Scanning the Horizon from the Black Balsam High Country – A Photo Essay

When looking for some WNC high country scenery and perhaps refreshing cool air on a warm day, one of the first destinations I think of is the Black Balsam area at milepost 420 on the Blue Ridge Parkway. There are half a dozen mountains here that stand above 6,000 feet, with encompassing 360° views from their treeless summits. This land that lies between the Shining...

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Summer Solstice on Sam Knob – A Photo Essay

The summer solstice occurs when a planet’s rotational axis, in either northern or southern hemispheres, is most inclined toward the Sun. Most cultures have marked this occasion in some ritualized manner and from time immemorial people have acknowledged the rising of the sun on the summer solstice. At Stonehenge, the heelstone marks the midsummer sunrise as seen...

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Black Bears in Graveyard Fields and Shining Rock Wilderness Vicinity

The Pisgah National Forest is encouraging visitors to Graveyard Fields, Black Balsam, or the Shining Rock Wilderness areas of the Pisgah Ranger District to be on the look-out for black bears. The large number of bear sightings and encounters in the past few years has led to required use of bear-proof canisters in these specific areas and a camping closure in Graveyard...

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Ivestor Gap Trail to Shining Rock, Shining Rock Wilderness

Deep in the heart of Shining Rock Wilderness is the namesake, a mountain made of quartz, standing more than 6,000 feet. On bright sunny days you can see the white quartz “shining” from miles away. The Cherokee called it Datsu’nălâsgûñ’yĭ, “where their tracks are this way,” that refers to a white rock that is said to have tracks of Tsul...

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Pisgah National Forest: A History by Marci Spencer

When George W. Vanderbilt constructed the Biltmore House, he hired forester Gifford Pinchot and, later Dr. Carl A. Schenck to manage his forests. Over 80,000 of his woodland acres became the home of America’s first forestry school and the heart of the East’s first national forest. Now comprising more than 500,000 acres, Pisgah National Forest holds a vast...

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Warning Issued for Black Balsam and Shining Rock Wilderness Areas

The U.S. Forest is warning visitors in the Black Balsam and Shining Rock Wilderness areas of the Pisgah Ranger District, Pisgah National Forest, to be on the lookout for black bears and “Be Bear Aware.” The warning comes after recent bear encounters have been reported in both the Black Balsam and Shining Rock Wilderness areas, north of the Blue Ridge Parkway...

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Scout Camp Loop on Art Loeb Trail and Little East Fork Trail, Shining Rock Wilderness

Backcountry wilderness. If you really want to get a taste, then this hike is for you. Starting at the remote Camp Daniel Boone, the northern terminus of the Art Loeb Trail enters Shining Rock Wilderness immediately. As you begin the nearly 2,000′ ascent to Deep Gap, on the southern shoulder of Cold Mountain, you will cross numerous streams as you hike through...

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Ivestor Gap Trail to Little East Fork Trail, Shining Rock Wilderness

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...

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Graveyard Fields Waterfalls, Blue Ridge Parkway

Graveyard Fields is an anomaly — a high mountain meadow and bog surrounded by 6,000 foot mountain peaks. The wide-open spaces found at Graveyard Fields are a rarity, an exception in the otherwise lush and densely forested slopes of Pisgah National Forest and Shining Rock Wilderness. Popular with locals and tourists alike, no trip to the high country of Western...

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Ivestor Gap Trail and Fork Mountain Trail to Birdstand Mountain, Pisgah National Forest

The Black Balsam area of Pisgah National Forest is surrounded by Middle Prong Wilderness on the west, and Shining Rock Wilderness on the east. Some of the best hiking found in Western North Carolina lies in this high country just north of the Blue Ridge Parkway. At the end of Black Balsam Road at milepost 420 on the Parkway, the Ivestor Gap Trail will take you deep into...

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Big East Fork Trail, Shining Rock Wilderness

The southeast corner of Shining Rock Wilderness is filled with rivers, creeks and streams tumbling down from the mountains that rise above 6000 feet in the high country. Included among these waterways is the East Fork of the Pigeon River, otherwise known as Big East Fork. A trail follows the river from Hwy 276 to the confluence with Greasy Cove Prong and beyond. This Big...

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Art Loeb Trail to Grassy Cove Top, Shining Rock Wilderness

Milepost 420 on the Blue Ridge Parkway is where you will find Black Balsam Road. It’s a short drive to a spruce forest where the Art Loeb Trail crosses the road and heads up onto the balds. This is North Carolina high country. There are several mountains greater than 6000 feet with treeless summits, affording spectacular 360° views of the surrounding Blue...

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Flat Laurel Creek Trail, Pisgah National Forest

Flat Laurel Creek is in the area just north of the Pisgah Ridge and in between the Shining Rock and Middle Prong Wildernesses. It drains from Sam Knob and Little Sam Knob and runs to the West Fork of the Pigeon River. The trail that bears its name starts at the headwater and travels 3.7 miles around the west side of Little Sam until it meets Hwy. 215 and joins the...

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Old Butt Knob and Shining Creek Trails Loop, Shining Rock Wilderness

Perhaps it seems I’ve been spending quite a bit of time hiking in the eastern section of Shining Rock Wilderness in recent months. I can’t help myself. The terrain is wild, the forests ever-changing, the views exhilarating, and the exercise invigorating. The elevation changes dramatically — more than two thousand feet. The air is cool and refreshing...

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Greasy Cove Trail, Shining Rock Wilderness

Looking at a trail map or topographic map, the area of this hike within Shining Rock Wilderness can be somewhat confusing. There is the Greasy Cove Prong, a creek that runs off of the Grassy Cove Ridge. The trail is called Greasy Cove, but it starts/ends at Grassy Cove Top. I think the guys who named the area may have had a touch too much huckleberry wine. Regardless of...

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Ivestor Gap and Art Loeb Trails to The Narrows, Shining Rock Wilderness

This a continuation beyond the hike described in the Black Balsam Knob and Tennent Mountain trail report. The Art Loeb Trail continues down the north side of Tennent Mountain to Grassy Cove. There it meets the Ivestor Gap Trail for a lengthy hike into Shining Rock Wilderness. The area was named by the Cherokee for the large deposits of quartz found along what has become...

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Black Balsam Knob and Tennent Mountain, Blue Ridge Parkway

Frequently. That is how many times I have done this hike. So many, I’ve lost count. I love the western North Carolina high country, and this area along the Blue Ridge Parkway known as Black Balsam has nearly a dozen peaks over 5,800 feet elevation, with Black Balsam Knob being the highest at 6,214. This area has some of the highest hiking on the Parkway. Many of...

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Art Loeb Trail to Cold Mountain, Shining Rock Wilderness

Cold Mountain gained national attention following the publishing of Charles Frazier’s Civil War era novel in 1997. Western NC hiking enthusiasts have known of its appeal for much longer. Cold Mountain is a real mountain that stretches 6030′ and is located in the Shining Rock Wilderness and Pisgah National Forest in North Carolina. You can reach the spur trail...

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