Cold Mountain Trails

Cold Mountain

A storied peak for ambitious hikers

Local author Charles Frazier made this 6030-foot-high peak in the Great Balsams famous with his 1997 novel of the same name. The 2000 movie version won the hearts of even more fans. Hikers love it too, but it’s not a journey to take lightly. With an average of 7 to 10 hours on the trail, this adventure requires preparation and commitment, but rewards with solitude and remarkable views.

What To Expect

There are several options for getting to the top of Cold Mountain. You can go out and back from either the Black Balsam parking area (longer and easier) or the Daniel Boone Boy Scout Camp (shorter and strenuous). You could also leave a car at each end.  Because of the length of these trails, hikers often backcountry camp overnight at the base of Cold Mountain. Regardless of which route you choose, bring a detailed map, plenty of water and food. You will be in the wilderness and may not encounter other hikers along your way.

If you opt for the longer, easier approach, take the Ivestor Gap Trail from the parking lot at Black Balsam (taking this trail rather than the Art Loeb means you don’t have to go up Flower Knob and Grassy Cove top, but can go around them instead). Take it for 3.7 miles to Shining Rock Gap where you’ll find an intersection of trails that many find confusing. Take the unmarked single-track on the far left (at about 10-11 o’ clock position). This is the Art Loeb Trail which will take you up “the Narrows,” over Stairs Mountain to Deep Gap at the 7 mile point. From here, the Art Loeb Trail goes left (don’t take this) and the Cold Mountain Trail goes straight (slightly to the right). On this last part of the hike, you’ll ascend over 1000 feet in the 1.5 miles

If you opt for the shorter, more strenuous route, park at the Boy Scout camp (let someone at the camp know that you are leaving your car to take the trail and when you intend to be back). Take the Art Loeb Trail (it’s well signed at the trailhead, but not blazed) for 3.8 miles to the Cold Mountain trail, an additional 1.5 miles. You’ll ascend 1800 feet total on your way to the summit. 

There are a number of backcountry camping sites near the base of the summit, which is quite rocky. Once you’re at the top, you’re treated to heart stopping views of Pisgah, Black Balsam Knob, Sam Knob, Shining Rock, as well as the Great Balsam Mountains. Be aware that the weather here is changeable and bring an ample supply of water.

Hike Details

Difficulty: Moderate to Strenuous

Distance from Asheville: For trailhead to longer, less strenuous hike, about 53 miles; 60-70-minute drive For trailhead to shorter, more strenuous hike, 33 miles, 50 minutes

Length: 18 miles round-trip on the easier hike, 10.6 miles round trip for strenuous hike

Region: Pisgah National Forest, Shining Rock Wilderness

Duration of Hike: 7-10 hours

Elevation Gain: For shorter trail, 1800 feet

Pet-Friendly? Leashed dogs welcome

Multiple Use? No

Blazes? No

Facilities & Parking: Parking lot with portable toilet (if you park at the Boy Scout camp, notify the camp about your vehicle and your plans)

Natural Features: Spring rhododendron blooms, creeks, long-range views

Directions

From downtown, take I-240 West to I-26 East. Take Exit 33 (marked Blue Ridge Parkway-Brevard Road-Hwy 191). Turn left (south) onto Highway 191 and go 2.1 miles, passing brown signs for Blue Ridge Parkway and NC Arboretum. Turn right at the entrance to The North Carolina Arboretum and follow signs for the Blue Ridge Parkway. Turn south on the parkway and drive to Milepost 420, Black Balsam. Turn right onto Black Balsam Road and go 2 miles to the parking lot.

For the Daniel Boone Boy Scout Camp route, take I-240 west to I-40 west (Canton/Knoxville). Take exit 37 toward East Canton. Make a left onto Wiggins Road. After 4.4 miles, turn right onto US 19S-23S. Turn left onto Williams Street, which will turn into 110 and later 215, Lake Logan Road and Little East Fork Road. The Daniel Boone Camp entrance will be on the left 3.8 miles after the road turns into Little East Fork Road.

GPS Coordinates

N35.325617, W82.881987