Three Asheville Resolution Hikes

The picture of the American Southeast may conjure blooming rhododendrons in the warm rain of summer or the bright red berries of Mountain Ash contrasted with the fading green of fall grass along the southern bald mountains. While the southeast doesn't typically bring to mind frosty snow covered peaks, many of Asheville's most popular hikes are still accessible, even when the Blue Ridge Parkway is closed. Read on for these unusual winter routes for three of Asheville's most popular hikes.

 

 


 

 

1. Mount Mitchell

from Black Mountain Campground

 

Mount Mitchell is a great hike year round. Most often it is accessed from mile post 355 of the Blue Ridge Parkway, where visitors can almost drive almost to the top of the East's highest peak. For those adventurers who want a tough winter hike, Mount Mitchell is also accessible via Black Mountain Campground on the South Toe River. This route is much harder than the quarter mile paved walk from the parking lot to the summit summer visitors to Mount Mitchell traverse. It takes the hiker through a wide variety of forests over 5.6 miles and 3600 feet of elevation gain (one way). The trail is steep, technical, and in the wintertime often covered with snow and ice. Make sure to bring traction devices (like yaktrak or microspikes) or trekking poles for extra balance. Although this trail is tough the view from Mount Mitchell covered in snow? Well, it just might be worth the hike.

 

2. Black Balsam

via Flat Laurel Creek Trail

Black Balsam and the corresponding six thousand foot peaks of the ever more popular Art Loeb Trail are among Asheville's most visited and most photographed vistas. And for good reason! While Black Balsam is usually accessible via the Blue Ridge Parkway near milepost 420, Black Balsam an also be accessed via the Flat Laurel Creek Trail which begins on NC 215 (Lake Logan Road). Although the Flat Laurel Creek Trail proceeds at an easy grade, as it follows along an old railroad bed until it ends at its eastern terminus at the Black Balsam Parking lot, come prepared for several icy stream crossings and wet patches, as the trail stays close and crosses the creek at several points.  The Flat Laurel Creek Trail to Black Balsam Parking lot is 3.7 miles one way (moderate). Once the hiker reaches the Black Balsam Parking lot, there is still the one 1 mile (strenuous) Art Loeb Connector Trail to Black Balsam, making this winter hike to Black Balsam 4.7 miles (one way).

 

3. Shining Rock

from Big East Fork Trailhead

The white quartz outcropping that gave the "Crown Jewel of the Blue Ridge" its name can often be seen shining from the Balds of Black Balsam and Tennent Mountains on sunny summer days. Although Shining Rock is usually accessed via the Art Loeb or Ivestor Gap trails, Shining Rock can also be accessed via the Big East Fork Trailhead on NC 276.  The hiker either has a choice of two trails - the more rugged and less used the Old Butt Knob Trail (3.6 one way); or the more moderate but more hazardous due to multiple water crossings, Shining Creek Trail (3.4 one way). For the adventurous hiker who wants a taste of both, the combination of these two trails make a great seven mile loop hike.