nature trips


wild flowers

These hikes are part of the Mountain to Sea trail and were well maintained-overgrowth has just been cut back apparently. Very little elevation but some slippery footing occasionally. Pretty wildflowers on both the upper and lower trails. Hiked these severL days and never saw another soul, although you can hear traffic noise from the Parkway. Dog friendly!

Easily the best loop trail in the local AVL wonder everyone wants to keep it a secret. The biodiversity is simply amazing! Starting out at Black Balsam Road you turn onto the Art Loeb Trail and hike through the blueberry bushes and begin the arduous crawl up to the summit of Black’s very windy but great 360 degree views are fantastic! Take the ridge across the grass (numerous great places to camp) into Greasy Fields and the rhododendrons forests! Cross over and down the mountain to a gorgeous waterfall in the gap and two creek crossings eventually making it up to Sliding Rock. Take the trail back up into Graveyard Ridge before taking the optional MST to make the day long hike extra amazing!!!

This was one of the best hikes I’ve done in the Southeast!! I will definitely be going back in the fall and spring. The 360° views at the top of Tennent Mountain are unbeatable and you walk through a sea of wild blueberries and blackberries to get there (those will be ripe in the fall. Watch for bears!). I will say that for a pretty active hiker like myself, this trail was difficult not moderate. The trail through Shining Rock Wilderness gets pretty narrow and there’s bad footing everywhere. I would say the hike to Shining Rock is worth it, it’s pretty insane to see quartz boulders the size of houses! Next time I will wear long pants and bring more bug spray. Take care to bring lots of water and if you’re hiking alone make some noise every now and again since I saw bear scat!

Lovely, hidden trails extending more than a mile in both directions from a trailhead just off the overlook parking lot. Mossy, wide trails and a cloud-forest feel on the trail to the right; the trail to the left is drier and more overgrown. Both are fun, hidden gems — we never saw any other people on either!

Awesome even in the rain!!!

2 months ago


2 months ago

Amazing hike. I’ve hiked it year round. Especially love the fall. Blueberry bushes abound.

Love this trail! Hiked here 4/2/18, perfect weather, even got a small sunburn. the views and diversity of this trail is amazing.

A great trail with a mix of sights and terrain. We did Art Loeb to Shining Rock first, then Ivestor Gap back. Beautiful views mixed with quiet forests. We had a great time. I would recommend bringing your hiking poles, the footing can get tricky in parts, especially if your knees bother you like mine do. Also, bring a map! There are several unmarked junctions along Art Loeb.

I love the diversity that this trail has to offer! It starts with a nice uphill climb up Old Butt Knob, as you work your way towards shining rock. The quartz boulders cannot be understated – they are phenomenal and must be seen in person! I didn’t stay past dark, but I hear that they glow for about an hour after sunset. How amazing! The hike back down from shining rock, we walked along the river and there was waterfall after waterfall after waterfall… It was spectacular! Two moderately athletic hikers finished this loop in about five hours.

Excellent, scenic tour of Shining Rock Wilderness. As another person noted, the footing can get tricky, so having poles would be helpful.

Awesome hike, beautiful views

9 months ago

Unquestionably the most menacing hill I've done in the combined Shining Rock / Middle Prong wildernesses.

The trail begins unceremoniously just a few yards beyond the bridge coming from the Sunburst campground.

Once you manage to top the ridge, the trail frequently vanishes, but is recoverable by remaining on the ridge-line while favoring the left side.

I actually descended it coming up from the MST to loop back via the Fork Ridge. My toe nails were black for months afterward!

A brutal trail, but worth a tale!

This is a very beautiful hike. I did not do the full loop, but the best part is probably at the top of Tennent Mountain. Coming back at the Balsam it should have a spur trail back to the parking area. It is not marked and I missed it as many I talked to. It mush be the trail that go right before the rock outcropping. If somebody find it maybe a marker on the recording would be helpful.

There are several ups and downs along Art Loeb to Shining Rock, which is a pretty cool point of interest. Starting from end of Black Balsam Road, hike up trail to the right on the Art Loeb spur which takes you to open hills and a grassy area. The top of the first hill gives you the Sound of Music experience. Next is Black Balsam Knob, which is a higher hill. The trail is rocky and uneven with some trail erosion. From there you go down and then back up to the top of Tennent Mountain, past the intersection with Ivestor Gap Trail, then on to Grassy Cove Top and to another intersection with Ivestor Gap and Cold Mountain trails, then on to Shining Rock. The quartz is really white, giving it the shiny appearance. We took the Ivestors Trail back, which ended up being around 9 miles give or take. Nice hike, prepare for lots of sun as the underbrush on the knolls is short and also prepare for rocky uneven and overgrown areas. The views and Shining Rock provided great rewards for all the ups and downs totaling about 1300 ft.

I hiked a shorter version of the loop last month, making it out to the beginning of Shining Rock Wilderness and the area around Grassy Cove Top. The views, the terrain and the wildflowers were all spectacular. I hope I am lucky enough to return soon to complete the full loop to Shining Rock.

Does anyone have the coordinates of the spring on the AL near shining rock?

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Hiked this trail over 2 years back. Absolutely loved it! However, use extreme caution, this trail isn't marked and the way up is steep at first. Also, because there aren't any blazes, I didn't know it was a loop trail, so I ended up hiking back the way I came.

We started on the ALT from Black Balsam Road. The views from BBK and Tennet Mtn were spectacular. Some of the best that I have seen outside of the Great Smoky Mtns. We camped at Flower Gap. The stars were amazing. Shining Rock was pretty neat. We came back on the Ivestor Gap Trail. It was much easier than the ALT (lots of standing water) but not as scenic. Would definitely recommend this hike to others.

Great weekend/ overnight trail to enjoy nice and slow. It would also be a great trail to take friends or kids who have never been backpacking before. We went up the investor Gap trail and back down the Art Loeb. Once you get into the Shining Rock Wilderness, it does get confusing as there are trails that are unmarked and do not appear on any maps. When you get to the big intersection with the shining rock wilderness sign, keep walking past that sign to stay on the Investor Gap trail. This can be an easy place to get on the wrong trail, as there are more trails branching off than appear on the map. All in all a awesome hike with incredible views from Shining Rock at the turnaround point, As well at the two other 6000+ peaks you get to stand on. The views all along the trail are awesome too. Great hike, good distance, not too difficult. There are plenty of places to camp along the Art Loeb. All the water sources are on the investor Gap trail or up around Shining Rock.

Take heed when it says "very experienced adventurers." We weren't aware that this pieced together a couple of trails, and we needed GPS to trail blaze to stay with this route. I'm glad we did it, but won't do it again!!! Haha!!

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Great wilderness area with spectacular views and summits. Did an overnight near the parking lot next to Sam's Knob. Parked at the trailhead of Art Loeb on Black Balsam Road the following morning and began hiking in sub 20 temps. Solid elevation gains and views along the way. Come prepared and have a map available! The trails get very confusing once you get past the Shining Rock Wilderness sign. Went down a wrong trail in whiteout conditions and had a very long hike back up. Great place for winter backpacking as long as you come prepared. The forest service could improve this area with more trail markers along the Art Loeb Trail.

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.

Night hiked to Black Balsam Knob Labor day weekend for star gazing and Milkyway. Absolutely fantastic with great view of the Milkyway. (make sure there is no moonlight)

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.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

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.

Beautiful views and vegetation. Water sources, however, are not plentiful, and the trails could be marked better.

bring your sunscreen

Great area.

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