Cold Mountain: hiking the Art Loeb Trail
Hike to exceptional views on the Cold Mountain summit in North Carolina's Shining Rock Wilderness, following the Art Loeb Trail from the Daniel Boone Boy Scout Camp.
Rising high above the surrounding wilderness, Cold Mountain’s rugged, mostly-vegetated summit offers some exceptional views. At 6,030 feet, the mountain is the tallest of five in the Shining Rock Wilderness that peak at over 6,000 feet, and the summit’s lofty elevation offers a usually-cool climate on even the hottest summertime days.
This hike to Cold Mountain is the shortest-length route to the summit, but it’s anything but easy. The Art Loeb Trail bags nearly 3,000 feet of elevation gain in an almost unrelenting climb from the Daniel Boone Boy Scout Camp south of Asheville. It’s a challenging hike, trekking often-unmarked trails in a remote wilderness, so we highly recommend packing a quality topographic map, compass and handheld GPS.
But the summit views are well worth the difficulty, and the hike is ultra scenic, trekking through a lush, green swash of the Pisgah National Forest.
Art Loeb Trail to Cold Mountain: the hike
The hike departs on the Art Loeb Trailhead at the southern end of the Daniel Boone Boy Scout Camp (view maps and driving directions), catching views of the tumbling Little East Fork Pigeon River beside the trailhead parking area. The forest is lush and vibrantly green: deciduous trees tower overhead, shading moss-covered boulders and leathery-leafed rhododendron.
The hike climbs from the trailhead, the river’s tumbling cascades amplifying through the forest, following the Art Loeb Trail’s rocky and rooty course. The trail switches back to the south, and then arcs northbound, passing several enormous, moss-covered rock outcrops and tunneling through a shaded forest.
The trail dives through a grove of rhododendron and mountain laurel at 1 mile, veering east and passing a small campsite. The hike climbs a rustic wooden stairway and then begins following an old, gravel road bed at 1.5 miles. Dipping elevation briefly, the Art Loeb Trail crosses a shaded, trickling stream at 1.9 miles.
The hike resumes its climb, crossing a creek and tunneling through dense mountain laurel. The trail passes a campsite at 2.35 miles, and the climb intensifies as the Art Loeb Trail carves through switchbacks in the rocky, leafy, lush forest.
The trail passes a small, trickling spring before reaching a grassy clearing, Deep Gap, at 3.6 miles. Campsites speckle the forest floor throughout the gap. From here, the Art Loeb Trail veers southbound, trekking to the brilliant white, quartz-crusted summit of Shining Rock Mountain. This hike hangs a left from the gap, hiking northeast on the Cold Mountain Trail to continue the climb to the summit.
The trail dives through a dense grove of rhododendron, trekking through a rugged, rocky forest. The elevation gain racks up quickly, the workout intensifying, as the hike begins to score through-the-trees views at 4 miles. Tall wildflowers blow in the ample summit breezes, stretching high to catch the dappled sunlight beneath the forest canopy. The trail climbs through dense rhododendron and laurel thickets, switching back sharply at 4.5 miles and passing a grassy campsite. Wild blueberries and gnarly-branched laurel crowd the trail in the final stretch to the summit.
Just after passing a campsite, the spur trail reaches the Cold Mountain summit, where large slab rock outcrops offer exceptional views of the opposing ridge and the Blue Ridge Parkway. A vintage US Geological Survey marker marks the mountain’s true summit.
The peak’s gorgeous views just beg for a photo, and the sun-drenched mountaintop makes a great spot for a mid-hike water and snack break (and a well-deserved rest). After soaking up some summit solitude, the hike turns to follow its outbound trek in reverse, enjoying the mostly-downhill return to the trailhead. The hike veers westbound at Deep Gap, descending the Art Loeb Trail to the Daniel Boone Boy Scout Camp. The trail reaches the trailhead at 10 miles, finishing the adventure.
What is Wilderness, and why is it important? Read more in our guide to Wilderness areas in the Southeast.
Cold Mountain on the Art Loeb Trail Map, Directions & Details
Free parking is available in designated areas in the Daniel Boone Boy Scout Camp. Please follow all posted regulations and instructions at the trailhead and on the USFS website.
35.387025, -82.895856 // N35 23.221 W82 53.752