A great loop. The best of the southern Appalachian highlands. Suggest you add on the Shining Creek-Old Butt Knob loop if you're out for a couple days. Lots of use in this area so expect many hikers and heavily used campsites in high seasons.
I started this by parking on the road (the first parking area on your right after turning off of the BR Parkway). The Art Loeb TH is visible right away so make sure you catch that and don't go too far right (this picks up a different rail). You break through the forest in about 10-20 minutes and the views begin immediately. Panoramic scenery of rolling green and blue hills. The Art Loeb trail summits Black Balsmam Knob and then Tennant (sp?). The trail splits multiple times but (I think!) that they come back together eventually, almost like it undulates until a main intersection with the Investor trail. These two intersect at about 3 points, 2 of which are very clear, large areas. A map definitely comes in handy but there are points where a faded map stand is posted. Camp spots are everywhere from the Black Balsam area on past the split for the Shining Rock Wilderness area (big wooden sign about an hours hike in). After the split to head to the Shining Rock area, you find yourself walking in the woods rather than shorter shrubbery/wildflowers as before. You come up to a sign for Cold Mntn and I (unfortunately) hung too far left and wound up on the Investor trail headed back the way I'd come, just on a much easier, flat surface with few views. So, bring a map... :) I walked this past the intersection with AL and decided to stay on Ivestor until near the end, where I took a sharp left for what would eventually put me back on the Balsam Knob area towards my car. Otherwise, the Investor goes on back to an actual parking lot area up the road from the first road side parking.
The out portion of this trail was outstanding. Beautiful views all along the Art Loeb Trail. We hiked this trail on Labor Day weekend and the parking lot was full when we arrived at 10 am. There is parking along the road. There aren't any comparable views on the return along the Ivester Trail but the walk is much easier. Most of that is an old road bed with gentle slopes. Fwiw we expected to see some streams after seeing the pics that someone else had posted but we didn't. I'm not sure those pictures are from this trail. There is ample tent sites along the Art Loeb Trail with very nice views. Finding a spot to hammock will be more difficult.
The experience I had backpacking this trail easily makes my top 3 list. The scenery is top notch and greatly exceeds the work to see it. Countless vistas, wildflowers, fruit, and various wildlife create a wonderful experience. We were led to a "secret" campsite by a friendly backpacker that was simply amazing. Secluded and surrounded by wild blueberries on top of the mountain, it was one of the most unique campsites I've ever been to.
We combined this with a section of the Art Loeb trail to make it a loop- beautiful views on the way in but very foggy on the way out. Great place to spend a few days and the wild blueberries and blackberries were wonderful!
Started at Daniel Boone camp. The trail head is all the way in the back of the camp across from the river. Make sure you prepare for this hike. It is very strenuous! There is about 6 stream crossings as well. There is a nice camping area about 4 1/2 miles into the trail on the ridge. I do not however recommend camping there in the winter, the winds really suck! Great trail though!