The Art Loeb Trail in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina has been on my list since last October when I attended a “Mens Gospel Campout” that my good friend Jeremy Puskas aka “Brother Bones” of Bonefire Gear hosts every fall. I had planned on doing the Art Loeb back during the winter. But once my #gsmnp900miler turned into my #fastestgsmnp900miler then that all changed.
The following weekend after I finished my record setting #fastestgsmnp900miler hike, I had an opportunity to thru hike the Art Loeb Trail with my good friend Tim McCall aka “Titanium Pyro” and his wife Lori. The trail is 30.1 miles long with 17,000 feet of elevation change and crosses 4- 6000 footers.
We decided to hike it SOBO, so we began at the northern terminus located at the Daniel Boone Boy Scout Camp. The first 6.2 miles is an absolute butt kicker. Yes, I just said it “butt kicker”. This trail is no joke. The rugged and poorly marked trail demands your absolute attention or you’ll hurt yourself or get lost.
We were less than 2 miles in, while attempting to get some water from a stream, I slipped and fell square on my butt getting partially wet. No worries, I didnt get any brain damage. But some how I did manage to hurt my right shoulder, which bothered me for the rest of the day.
Around 1:pm we made it to Shining Rock. A huge out crop of white quartz that glistens like snow in the sunshine. Shining Rock is about 3 stories tall and about 50 yards long piece of white quartz. We climbed to the top of it where we took lunch and had an amazing view. It’s moments like that is what makes hiking all the tough miles worth it.
After lunch we topped off our bottles at the spring near Shining Rock Gap. The spring is located on the left side if the trail. Then we made our way towards the balds.
Now if you like the Roan Highlands or Mount Rogers and the Grayson Highlands then you will absolutely love the Art Loeb Trail. It crosses Tennent Mt and Black Balsam Knob. Two Rocky balds that provide 360° views. The highest point on the trail is at the summit of Black Balsam Knob which sits at 6295′. One of the most magnificent sunrises I’ve ever seen was from right there last October during the Mens Gospel Campout. Tim and I had climbed up Black Balsam early the one morning and caught the sun rising above the fog which was still sitting on the valley floor. (I’ll add a picture of it).
After a few pictures, Tim, Lori and #mybeardedself headed down the mountain, crossed the Blue Ridge Parkway and began making our way towards Pilot mountain.
We got to Deep Gap Shelter where we took a break, topped off our water bottles and got out our head lamps. It was night hiking from that point on. We had to make it to and across Pilot Mt and get down to Gloucester Gap where we were planning to camp. After crossing Pilot Mt and getting to the gap there wasn’t anywhere to set up, but next to the trail within 20 feet of the road. Definitely not my ideal camping location, but beggers can’t be choosy.
After getting a great nights sleep I woke up to the sound of rain hitting the cuben fiber of my camo Zpacks Duplex tent. We got everything packed up and I mentally prepared #mybeardedself to be wet and cold for the rest of our hike. We got started that morning around 8:am in a very steady rain. It didn’t stop till we were roughly 3 miles down the trail. The trail took us by Cedar Rock which is a large granite rock face and one very cool location. Other than Cedar Rock there wasn’t much to look at in this section of trail. Its pretty much a green tunnel. But as I was finishing the last 2 miles of the trail the sun came out. It definitely picked up my spirit and my step. I was ready to wrap this hike up and put this trail in the record books.
The Art Loeb Trail is one of the toughest trails I’ve ever done, but it was one of the most majestic. It is listed as a “Most Difficult” trail and they mean it (for at least the northern half).
Now something to keep in mind if you plan to hike this trail, is you’re required to use a bear canister from where the trail crosses the Blue Ridge Parkway – north. That’s why we started at the northern terminus and headed south to get across the Blue Ridge Parkway before we made camp which was almost the halfway point. Beside your trail map, another great reference to check out as you plan your hike is the website hikinginthesmokies.com . It’s pretty detailed and has a little history lesson on the Art Loeb as well.
I’d like to thank Tim and Lori McCall for guiding me through the maze of trails and for helping me make this hike happen. They are truly amazing friends and I thank God for putting them in my life.