Hike to Black Balsam Knob and Tennent Mountain on the Art Loeb Trail and Ivestor Gap Trail loop, just off the Blue Ridge Parkway

Black Balsam Knob and Tennent Mountain loop: hiking the Art Loeb & Ivestor Gap Trails

Hike this double-summit, ultra-scenic five mile loop on the Art Loeb and Ivestor Gap trails, summiting Black Balsam Knob and Tennent Mountain. It’s a sun-drenched, blueberry and blackberry-filled adventure over two bald mountains to some incredible views.

trail info

5.1 miles
(round trip)
moderate
Dog-
friendly

LOCATION:near Graveyard Fields on the Blue Ridge Parkway (maps & directions)

GEAR: Osprey Stratos 24 Backpack w/ our favorite day hike gear and Canon 6D Camera

OFFICIAL MAP: Nat Geo 780 Trails Illustrated Map

Black Balsam Knob is well-loved for its wide-open, stunning panoramic views, its sweet-scented groves of shady balsam fir, and its rolling mountaintops filled with meadow grasses, wildflowers and scores of blackberries and blueberries. The most popular hike on the Art Loeb Trail to Black Balsam Knob spans just under 1.5 miles, and catches some stunning views.

Hike to gorgeous sunrises from Black Balsam Knob and Tennent Mountain, just off the Blue Ridge Parkway in Western NCAbove: hike a scenery-packed loop over Black Balsam Knob and Tennent Mountain just off the Blue Ridge Parkway

But there’s so much more beauty to be seen from this bald, grassy ridgeline. This hike visits the Black Balsam Knob summit and then rolls elevation to a neighboring peak, Tennent Mountain, for equally stunning (if not better) long-range views. It winds down Tennent’s rocky elevations to the Ivestor Gap Trail, looping back to the trailhead on the two mountains’ lower elevations and catching some great views of nearby Sam Knob. It’s a great, moderate 5-mile loop hike just off the Blue Ridge Parkway that catches an abundance of fantastic, see-forever views.

Black Balsam Knob and Tennent Mountain Loop: the hike

The hike departs on the Art Loeb Trail trailhead, located halfway down Black Balsam Knob Road from the Blue Ridge Parkway (view maps and driving directions). The trail treks between dense thickets of wild blackberry bushes before diving under the cover of balsam fir. The forest is fragrant with the scent of pine, and tall grasses wave in the gentle, high-elevation breezes.

Hike through a sweet-scented, fragrant forest of balsam fir and moss to the Black Balsam Knob summit in western NC

The trail exits the balsam tree canopy, beginning a rocky climb to the Black Balsam Knob summit, passing a lone, old balsam fir. The hike treks over large rock outcrops, the views getting increasingly more breathtaking as the elevation climbs.

Top hikes in Western NC: hike to the grassy, wildflower and wild berry-filled summit of Black Balsam Knob and Tennent Mountain

The hike passes the Art Loeb Spur on the trail’s left at .4 mile, continuing north on the Art Loeb Trail. (This loop will follow this spur trail at the end of this hike for a shortcut back to the trailhead.) The hike dips elevation before resuming its climb, finally reaching the Black Balsam Knob summit at .7 mile. A plaque on a wide, gray rock outcrop near the summit commemorates the trail’s namesake, Art Loeb. Views are incredible and plentiful in every direction.

The Art Loeb Trail descends Black Balsam Knob, trailing through dense, low vegetation including grasses, blackberry, and blueberry. Bees buzz loudly in this idyllic, sun-soaked landscape full of flowers. The hike passes a wooden Art Loeb Trail sign at .95 mile, diving through tall, dense, berry-heavy bushes and switching back sharply as it descends.

The trail passes a second wooden Art Loeb Trail sign at 1.6 miles before beginning a steady climb. The hike summits Tennent Mountain at 1.9 miles, catching views from one of several extensive rock outcrops at the summit. Views of Black Balsam Knob extend to the southwest, and the rolling, waterfall-filled terrain of Graveyard Fields is visible to the southeast.

Hike the Art Loeb Trail in Western NC to the view-packed summits of Black Balsam Knob and Tennent Mountain, just off the Blue Ridge Parkway

The hike descends Tennent Mountain, trailing eastbound before switching back sharply at 2.2 miles and veering northwest. The trail reaches Ivestor Gap, hanging a left to hike the Ivestor Gap Trail southwest. (A right turn at Ivestor Gap follows the Art Loeb Trail to Shining Rock Mountain, a nearby, brilliant white, quartz-topped summit.)

The hike passes a junction with the Fork Mountain Trail at 2.6 miles. Views of Black Balsam Knob, Tennent Mountain and the nearby Sam Knob open along the trail, a wide, graveled roadbed. The hike rolls elevation, curving through the hilly landscape dotted with small groves of balsam fir.

Top hikes near Asheville, NC: hike to viewsof Black Balsam Knob, Tennent Mountain and Sam Knob on the Ivestor Gap Trail off the Blue Ridge Parkway

The hike passes a small trailside spring at 4.2 miles. Just before reaching a parking area for the Ivestor Gap and Sam Knob Trail, the hike hangs a left into the forest, ascending the Art Loeb Spur Trail. The hike treks eastbound, carving through sharp switchbacks and climbing through dense grasses, shady groves of trees and tall, thick masses of brush. It’s a steady climb – and the steepest on this hike, rising nearly 300 feet in a third of a mile.

The trail finally crests at Black Balsam Knob’s lower elevations. The hike hangs a right on the Art Loeb Trail, hiking southbound to the trailhead, descending the mountain and retracing its steps through the grove of balsam fir. The hike reaches the trailhead at just over 5 miles, completing the hike.

Nearby Blue Ridge Parkway hiking adventures

Haven’t had your fill of awe-inspiring views? We don’t blame you… this slice of the Blue Ridge Parkway is especially scenic and ruggedly beautiful. The Sam Knob Trail departs a trailhead at the end of Black Balsam Knob Road, trails through a wide, wildflower-filled meadow and summits Sam Knob for more stunning views.

In the mood to chase some waterfalls (and even more blueberries and blackberries)? Hike the Graveyard Fields Trail to two beautiful waterfalls on the Yellowstone Prong River. It’s two miles east on the Blue Ridge Parkway.

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Black Balsam Knob and Tennent Mountain Loop Trail Map, Directions & Details

Black Balsam Knob and Tennent Mountain Loop Trail Map
Black Balsam Knob and Tennent Mountain Loop Trail Map
This map is not a substitute for official trail maps or topographic maps.

Driving Directions


Parking

Free parking is available off the Blue Ridge Parkway on Black Balsam Knob Road, located south of Asheville at milepost 420. (Before you go, check for trail updates and parkway closures on the official Blue Ridge Parkway website.)

GPS Coordinates

35.320700, -82.876117     //     N35 19.242 W82 52.567

Please Remember

Always leave no trace, tell someone where you're going, pack safety and wayfinding essentials, don't rely on a mobile phone to find your way, and follow these trail etiquette tips.

Elevation Profile

Black Balsam Knob and Tennent Mountain Loop: Elevation Profile
Eric Champlin is a writer and photographer who loves to hike, run, backpack, kayak and cycle the southeast. He’s the editor and founder of Atlanta Trails and Asheville Trails, online magazines that cover the South’s best outdoor adventures. His mission? To inspire others to get fit outdoors and explore the South’s incredible scenic beauty.

Eric is also a freelance writer, photographer and creative director.