When the Blue Ridge Parkway reopens each year in early spring, it is great to get back into the high country at milepost 420. That means the Black Balsam area and Shining Rock Wilderness. An oft overlooked trail on the west side of the wilderness is Little East Fork, a twisty path that follows the Little East Fork of the Pigeon River from Shining Rock Gap to the Daniel Boone Boy Scout Camp. Not a particularly difficult hike, it is however quite long. This hike occurred on Tuesday, April 8, 2014 beginning at 8:00AM and ending about 1:30PM. Our plan was to take the Ivestor Gap Trail to Little East Fork Trail and search for an elusive meadow along the ridge between Shining Rock and Birdstand Mountain.
Hike Length: 12 miles Hike Duration: 5.5 hours Elevation Gain: 880 feet
Blaze: None, wilderness Hike Configuration: Out and back
Hike Rating: Moderate, but only for the length. Otherwise, fairly easy.
Trail Condition: Ivestor Gap Trail is a very rocky old logging road with lots of puddles. Little East Fork is quite a nice forested trail.
Starting Point: Parking area at the end of Black Balsam Road.
Trail Traffic: We encountered two other hikers on this week day.
How to Get There: From Brevard, NC take Hwy. 276 into Pisgah National Forest, and all the way to the top at Wagon Road Gap where it meets the Blue Ridge Parkway at milepost 412. Turn south on the parkway toward Cherokee and go 8 miles to the Black Balsam Knob Rd. (FR816) It is a mile up the spur road to the parking area.
It was a wonderful pleasure and privilege to get out on the trail with new hiking companions. Unfortunately, the weather was not very cooperative on this day. Usually in this space I will detail the full trail report, but there isn’t a whole lot to tell this time. It was very, very foggy
— and cold, and wet from overnight rain
— so we didn’t accomplish what we set out to do. We never found the high mountain meadow we were seeking. We only hiked perhaps a mile, mile and a half of the Little East Fork Trail because of the conditions, and decided to just turn around. Still, it is always a joy to simply be in Shining Rock Wilderness, especially with new friends.
The first part of the hike from the Black Balsam parking to Shining Rock Gap on the Ivestor Gap Trail has already be reported, so no reason to repeat. Instead, this time I will share a small photo gallery to give you a feel for what Shining Rock Wilderness is like as the seasons begin to change from winter to spring. Click any of the photos for larger images.