Start by going up the Art Loeb Trail
. Follow for approximately 3.8 miles through some splendid forest, generally climbing but with plenty of rolling sections, until you reach the ridge line. The Cold Mountain Trail
heads off to the left, with some hefty climbing still to be done to get to the summit. The Art Loeb continues to the right, with some hefty climbing of its own still to be done.
The trail will be more overgrown through a lot of this section as it is less frequently used and most people heading up from the TH are heading up Cold Mountain.
You'll get some splendid views that'll give you an excuse to stop and catch your breath, and at the higher section, the forest turns decidedly magical with moss, evergreens, ferns, and a denseness that is unusual, even in an area known for its dense forests.
The trail will begin to flatten out, get rocky and tore up, and just generally become less enjoyable and attractive. That is when you know you are getting close to the turnoff. This next few miles of the Art Loeb and, more-so, the Ivestor Gap #101
trail, contains the most god-awful sections of trail I've had the displeasure of finding in WNC. Ivestor Gap #101
is essentially a gravel road for a sustained stretch. Luckily, you'll get to avoid this.
While on Art Loeb, you'll come across your first sign since the one at the ridgeline where the Cold Mountain Trail
split off. This sign will say nothing of the Little East Fork
trail, but take a right just past it on the well-defined trail. Follow this for about a half a mile. The trail will begin to move around to the left, coming around the ridge, and the Little East Fork
will drop off to the right. You need to look for it, otherwise you'll get stuck on Ivestor Gap #101
and will have to experience what I described above.
The Little East Fork
starts off pretty sparse and almost overgrown. However, stick with it as it gets really good, quickly. The trail drops away gently and simply becomes a splendid singletrack. Used enough to keep it well-defined but not so much that it is getting abused.
It begins to cross some small drainages and switches down the mountain. Eventually, you reach the Little East Fork itself and it is one of the most inviting creeks I've ever come across. The rest of the way down the trail follows this delightful cascade, providing an amazing soundtrack to go with the birds.
Enjoy the run down from this point. The trail becomes more used towards the bottom, presumably as people hike up from the bottom to access the water, but it stays as pleasant as one can hope for. It is so unusual to follow a creek for so long in this area.
The trail eventually empties out into the Boy Scout camp where you'll follow the road back, across a bridge, to the Art Loeb parking area.
There's always something on the plant front. Flaming azaleas, mountain laurel, trillium, rhododendron, and the other usual suspect. I rarely see big critters out in these parts. I don't know why that is. The forests have regenerated nicely from their clear cut days. We haven't seemed to have re-established the animals.
As with anything in this area, I am sure there is a ton of History and Background. I know none of it. If you do, please educate up by adding to this post.