From the Black Balsam Access of the Blue Ridge Parkway (Milepost 420.2), a vast trail network fans out exposing you to some of the most exposed hiking in the Southeast. Take a short, but grueling spur up to the Art Loeb Trail and
enjoy 360-degree views from Tennent Mountain and Black Balsam, pick up the Mountains-to-Sea Trail and head either west to the Middle Prong Wilderness (isolated and peaceful) or east to Graveyard Fields (waterfalls), or take the Ivestor Gap Trail about 4 miles into the 18,500-acre Shining Rock Wilderness, where you can scramble atop white quartzite outcrops, then continue on to the famous Cold Mountain. Big advantage: because you start at 5,840 feet, there’s not a lot of climbing.


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