Guide to Hiking the Art Loeb Trail in One Weekend
If you are looking for a solid prep hike for the Appalachian Trail or just want to hike one of National Geographic Adventure’s top North American hikes, look no further than the Art Loeb Trail in Brevard, NC.
Rather than a loop trail, the Art Loeb Trail runs northbound for 30 miles from the Davidson River Campground to the Daniel Boone Boy Scout Camp. The hike ranges from climbing up incredibly hilly terrain in the green tunnel to walking along ridgelines. The trail is no walk in the park, with trail section ratings ranging from difficult to most difficult. While the Art Loeb Trail is challenging, it is doable to complete in a weekend, if so desired.
In my planning for the trip, I was dissatisfied with the amount of information available about the Art Loeb Trail, including any information about hikers completing the trail in one weekend. I decided to put together a compilation of no-frills information that I found useful knowing ahead of time and that I discovered from the trek myself.
First, some logistics.
Northbound or Southbound
No surprise; you can hike the Art Loeb Trail northbound or southbound. Some people believe the northbound direction is much hillier, and thus choose to hike southbound. Either way, you are going to encounter some climbing. My sister and I chose to hike northbound for the supposedly greater challenge and to save the views for the end. If you are training for the Appalachian Trail, I recommend going northbound as well.
Transport Between Trailheads
Because the trail is not a loop, you will either need to take two cars and park at both trailheads, which are an hour drive apart, or use a shuttle service, which ranges from $75 to $125, depending on the company. Keep in mind that depending on which option you choose, it will either add time or cost to your trip.
The two trailheads are located at:
- Davidson River Campground, 1 Davidson River Cir, Pisgah Forest, NC 28768
- Camp Daniel Boone, 3647 Little East Fork Rd, Canton, NC 28716
If you choose to take two cars and hike northbound, leave your first car at Camp Daniel Boone, going past the Ledbetter Lodge and Leadership area, and parking next to the creek before the bridge. Make sure to leave a note in your car dashboard noting when you will return to your vehicle and how many people are with you. Then make the hour drive along mountain roads to the other trailhead at Davidson River Campground to start the hike.
I recommend downloading a digital map ahead of time to help make sure you stay on trail. Portions of the trail, particularly around Shining Rock Gap, can be tricky to navigate. Several times there are intersections of multiple trails that are not well marked and it can be easy to get on the wrong trail.
I used maps.me, which is a free app that can be used without phone service. Some people use the GAIA GPS app, but I found this totally unusable. Whatever you choose to use, I recommend having something. It will save you time and provide peace of mind.
There are several water sources along the Art Loeb Trail. They are not hard to find but you do need to keep your eye out for them. I filled up at Butter Gap Shelter and Deep Gap Shelter. You need to go down a short trail to get to the water source at Deep Gap Shelter. It is not hard to find, but after hiking for 13 miles up hills all day, you don’t want to take any extra steps. So, if you are facing away from the Deep Gap Shelter, take the trail to the left and bada bing.
Other water sources I did not personally use (but read about) are as follows:
- At Gloucester Gap; make a left on the dirt road and go about 200-250 yards.
- Just before Deep Gap where the trail makes its southern bend on the ridgeline.
- North on Ivestor Gap trail past the Black Balsam parking area after walking for about 200 meters.
- Past Shining Rock Gap where you will see “railroad tie looking steps” leading down to the water source.
I definitely recommend having a water filter with you. Some people say a water filter is not necessary but I was thankful for one on the trek. There is sand or dirt in the water sources, which no one wants to drink. So make sure to bring a Sawyer Squeeze or whatever filter you prefer.
You can camp anywhere along the trail—following Leave No Trace principles, of course—but if you are looking for a shelter, there are ones located at Butter Gap and Deep Gap. Deep Gap Shelter or a spot at the base of Tennent Mountain toward Ivestor Gap (there is no shelter here) are solid options to camp to avoid the Shining Rock Gap area (more on that in a second).
You are required to use a bear canister on the Art Loeb Trail. Due to the popularity of the trail and past hikers’ negligence, the bears in this area, particularly the Shining Rock Gap section of the trail, are not afraid to take hikers’ food. There have been reports of bears shredding gear to get to people’s food—hence why you might not want to camp in the most active area. Bear canisters can be a pain, but they are much better than a close encounter with a bear or a ruined tent or backpack.
Two places in the area to rent bear canisters are:
- French Broad Outfitters, 704 Riverside Dr., Asheville, NC
- Phone number: 828-505-7371
- Cost: $7 / day
- Black Dome, 140 Tunnel Rd, Asheville, NC 28805
- Phone number: (828) 251-2001
- Cost: $5 / day
Hiking the Trail in One Weekend
It is doable to hike the Art Loeb Trail in one weekend. But first you should recognize your limitations.
With the trail being 30 miles long, you will be averaging 15 miles per day, on hilly terrain. This means you will need to start your hike early Saturday morning. So, unless you live in the area, you will need to have traveled to the trailhead by Friday night.
If you are renting a bear canister in Asheville, you should also make sure to get to the shop before it closes on Friday, which likely means arriving to the area even sooner. Don’t forget to factor in the additional hour drive at the end of the night between the two trailheads if you decide to take two cars.
I know. It sounds like a lot. But again, it’s doable. It might just require leaving earlier on Friday than you originally suspected.
Here is how my sister and I successfully hike the Art Loeb Trail in one weekend:
- Left home at 1:30 p.m. to make the four-hour-plus drive to Asheville.
- Arrived at French Broad Outfitters at 5 p.m. to rent a bear canister, one hour before closing.
- Got to the trailhead at Camp Daniel Boone at 6:30 p.m. to drop off the first car.
- Arrived at the Davidson River Campground trailhead at 7:30 p.m.
- Hit the trail at 8 p.m. and hiked for one mile before setting up camp at 9 p.m.
- Started hiking at 8 a.m.
- Stopped at Butter Gap Shelter around 11:30 a.m. for water and lunch.
- Arrived for the night at 4:30 p.m. at Deep Gap shelter.
- Hiked a total of 13 miles with lots of climbing through the green tunnel all day.
- Started hiking at 7:30 a.m.
- Lots of climbing to start. After crossing the Blue Ridge Parkway for the first time and completing another tough uphill section, the trail flattened out and we escaped the green tunnel. We began to see the beautiful views around Black Balsam that we worked so hard for. The trail became more difficult to navigate once we got to Shining Rock Gap. After reaching Cold Mountain, the trail descended steeply for five miles, ending at Camp Daniel Boone.
- We finished the trail at 5:30 p.m. after hiking a total of 16 miles. We picked up our second car at the Davidson River Campground at 6:30 p.m. and were back home by 11 p.m.
We successfully completed the Art Loeb Trail in one weekend and you can too!
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