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 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.



This post was created by Jeff Clark. Please feel free to use the sharing icons below, or add your thoughts to the comments. Pack it in, pack it out. Preserve the past. Respect other hikers. Let nature prevail. Leave no trace.


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  1. Zachary Robbins

    Was the plan to continue down Little East Fork to the river and take one of the unmarked side trails on the left that goes up

    • No, 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. We have since determined with Google Earth that the meadow is located on Fork Mountain Ridge.

      • Zachary Robbins

        About midway on the Little East Fork trail between the initial crossing junction of the river and the Daniel Boone Camp end there’s 2 side trails that go up, easy to find. A lady I met said those both go up to different points along Fork Ridge but aren’t official NF trails. She also mentioned since we were standing very close to it, there’s a side creek on the north side of the river, near the biggest waterfall along Little East Fork, that has a significant large waterfall that has no official designation. That might be a lot of bushwhacking and high up the mountain though, she was checking this out during the winter.

      • ashevillain

        So if that’s your plan, it sounds like Zachary Robbins nailed it. The
        meadow is off the Little East Fork trail, off an unmarked trail (logging
        road) that connects the LEF trail with the Fork Mountain trail.

        personally wouldn’t have started at the Black Balsam parking lot for
        that one. I would start at the trailhead for either the Little East Fork
        trail at the Boy Scout camp or the Fork Mountain trailhead on 215. The
        way you were going you’d have to ascend all the way back up the way you
        came or ascend the Fork Mountain Trail and
        take that back up to Ivestor Gap.


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