Art Loeb Trail Double Loop Pisgah National Forest, NC
DIFFICULTY 11.7 Medium
DURATION 3-5 hours
Art Loeb Trail Double Loop

November 24, 2019 - All trails in the Shining Rock Wilderness are temporarily closed due to a wildfire on Cold Mountain. Check the Forest Service alert page for more information and updates.

This excellent double loop along the Art Loeb Trail offers some of the best scenery on one of Western North Carolina’s most famous trails. The Art Loeb Trail is a 30 mile difficult trail, but this shorter 9.5 mile hike represents the best bang for your buck: the best scenery combined with one of the easiest sections of the trail. If you can’t make the higher mileage for this loop at least climb up to the summit of Black Balsam Knob; the views are worth this 1.5 mile round trip.

Parking can be found along Black Balsam Knob road off of the Blue Ridge Parkway near mile marker 420. Either park halfway down the road where the Mountain-to-Sea and Art Loeb Trail (ALT) cross, or continue to the end of the road and begin at the parking lot. There are restrooms here as well, but the condition of them is not known.

**An important note before continuing, any and all maps listed on this site do not replace a real topo map. It is highly recommended that you bring a map as there are too many side trails for this page to list them all. In general, if it looks like a side trail and not a larger, “main” trail, it usually is. There is one big exception that is listed below and in detail in the images.

Beginning the double loop from where the trail crosses the road, the trail immediately begins one of its more difficult climbs of 250 feet in .4 miles. This gets you up on the ridgeline and begins several miles of unobstructed 360 degree views. Look back toward the Blue Ridge Parkway to see it weaving through the hilltops. Continue along the trail toward Black Balsam Knob, passing the Art Loeb Spur trail on the left that leads back to the parking lot at the end of the road. Make a left at toward the wooded post to head around BBK on the west side. You will then come to a crossing and then immediately afterward a ‘T’ junction dead end. Taking either of the two paths to the left will continue the loop. They will criss-cross each other and then reconnect at the base of Tennent Mountain. Taking either path to the right will form a short loop up to the summit of BBK, well worth the short side trip.

Taking one of the left trails, the path will succumb to head high brush before descending to the base of Tennent Mountain. Continue straight and to the right to head to the summit. This is another short moderate climb of 150 feet in .3 miles. Again, none of the climbs on this hike are difficult or very long. More excellent views abound at the summit of this mountain.

Head down Tennent Mountain to join with the old road bed, which forms the loop back to the parking lot. Stay to the right at the next split, rejoining shortly at Investor Gap. This forms a small third loop in the middle of the larger double loop. Investor Gap marks the beginning of the Shining Rock Wilderness. No campfires are allowed in the wilderness area, so pack a stove if you are camping beyond this point. From here, take the wide path to the right from where you came in. Almost immediately, look for a small, narrow path to the left. There will be a wooden marker and a pipe running through the ground near the start of this path. This is the Art Loeb Trail and is the exception to the rule of side trails. This looks like a side trail and not the main path. The larger path will lead to several other trails. See images for detailed information.

Continue on this trail for 1.8 miles, passing through Flower Gap shortly before coming to a small clearing in the woods. This is Shining Rock Gap. I have seen sites tell you to follow the quartz rock on the ground designating the path straight ahead. To complete this double loop, this is incorrect. Instead, turn left into the clearing. Once in the clearing there will be two clear paths, one heading again to the left and another to the right. Take the left most path, the right path continues along the ALT toward Cold Mountain. The path straight ahead from when you enter the clearing continues past Shining Rock and many large quartz boulders before splitting to several different trails. Explore this area if you want before heading on your way. Again, at the clearing, make a hard left. See images for detailed information.

The way back is much less strenuous. The first 2 miles are flat, heading west from the clearing before making a sharp turn to the left back toward Black Balsam Knob road. Another trail splits off to the right along the turn here, but stay on the inside of the loop to the left. You will return to Investor Gap. Continue along the larger trail to the right, reconnecting with the ALT before Tennent Mountain, then continuing to the right. For the next mile there is a slow stead accent of 200 feet, but the remainder of the trail is relatively flat. This section is very rocks and often times wet. Expect muddy conditions and ice in the winter. Boots are recommended for this section. Eventually you will end up at the parking lot and can either walk down the road to finish out the loop or locate the Art Loeb Spur trail just before arriving at the parking lot and taking it back up to the top of the ridge. This will add a little more length to the loop. The elevation and map on this page show walking up the road.

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Elevation Map Length (miles) by Elevation (feet)
Terrain Map Click to control map
length9.5 miles
difficulty11.7 Medium
duration3 - 5 hours
trail typeDouble Loop
elevation gain1150 ft.
park/forestPisgah National Forest
ranger districtPisgah Ranger District
1600 Pisgah Highway
Pisgah Forest, NC 28768
parking feeNone
trailhead coordinates 35.320623, -82.876271 (Degree Decimal, DegDec)
N 35°19.24, W 82°52.58 (Degree Minutes, MinDec)
N 35°19'14'', N 35°19'14'' (Degree Minutes Seconds, DMS)
Trailhead Directions
35.320623, -82.876271 (Degree Decimal, DegDec)
N 35°19.24, W 82°52.58 most GPS units use this one
N 35°19'14'', N 35°19'14'' (Degree Minutes Seconds, DMS)
Google Map It
Either park along the road where the Art Loeb & Mountains-to-Sea Trails cross or you can begin the loop at the parking lot at the end of Black Balsam Knob Road.
Review all the yellow markers on the map as these are directional markers and point out the major navigational hurdles.
There are too many side trails to name them all. It is highly recommended you bring a map and know how to read it. Maps are available at the Ranger office. The drawn maps listed on this page to not replace bringing a real map.
Much of this hike is exposed above the tree line. Take extra precautions during inclement weather.
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Average Review Rating
5 (1)
hikethesouth-6 years ago
Epic Views For the Win
This is one of my favorite hikes in the entire southeast. Half this hike has 360 degree views. All your device backgrounds will change to the pictures you take along here. It's a long hike, but it's really not that difficult. Great in all seasons. Even in summer, it's much cooler at 6000 ft.
Medium | Hiked Winter 2012
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