the area. A clear view to the east and west make this a prime location for sunrises and sunsets.

One Extra Hour: Start your trip a little early, pack a quality lunch, and take your time to drink in the views from this airy perch.

Tips from a Local:

Climbing Cammerer during the weekdays or in the winter months will give you a chance at solitude on the summit of this highly visited peak.

The giant hemlocks of Appalachia are quickly disappearing due to climate change and an invasive species known as the wooly adelgid. Several large, healthy trees are still living along this trail. Give one a hug and take a picture; one day you can show your grandkids how magnificent these trees once were.

Directions, Parking, & Regulations

The most scenic access point to this peak from Asheville begins from the Big Creek Ranger Station.

From Asheville, drive west on Interstate 40 to the North Carolina/Tennessee line and take exit 451 for Waterville. At the stop sign take a left, cross the large concrete bridge over the Pigeon River and veer left onto Waterville Rd.

Enjoy the close up views of the Pigeon River and be entertained by throngs of rafters in the summer months as you drive on Waterville Road for two miles towards a 4-way stop.

Follow the signs for Big Creek as you continue straight through this intersection. In .2 mile, the Big Creek Ranger Station and your trailhead will be on your right.

Bathroom facilities, trail maps ($1 donation), and overnight permits are available at the Big Creek Ranger Station.

Featured image provided by Logan Mahan

Hiking Stone Mountain State Park

Intro

A leg-pumping incline to the top of Stone Mountain gives way to a gentle and serene walk back down. The smooth granite face of Stone is one of the greatest fall watching spots in central Carolina. And the calm, rocky pool at the bottom of the towering Stone Mountain Falls is an excellent rest stop on a hot summer day.

What Makes It Great

Standing on an expansive, sloping granite face with an unobstructed 180-degree view at 600 feet above the forest floor is one of the most dramatic experiences available to the North Carolina hiker. Stands of oak, hickory, red maple, and dogwood fight for valuable real estate on endless waves of mountaintop and valley, carpeting the view with brilliant greens in the summer and an otherworldly collection of reds and yellows in the fall.

And that’s less than two miles into the 4.5 mile Stone Mountain Loop Trail. Another mile along the path and you’ll reach Stone Mountain Falls. The trail descends along the falls, offering multiple glimpses of the cascade as it tumbles 200 feet below.

With less than a mile of the loop remaining, you’ll walk past the base of Stone Mountain and an historic recreation of a typical early homestead. Look up and spot climbers surmounting the granite face of Stone Mountain. Look around and get an idea of what life was like for the hearty families who settled here.

Several smaller trails depart and reconnect with the Stone Mountain Loop Trail, providing options for additional mileage and alternative viewpoints.

Who is Going to Love It

Climbers flock to Stone Mountain in cooler months for one of the best examples of friction climbing in the South East. The 4.5-mile loop gets very steep, very quick. Some beginner hikers might have a little trouble. The State Park has, however, built steps and bridges to make the top a little more accessible. For those that can make it, Stone is one of the best hiking locations in Central Carolina

Directions, Parking, & Regulations

The park office is located at the entrance, but most hikers park at the Lower Trailhead parking lot. The trailhead here is well marked with a map kiosk. Both the main office and the Lower Trailhead lot have bathrooms. Registration is not required for day hiking. Leashed dogs are allowed on the hiking trails.

Featured image provided by Rob Glover

Hiking Big Creek Trail

Intro

When we take the time to relax beside the roaring waters of an Appalachian stream something incredible happens to our psyche. The roaring thunder of the water drowns out all the worries and doubts you carried with you from “real life” to the trailhead. The continual flow of a mountain stream ignites an innate sense of oneness with our surroundings and reminds us that time marches on.

What Makes It Great

On the Northern edge of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park a stream rambles in perpetuity from the Balsam covered mountains above until reaching its confluence with the mighty Pigeon River below. The headwaters of this stream are born from some of the highest peaks in the park: Mt. Sterling, Big Cataloochee and Mt. Guyot. As the tributary waters rush down these steep slopes they are purified by the lush flora of the Great Smokies before combining their efforts into what is known as Big Creek.

The Big Creek trail starts from the upper side of the parking lot and follows an old logging road, up a gentle grade, for 5 miles before reaching the Backcountry Campsite known to locals as Walnut Bottom. The majority of the trail parallels the creek and offers picturesque views of the water. Massive, moss-covered boulders are strewn about the creek creating a symphony of rapids to enjoy throughout your hike. A mile and a half into the trail lies the infamous “Midnight Hole.” A short scramble, down a noticeably tracked-out trail on your left, leads to the base of a pristine swimming hole surrounded by large boulders that were seemingly placed for your jumping enjoyment!

Another half mile up the trail, on your left, lies Mouse Creek Falls which plunges out of a steep ravine into Big Creek at a photo-worthy confluence. After Mouse Creek Falls the trail continues to follow the contour of the creek for Creek another 3 miles until you reach Walnut Bottoms and Backcountry Campsite #37.

Who is Going to Love It

If you are a fan of Appalachian swimming holes bring your bathing suit and enjoy a refreshing dip in the cool waters of Big Creek. The creek runs cold all year long so be prepared for a polar plunge type experience that will rejuvenate your body and soul. The Big Creek trailhead has a large picnic area with charcoal grills located beside the river. Plan ahead and enjoy a nice warm meal beside the creek after your day on the trail. The easy grade and playful nature of the Big Creek Trail make this area great for all ages and ability levels.

Directions, Parking, & Regulations

To reach the Big Creek trailhead from Asheville head west on Interstate 40 to the North Carolina/Tennessee state line and take the Waterville exit (451) on your right. Take a left and cross over the Pigeon River via a bridge shared by the Appalachian Trail. Continue on this road until you reach a 4-way stop. Go straight through this intersection and follow the signs for the Big Creek trailhead. The Big Creek ranger station is located a quarter of a mile past this intersection on the right.

Stop here to get more information on the area and a detailed map for a requested $1 donation.

Continue up the road for 1 mile until you reach the parking lot for the Big Creek Campground/Trailhead. There are bathroom facilities and a gorgeous picnic area located beside the trailhead.

There is no fee for day use but a permit and small fee is required to stay at the backcountry site in Walnut Bottom.

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Featured image provided by Steven Reinhold

Hiking Waterrock Knob

Intro

On the crest of the Plott Balsam range, at an elevation of 6,292’, stands the majestic Waterrock Knob. The Blue Ridge Parkway climbs high up the sides of Waterrock Knob to within a few hundred feet of its’  summit. Where the Parkway crosses the ridgeline, on Waterrock’s southern shoulder, an easily accessible recreational area awaits your visit. The recreational area provides picnic tables, restrooms and a large grassy field to entertain yourself and your furry hiking companions. A short, yet steep, trail gains 400’ in elevation as it leads visitors to the incredible long-range views atop the summit. The easily accessible beauty of this mountain makes the destination a go-to spot on the southern end of the Blue Ridge Parkway.

What Makes It Great

The recreation area on Waterrock Knob is a mountain top playground with stunning views and easy access to ridge-line hiking atop the prominent Plott Balsam range. Around the turn of the 19th century a family of German emigrants made their way, with hunting dogs in tow, to the foot of these noble mountains. The family settled in the area and gained infamy through the hunting prowess of their “Plott hounds.” Today, the range bares the family’s name, and the Plott hound is North Carolina’s official state dog.

Looking westward from the recreation area, the eyes are rewarded with a panoramic view of the eastern side of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The Appalachian Trail follows the prominent ridge line on the western horizon. From here, on-lookers get a real life “trail profile” of the highly acclaimed 70 mile section of the AT which bisects the National Park. After letting your eyes gaze upon the National park look southward to see the beautiful Tuckaseegee River Valley and the sprawling Nantahala National Forest.

A half mile trail leads from the parking area to Waterrock’s summit. The first .2 miles of trail are paved and lead to a pedestrian overlook. After the overlook the trail becomes rocky and picturesque as it climbs the final .3 miles to the prized summit.  Venture just past the actual summit to gain the mountain’s best available view from a perch atop a rock outcropping on the southern side of the peak.

Who is Going to Love It

Drive to access makes Waterrock Knob a great place to bring the family along for a mountain top experience. Bring your loved ones up for a quick hike and a picnic before enjoying a sunset. The short trail, which leads to the summit, provides hikers stunning views with minimal exertion. The area makes for a perfect place to introduce novices to the wonders of the outdoors. Fans of astrological events will find Waterrock Knob a dreamy place to observe the heavens with its high elevation and lack of ambient light.

Directions, Parking, & Regulations

Head towards Waynesville NC, From Asheville on interstate 40. Take exit 27 (Maggie Valley) onto US-74. Follow this highway for 13 miles; past the town of Waynesville and to the top of Balsam Gap. A well-marked entrance to the Parkway will be on your right. Once on the Parkway, follow the signs towards the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Heading south on the parkway, and upwards on you altimeter, you will climb 3,000’ in 7 miles before reaching the Waterrock Knob Visitors Center on your right.

There are no fees required to visit Waterrock Knob.

The area is very dog friendly and the grassy area by the parking lot provides a great place to play with your pup while drinking in the beautiful scenery.

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Featured image provided by Patrick Mueller

Hiking Profile Trail at Grandfather Mountain

The Appalachian Mountains, the oldest mountain range in the world, is a crown jewel of the American wilderness. Grandfather Mountain, which lies just outside of Boone, North Carolina and boasts four separate summits of rippled rock and stunted spruce, provides one of the most dazzling views on the East Coast. An ocean of ridged and rolling mountains spread out in all directions, their emerald hues deepening to blue in the summer, bursting with scarlet and crimson in autumn, and frozen silver-white in winter.

One of the most popular routes to the top is the Profile Trail, so named because it offers its visitors a view of Grandfather Mountain’s iconic vertical profile, which resembles the face of a massive old man in deep repose. The trail climbs nearly 2,000 feet before linking up with the Grandfather Trail, on which hikers can access Calloway Peak, the tallest of the four summits.

Maeve Gould

The Profile Trail begins as a well-maintained and deceptively gentle pathway, rolling through wildflowers and crisscrossing the Watauga River. On a scorching summer day, hikers will enjoy filling their lungs with fresh, chilled air beneath the dense deciduous canopy and rhododendron thickets that leave the majority of the trail shaded and cool. Don’t allow yourself to get too comfortable though; the route soon turns sharply upwards as it begins its ascent up the backside of Grandfather Mountain. Thankfully, the climb is punctuated by breathtaking vistas, such as the Foscoe View at mile 1.7, which will whisk your thoughts away from your burning quads.

Before reaching the trail’s namesake lookout, you will come across a formidable walkway, created by hundreds of boulders artfully arranged on either side. The “Peregrine’s Flight,” created by two men using only hand held tools, is truly a triumph of trail engineering. Another notable feature is Shanty Spring, where crystal clear water bubbles out of rocks into shallow pools, creating an inviting spot to rest and fill your water bottle before tackling the final climb. The spring marks the beginning of the most strenuous portion of the trail, and also one of ecological significance as the hardwood forest transitions into Canadian fir zone.

Greg Walters

Three miles from the parking lot trailhead, Profile Trail joins up with Grandfather Trail. At this point, take a left on Grandfather to continue your way to where the route opens up onto an exposed ridgeline that will lead you on a magnificent finale to your summit reward. Calloway Peak, engulfed in sky at 5,946 feet, earns its title as “The Grandaddy of High Country Hikes.”

The trailhead is located 12 miles from Boone on Highway 105, ¾ of a mile North of the intersection of Highways 105 and 184. Trail access is free since Grandfather Mountain came into state ownership, but you must fill out a permit at the kiosk and bring the bottom section of the ticket with you on your hike. The Profile-Grandfather Trail to Calloway Peak is 7 miles round-trip and includes sections that are strenuous, rocky, and require very deliberate footwork, but the views at the top…priceless.

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Originally written by RootsRated.

Featured image provided by Kolin Toney

10 Best Hikes in Asheville

You’re holed up at a coffee shop in downtown Asheville, sipping an espresso and pouring over a stack of trail guides. What would you like to do today—summit the East coast’s highest peak, or explore the East Coast’s deepest canyon? Scramble up the chutes and ladders of Grandfather Mountain, or weave gently through a verdant valley to reach a 70 foot waterfall? From this eclectic, craft-beer fueled city, nestled inside a lush basin in the Blue Ridge Mountains, the choice is yours. The peaks and forests of Western Carolina are brimming with a dazzling array of hiking adventures. Here, ten trails to cross off your Asheville hiking bucket list.

1. The Grandfather Trail

Black bears on Grandfather Mountain.
Black bears on Grandfather Mountain.
Kolin Toney

At times, the Grandfather Trail may feel more like an obstacle course than a hiking path. An intricate series of ladders, walkways, and steel cables zig-zag up and across the three separate peaks of Grandfather Mountain. This is an out-and-back trail, featuring 2.4 miles of hoisting, scrambling, and hand-over-hand climbing each direction. The route edges along the crest of the mountain, ducking through stunted spruce trees and skirting across exposed rock faces.  The views from the first two peaks are astonishing, but the true reward lies at the top of the third and tallest summit, 5,946 ft Calloway Peak. Come and see why John Muir once described Grandfather Mountain as “the face of all heaven come to earth.”

2. Crabtree Falls

Crabtree Falls on a crisp fall day
Crabtree Falls on a crisp fall day
Matthew Blouir

Even before coming in site of the waterfall, visitors to Crabtree Meadows are captivated by the lush carpet of wildflowers that bloom in spring and early summer. The forest floor is awash with over forty varieties of flowers, creating a bejeweled background for the popular Crabtree Falls Trail. This 2.4 mile loop begins with a series of switchbacks, gently descending to the base of its namesake falls: a wispy white curtain of water cascading over a 70 foot beehive of dark rock. The remaining 1.5 miles climb out of the enchanted forest through creeks and over split-log bridges.

3. Looking Glass Rock

Looking Glass Rock in autumn.
Looking Glass Rock in autumn.
Jeff Gunn

Looking Glass Rock  is a steep granite monolith, rising like a cargo ship from the rolling waves of Pisgah National Forest. The trail to the top, however, is surprisingly benign; while certainly a challenge, the constant switchbacks really take the edge of the steep gradient. The single trail etched into the mountainside is an out-and-back that makes for a journey totaling 6.4 miles. The summit of Looking Glass is an anomaly in the Blue Ridge: flat-topped, thickly forested, and not particularly tall. In fact, you’ll be gazing up at the mountains that engulf you, not down upon them. It is the exposure factor, the thrill of standing on the edge of a sheer vertical drop off, that make this one of the most thrilling and popular hikes in the region.

4. Old Mitchell Trail

Sunrise in Mt. Mitchell State Park.
Sunrise in Mt. Mitchell State Park.
Kolin Toney

The Old Mitchell Trail leads you to the summit of Mt. Mitchell, the highest peak East of the Mississippi River. From that lofty perch, surrounded by sky, immersed in chilled mountain air, allow yourself ample time to sit back and observe the world from one and a quarter miles above sea level. There are many options that lead to the top, and Old Mitchell is a classic: a four-mile loop with an out and back extension to the summit, and every step is above 6,000 feet! You’ll encounter the typical backcountry obstacles: a relentless climb gnarled with roots, rocks, and raspberry cane. However, to reach the top and be engulfed in a world of rippled Appalachian peaks, standing high above them all, is an experience that no hiker should miss.

5. Shining Rock

A sunset at Shining Rock Gap
A sunset at Shining Rock Gap
Daniel Meacham

Perched high in the Great Balsam Range, the glittering quartz formations at the summit of  Shining Rock make for a gorgeous and unusual spectacle. The bright swirling rock, emerging like frozen ocean waves from a dark coniferous forest and surrounded by soaring mountain views, creates a scene so lovely and dramatic it appears almost otherworldly. A section of the Art Loeb Trail, beginning at the Black Balsam parking area and meandering over a series of grassy balds is particularly exquisite way to reach “the crystalline cliffs.”

6. Waterrock Knob

Sunrise from the parking area of Waterrock Knob
Sunrise from the parking area of Waterrock Knob
Patrick Mueller

The picturesque summit of Waterrock Knob is a mere half mile from the parking area, but don’t even dream of writing it off as a roadside attraction. With breathtaking views and readily accessible ridge hiking unspooling in both directions, Watterrock is the perfect jumping off point for exploring the Plott Balsam Range. The wide, grassy meadow at the start of the summit hike may be the most dramatic locale for a family picnic on the entire length of the Blue Ridge Parkway. To claim the best view possible, sneak past the summit onto a rock outcropping on the Southern side of the peak, and behold the lush Tuckasegee River Valley and the Nantahala National Forest spread out below, the Great Smoky Mountains unfurling into the distance.

7. Craggy Gardens

The Craggy Pinnacle is an incredibly photogenic destination.
The Craggy Pinnacle is an incredibly photogenic destination.
Sarath Kuchi

The Blue Ridge Parkway delivers you nearly to the pinnacle of Craggy Gardens, a heath bald of grey rock and pink-blooming rhododendron that soars 5,892 feet above sea level. At the summit, high-mountain grasses wave placidly in the foreground, set against panoramic mountain views. The trail is 1.4 miles round-trip and climbs only 252 feet in elevation: a huge payoff for minimal exertion. Cool tunnels of mountain laurel, twisted birch trees, and the occasional lookout make for an enjoyable journey as you meander to the top.

8. Hawksbill Mountain

Sunset from Hawksbill Mountain in the Linville Gorge.
Sunset from Hawksbill Mountain in the Linville Gorge.
JenjazzyGeek

The rocky summit of Hawksbill Mountain affords one of the most spectacular views in all of North Carolina. Two thousand feet below you, the Linville River threads through the bottom of the canyon, enveloped by nearly 12,000 acres of unadulterated wilderness. Grandfather Mountain, Table Rock, and Shortoff Mountain cut stately profiles against the peak-rippled horizon. This three-mile loop features a steep climb on the way up and a gentler, more gradual descent. The trail is accessible from Forest Service Road 1264 in Pisgah National Forest. Be aware that this road is closed from January-March.

9. Max Patch

The heavenly view from Max Patch.
The heavenly view from Max Patch.
Jim R Rogers

It’s no wonder that Max Patch Meadow is considered the most gorgeous section of the entire Appalachian Trail. The summit is rounded and soft with grass, surrounded by rolling woods and pastureland that gradually swell into mountains, eventually becoming the sharp peaks of the Black Mountain Range, Blue Ridge, and the Smokies in the distance. Although the summit is only a few minutes walk from the parking area, jump on the Appalachian Trail for a day trip to Lemon Gap—or hike all the way to Maine, for that matter!

10. Lookout Mountain

The summit of Lookout Mountain in autumn.
The summit of Lookout Mountain in autumn.
David Clarke

Just fifteen minutes east of Asheville, the Lookout Trail swoops up the side of Lookout Mountain in a short and punchy half mile of rock scrambling and wide stairs hacked into the hillside. The view from up top is more intimate than the typical Appalachian vista. A series of peaks affectionately known as The Seven Sisters of the Black Mountain Range feel so close, it’s as if you could reach out and touch them. To add an extra hour to your hike, and to escape the crowds that can converge on the small rocky summit, descend via the East Ridge Trail. This leads to the Blue Gap Trail, which will bring you back to the parking lot.

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Originally written by RootsRated.

Featured image provided by Barry Peters

Hiking Looking Glass Rock

Intro

Dare we say that Looking Glass Rock suffers from Half Dome syndrome? It’s prominent presence can be seen from virtually all viewpoints within the Pisgah National Forest. The granite walls of this 600’ Rock Pluton beckon adventurers from all around to come and cling to its’ cliffs. The outdoor paparazzi perpetually take aim at Looking Glass Rock from a variety of vantage points throughout the National Forest. Fair weather adventurers flock to the summit on pretty days by way of the Looking Glass Trail. Yet, once on the summit visitors find an ironic twist of fate, similar to the one found atop Half Dome, comes to fruition. Once you’re on top you lose sight of what everyone has come to see, Looking Glass Rock itself! The tradeoff, for losing sight of The Rock,is paid off in panoramic views and the ability to, one day, stand at those overlooks with an inner smile and acknowledgment that “I’ve been up there.”

What Makes It Great

Not all who venture into the Pisgah are willing to look The Rockin the face and get a close up view of its’ world renowned “eyebrows.” If clinging to cams and clipping to bolts isn’t your cup of tea – yet you still desire to summit Looking Glass – venture to the top on the 3.2 mile Looking Glass Rock Trail. This well maintained, and well-trodden path begins just outside of Brevard, NC on Forest Service road 475. The trail gains a total of 1,700 vertical feet on its way to the 4,000’ summit of Looking Glass. Lucky for your legs, a seemingly endless swath of switchbacks aid in your elevation gain on this trail.

Roughly two miles into the trail hikers will pass a relatively flat rock clearing with a large, painted “H.” From the air this “H” signals a landing pad for helicopter crews who come to rescue injured climbers. From the ground let this “H” stand as your reminder to watch your step during the rest of your journey! A spur trail leads from the back of the helicopter landing zone to the Lower Looking Glass Cliffs. Taking this short spur allows views of the main cliff face and a chance at solidarity from the crowds.

Continuing on the main trail, from the helipad, a steep pull will bring you to the summit where there are prime campsites but no view. Passing the summit, a short descent, will bring you to the precipice of Upper Looking glass Cliffs! The rounded face allows for an amicably flat sitting area on top with panoramic views. Once on top, lesser travelled “man-ways” can lead to more secluded vantage points. Exercise extreme caution in these areas especially during wet conditions!

Who is Going to Love It

The panoramic views will help any hiker quickly forget about the burning quads from the hike to the summit. Trust us, if you can make it up there, it will be worth it!

Directions, Parking, & Regulations

The parking area can be found off of Forest Service Road 475 in the Pisgah National Forest. A 45 minute drive from Asheville will lead you to the trailhead which is on the right, .4 miles up Forest Service Road 475.

Access to the Looking Glass Rock Trail is free to the public.

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Featured image provided by Osajus

Hiking Shining Rock

Intro

In the heart of the Shining Rock Wilderness, high atop the Great Balsam Mountains, stands a peak of other-worldly beauty. Locals consider Shining Rock to be the “crown jewel” of the Appalachians. An elaborate network of Quartzite Rock formations adorn the summit and dazzle the eyes of the beholder. These “crystalline cliffs” peak through the canopy of a rich coniferous forest creating view-points of heavenly proportions.  Several iconic trails, from varying trailheads, can provide access to this wonderland. If you desire an eye pleasing adventure, embark on a vigorous day hike, or plan an overnighter, to come enjoy the splendors of Shining Rock.

What Makes It Great

The most picturesque route to Shining Rock involves a section of the Art Loeb Trail which traverses a string of mountain top “grassy balds.” The start of this adventure begins from the Black Balsam Knob trailhead on road 816 off of the Blue Ridge Parkway. Heading north and following the white blaze of The Art Loeb Trail hikers will enjoy a five mile ridgeline hike with long range views and fascinating flora. The first section of trail summits both Black Balsam and Tennent Mountain before dropping into Ivestor Gap. A traverse around Grassy Cove Top leads to Flower Gap, a strikingly beautiful campsite, and then on towards Shining Rock Gap. A consistent water source gurgles from the mountain just before reaching Shining Rock Gap. The water runs clear and cold but filtration is still suggested. A variety of quality campsites for tents and hammocks are dispersed under the rhododendron canopy at Shining Rock Gap.

Just north of Shining Rock Gap lies a network of unmarked trails that lead to the actual summit of Shining Rock. Exploring several of these trails is a worthwhile endeavor as each leads to its own wonderful scramble and viewpoint atop the quartzite formations. A sunny day atop these shining rocks is an experience everyone should have in their life. Reflections of light and picturesque views amongst the canopy of a fragrant evergreen forest make this mountain top experience feel heavenly.

Another popular route to Shining Rock begins at the Big East Fork Trailhead and uses the Shining Creek Trail to gain the ridgeline at Shining Rock Gap. This route follows a pristine wilderness creek and climbs 3,000’ vertical to reach Shining Rock Gap.

If you are looking for a full day, leg burner, of a hike; access Shining Rock from the northern terminus of the Art Loeb Trail at Camp Daniel Boone. On this rigorous section of trail, hikers will climb up to deep gap, below Cold Mountain, then traverse “The Narrows” section of The Art Loeb Trail on their way to Shining Rock.

Who is Going to Love It

View seekers are in for a treat on this ridgeline hike. Nearly every step of the trail has access to long range views. Flowering plants on the grassy balds make late spring and early summer a beautiful time to visit for nature lovers. Fall colors and ripe blueberries highlight early autumn atop the Great Balsam Mountains. Star gazers will love visiting Shining Rock for an up close view of astrological events. The remote location, lack of ambient light and high altitude at Shining Rock make this place a great venue for seeing the shows of the universe. The Quartz rocks on the summit create some dazzling light shows ideal for photographs. Plan your visit to coincide with a full moon and watch shining rock glimmer in the glow of the moon.

Directions, Parking, & Regulations

Getting to the Black Balsam trailhead from Asheville involves a picturesque drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway.

The area is very dog friendly and no fees or permits are required to hike or camp at Shining Rock.

The Shining Rock Wilderness is subject to some special regulations given its Wilderness designation, make sure to follow the special guidelines to ensure a wilderness opportunity for future visitors.

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Featured image provided by Steven Reinhold

Hiking Art Loeb Trail

Intro

Art Loeb was a man who “deeply loved these mountains.” If you travel to the highest point on the trail bearing his namesake you will see a weathered plaque commemorating these words. On a clear day, from this high point, you will also see picturesque, long-range Appalachian views in all directions. The 30.1 mile trail takes you through the wonders of the Pisgah National Forest before traversing the iconic crest of the Great Balsam Mountains to the crown jewel of the Shining Rock Wilderness. Easy access to both end points, multiple campsites, two shelters, plentiful water and epic views make the Art Loeb a must do on the life list of all Appalachian hikers.

What Makes It Great

This acclaimed trail connects the Davidson River Campground in Brevard to Camp Daniel Boone in Haywood County, NC. The Pisgah National Forest divides the Art Loeb Trail into four sections. The trail’s southern terminus can be found off of highway 276 on the Davidson River Campground Access Road. The first section of trail begins here and takes you to Gloucester Gap. Highlights along this section of trail include an up close view of Cedar Rock and a shelter at Butter Gap.

From Gloucester Gap hikers begin their climb upwards towards the crest of the Pisgah Ledge. If you are a glutton for punishment you will enjoy every steep step up Pilot Mountain. Eventually you will reach the top and a grand reward, paid with awe-inspiring views, lies on the narrow summit ridge of Pilot Mountain. After you descend the backside of Pilot rest your weary legs and quench your thirst at the Deep Gap shelter. The trail continues upwards, crosses the Blue Ridge Parkway, and ascends a series of steep switchbacks to finally gain the ridge line, and briefly merge with the Mountains-to-Sea Trail. Once atop the ridge line, a traverse along a pathway cut through a coniferous forest, which lines the airy edge of the Pisgah Ledge, leads hikers to Black Balsam Knob.

Section 3, the reward for your massive uphill climb, starts here. A majestic chain of Appalachian Balds reveals itself atop the summit of Black Balsam. Your next 5 miles of trail will take you up and over a string of lush peaks with panoramic views in every direction. If you goal is a through hike we recommend a campsite within this section of trail. Chances are you will be rewarded with a heavenly sunrise or sunset, and a close up view of starry skies. Shining Rock stands tall and shimmering at the end of the this string of Balds. Quartzite cliffs on Shining Rock’s summit allow some incredibly fun scrambles onto exposed sections with long range views. Shining Rock gap has access to water and rhododendron-canopied camp sites perfect for tents and hammocks.  From Shining Rock the trail crosses a section known as “The Narrows” on its way to Deep Gap, another aptly named, Deep Gap in the ridge line. At Deep Gap a spur trail on your right leads to the summit of Cold Mountain, made famous by a book of the same name.

The fourth section of trail (3.8 miles) descends steadily along the flanks of Cold Mountain towards the Camp Daniel Boone Boy Scout Camp and the northern terminus of The Art Loeb trail. Trailhead information and parking for a shuttle vehicle are available here as well as a lovely creek to cool off in after a completed thru hike.

Who is Going to Love It

Whether you are practicing for a longer trail or rekindling your love for backpacking The Art Loeb Trail is the perfect choice for a 3-4 day trip. Both trailheads are easily accessible and the Blue Ridge Parkway bisects the trail making for easy shuttle and resupply opportunities.

Directions, Parking, & Regulations

From the trail website: “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.”

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Featured image provided by Steven Reinhold

Playing in the Pisgah: How to Spend a Weekend in Western Carolina

It’s no secret that the mountains of Western North Carolina have a wide array of wonderful places to live and play. With vibrant mountain towns like Boone, Brevard, and Asheville, as well as well-preserved national forests and serpentine scenic highways, it’s easy to see why so many people choose to visit this area. If you’re going on vacation this holiday season, make sure the Pisgah is on the top of your list. And while you’re there, use this weekend guide for a night of camping and a day of hiking and trail running.

Friday Night (4:30pm – 7:00am): Davidson Campground

Car camping at Davidson Campground
Car camping at Davidson Campground.
Jake Wheeler

Open year-around with over 160 campsites for tents and cars, the Davidson River Campground is a great place to make a home base for your weekend in the Pisgah. Nestled just inside the Pisgah National Forest, and only three miles from Brevard, the campground is at the foot of the Art Loeb Trail and just minutes from other well-known destinations like John Rock and Looking Glass Rock.

And with Brevard being so nearby, you have the ability to grab any last minute supplies you may need before entering the park for the weekend. Even better, the Pisgah Ranger Station is conveniently located across the street to help with any last minute adventure questions before you start your day. We suggest finding a campsite that sits along the Davidson River, offering you quick access to a trail that runs along the river—great for a moonlight hike.

Saturday Morning Hike (7:30am – 11:30am): John Rock Loop

John Rock Loop
John Rock Loop
Jake Wheeler

Only a few miles from the Davidson Campground, start your day off by experiencing the stunning views of Pisgah’s gorgeous wilderness and mountains. Primitive tent camping is allowed here as well, so if you want to set up camp at the foot of John Rock, you may.

With over 1,000-feet of elevation gain, this 5.5 mile hike will get your blood pumping and your heart thumping. You will find yourself quickly shedding layers, as you walk through tunnels of rhododendron forests with the rising sun guiding you playfully along the trail. Once you get the top of John Rock, you are greeted with a huge rock slab that offers breathtaking views of the outstretching valley below, the Pisgah Ridge, and across the way to Looking Glass Rock.

Enjoy a light snack at the top, a quick drink of water, and prepare for a brisk walk down to the trailhead for your next stop…lunch!

Lunch (12:00pm – 1:00pm): Looking Glass Falls

Only a short three minute drive from the John Rock Loop Trailhead, enjoy a mountain meal with the accompanying sounds of the roaring 60-foot Looking Glass Falls. Pack your picnic basket and head just a few hundred yards from the parking lot and witness one of North Carolina’s most pristine and powerful waterfalls. Steps lead down to the base of the falls, making it easy to carry any lunchtime supplies and offering you a perspective that will truly humble you. Scramble around the rocks, watch out for ice in the winter seasons, and find a scenic spot to fuel up for your next adventure: Looking Glass Rock!

Saturday Afternoon Hike (1:30pm – 4:30pm): Looking Glass Rock

Looking Glass Rock
Looking Glass Rock
Jake Wheeler

Fill up your hydration pack and throw some nutrition in your pocket—you’ll need it. The trail to Looking Glass Rock is steep—climbing 1,700-feet in just over three miles and taking hikers and runners along a cascading mountain stream and through granite rock outcroppings and root gardens, which only add to the challenge. But after you weave through these hairpin switchback turns, and along trails coated with blankets of fall leaves, you’ll be rewarded with one of the most majestic views on the East Coast. The views are simply stunning! Definitely worth the physical expenditure.

The Pisgah National Forest offers great outdoor recreation possibilities for all ages and abilities. This is a great weekend trip for anyone looking to escape to the mountains. We recommend grabbing all your food needs in the town of Brevard before you escape. Whether it is your first time pitching a tent, or you’re a seasoned trail running vet, the Pisgah is a true slice of weekend adventure heaven.

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Originally written by RootsRated.

Featured image provided by Jake Wheeler

Events

Hiking with a Map + Compass

A map and compass isn’t always top of mind when we’re used to navigating with an app, but it’s a skill every outdoor enthusiast should know. Gary Eblen will teach the fundamentals in this class that’s great for all skill levels.

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We’ll have some giveaways + discounts for all who attend. This event is free and open to the public. Kids and well-behaved pets with owner on leash are welcome.

Motorcycle Camping

Do you have a love for exploring on your motorcycle + an interest in camping? Perhaps you’ve been riding for a while, but feel under equipped to take a multi night excursion in the mountains. Maybe you’ve already been there + done that, but still have a desire to take your experience to the next level. Whether you’re a novice or an expert, this class will help ensure that you are packing properly + safely to have the best possible experience.

In this class, we’ll cover:

  • A variety of different tents + shelters — + which is right for you
  • Sleeping bags + sleeping mats
  • Cookware + food essentials
  • Medical + safety equipment
  • Storage + packing of all of these items. Whether you have state of the art boxes or are simply working with bungee cords, we will show you how to make it work for you!

All participants will receive a $10 Gear Card good towards any purchase in our store!

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Kids + well-behaved pets with owner on leash are welcome at this free class.

Cover photo courtesy of Pierce Martin/Flickr.

 

DB Outdoors for More: Food Connection

Each month, we donate 10% of a day’s sales to support a local nonprofit’s work. Shop on Tuesday, October 24, to support Food Connection.

Call it civic pride or mountain spirit, but we think supporting the work of those maintaining trails, cleaning waterways, connecting youth to outdoors, and doing other awesome things to keep WNC a place we can all enjoy…well, it’s the right thing to do. As the area’s first outdoor store, we’ve enjoyed the support of our friends and neighbors since 1964.

Food Connection rescues surplus freshly prepared meals from events, caterers and restaurants via Asheville Taxi and delivers it to nonprofits who feed the hungry. Recipients include BeLoved House, Trinity Place Shelter for Runaway Youth, East Asheville Welcome Table, MusicWorks After School program and more. Fresh items such as beef brisket, crab cakes, roasted local veggies, kale and quinoa salad are now staying out of the compost and trash, and instead going to those in our community who need it the most. In two and a half years over 50,000 meals have been rescued and delivered. More at FoodConnection.co.

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