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  1. #1
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    Art Loeb Trail - 2 Day NOBO Adventure

    While I have hiked many areas of the Pisgah, The 30.1 mile ALT has been on my bucket list for awhile. Sometimes referred to as the "Appalachian Trail's Greatest Hits" (although technically not on the trail), it's one of the more scenic backpacking trails in the Southeast. It's also one of the more difficult ones going northbound with over 8,200' of elevation change (according to Alltrails and confirmed by my Garmin). I had limited time to complete it as I had to work most of Friday and be back in the office Monday morning. So I traveled up to Camp Daniel Boone Friday late afternoon and camped near the trailhead. I used the Purda Vida Adventures trail shuttle to ferry me back to the start at Davidson River Campground in Brevard, NC (Joe Moerschbaecher the owner/head guide was my driver and a wealth of info on Western Carolina outdoor activities).

    I hit the trail at about 9:30am Saturday and completed the first 14 miles after traveling through the green tunnel and ascending Pilot Mountain to see the sunset at its summit and then setting up my hammock by headlamp at Deep Gap (sorry no hammock photos as it was hung in the dark). I then got up in the dark Sunday am to break camp and complete the 17 miles from Deep Gap to the trail terminus at CDB in Hayword County. This is reportedly the highest elevation Scout Camp east of the Mississippi. While the trip was incredible, I would definitely recommend tackling it SOBO and allowing 3 days for the trip. The stretch from Butter Gap to Pilot Mountain going north is brutal, and my second day traveling from Deep Gap up the ridgeline up to the Blue Ridge Parkway and then up Silvermine Bald was equally tough. There were areas where I was literally scrambling up boulders and roots using hands and legs. I would also recommend choosing early spring or fall for this adventure as the rain and humidity in WNC is pretty much constant from June through August (also odd that this trail still has spotty water sources given the various micro climates in WNC).

    For those of you that have completed this trail or section hiked it, my hat is off to you. I wasn't entirely prepared for it although I had extensively researched various trip reports. In terms of tips for those considering it in the future, pack as light as you can and bring as small/light of a bear canister as possible. They have extended the bear can requirement to anywhere north of the BRP, so it's no longer limited to just Shinning Rock Wilderness. The Forest Service also had bear bag hang lines installed at the Butter Gap Shelter, which is on the southern leg of the trail. I didn't see any black bear activity during my trip, but I heard multiple hikers discussing it. Also, water was already becoming limited on certain sections of the trail. The stream at Deep Gap was down to a trickle, and I met some hikers at the Cold Mountain intersection who said the trail had run dry at the summit. Early spring and winter this isn't an issue, but this trail requires you to hydrate early and frequently and carrying back-up liters is costly. Lastly, I'm not sure if the Pilot Mountain climb is worse than the BRP ridgeline climb, or if Silvermine Bald is worse than the Narrows, but this trail throws a lot of technical climbs at you. My knees throbbed the whole drive home.

    Anyways, the following are some of the highlights from my trip:

    Trail Map GPX Coordinates from Caltopo
    art loeb trail map by Twistytee, on Flickr

    Southern trailhead at Davidson River
    DSC05366 by Twistytee, on Flickr

    DSC05370 by Twistytee, on Flickr
    Sunset over Pilot Mountain

    Untitled by Twistytee, on Flickr

    Untitled by Twistytee, on Flickr
    Views from the Green Tunnel on Day 1

    DSC05377 by Twistytee, on Flickr

    DSC05378 by Twistytee, on Flickr

    TVA Survey marker heading up the BRP ridge line section

    Untitled by Twistytee, on Flickr

    Trail steps up to Silvermine Bald

    Untitled by Twistytee, on Flickr

    Peak through across the BRP from Silvermine climb

    Untitled by Twistytee, on Flickr

    Black Balsam forest off the MST

    Untitled by Twistytee, on Flickr

    Trail split from MST to Black Balsom Knob and the 360 degree vistas

    Untitled by Twistytee, on Flickr

    Views from Black Balsam

    Untitled by Twistytee, on Flickr

    Summit Marker

    DSC05383 by Twistytee, on Flickr

    Trail to Tennent Mountain
    Untitled by Twistytee, on Flickr

    Untitled by Twistytee, on Flickr

    Northern ART terminus

    Untitled by Twistytee, on Flickr

    Untitled by Twistytee, on Flickr

  2. #2

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    Nice report. I haven't done it in a while & need to get it back on my list. There are a lot of trail options around shining rock, black balsam, and graveyard fields. Bears have been a problem around shining rock for a few years, though.

  3. #3
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    Great pics and report! We were just discussing a thru-hike of the ALT last weekend. We would definitely add an extra night (or two) since we will be adding in some ham radio time each day. Like you said, there are lots of hard climbs going NOBO but my knees prefer to be climbing and not descending that stuff.

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dvankirk View Post
    Nice report. I haven't done it in a while & need to get it back on my list. There are a lot of trail options around shining rock, black balsam, and graveyard fields. Bears have been a problem around shining rock for a few years, though.
    thanks. You should do it again. I plan to go back this fall and plan a trek around Shining Rock Wilderness portion. Unfortunately I didn’t have the spare time for spur trails or the hike up Cold Mountain. The good and bad news about the area is it’s accessible by day hikers and I think people aren’t careful with food and waste so the bears have gotten more active.
    Quote Originally Posted by smkymtns View Post
    Great pics and report! We were just discussing a thru-hike of the ALT last weekend. We would definitely add an extra night (or two) since we will be adding in some ham radio time each day. Like you said, there are lots of hard climbs going NOBO but my knees prefer to be climbing and not descending that stuff.
    I enjoyed your ham write-up in your 4 Days in the Smokies report. 4 days probably is the optimal blend for the ART if you are bringing the radio gear and planning to enjoy some down time. There’s some great sites to hang on this trail with the exception of the Black Balsam to Investor Gap segment. My knees no longer care much for downhills either but the Pilot MTN switch backs and the ridgeline ascents took a lot out of me heading northbound.

  5. #5
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    You really crushed it! We took 4 days and the Art Loeb Trail still whooped us. Looks like you had one lone Rhodo bloom remaining on the trail to Tennent. I definitely recommend getting back to the area and focusing a trip north of the BRP. Sams Knob, Shining Rock, Cold Mountain, etc. - lots of cool aspects located off the Art Loeb.

  6. #6
    all secure in sector 7 Shug's Avatar
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    Great trail. Hickery and I did a thru of ol' Art in 2014.
    That hill right at the Parkway...we wen't down it. Quite cruel.
    Would love to go back someday.
    Glad you had a right good time.
    Shug
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  7. #7
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    I guess the ankle is feeling better

    I enjoyed the write up. Sounds like a challenging but fun time.

    That Art Loeb fella was pretty hard core connecting the route together. Canít imagine having to bushwhack it back in his day. Sounds like you get a little taste of that ruggedness hiking the trail.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by TallPaul View Post
    I guess the ankle is feeling better

    I enjoyed the write up. Sounds like a challenging but fun time.

    That Art Loeb fella was pretty hard core connecting the route together. Canít imagine having to bushwhack it back in his day. Sounds like you get a little taste of that ruggedness hiking the trail.
    ha, that ankle is still swollen but I was able to wear a different brace with some trail runners. Was hoping it would be back to normal by now but I guess it has other plans. As you say, really not sure how he planned and navigated parts of that route back in his day. Itís a shame but the Silvermine Bald trail and the section from Black Balsam to Investor Gap are becoming severely eroded. They may need to start limiting access/capacity if they want to preserve this route for the future.

  9. #9
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    This trail is at the very top of my bucket list just before a thru-hike of the Foothills Trail. The SRW is one of my favorite places on the entire Earth. My hat is very much off to you tackling this in 2 days!
    -- Josh

    "Courage, mon ami! Le Diable est mort!"

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