Black Balsam/Chestnut Knob Loop Hike Route Map

Black Balsam-Chestnut Bald Loop

It's no secret that Black Balsam Knob and the peaks and ridges surrounding it are some of my favorite places to hit the trail for a day or an afternoon.  I'm always looking at the map to come up with a new loop to do to keep things fresh and on this day I put one together I hadn't spotted that, despite it being a busy Saturday, would keep me isolated from the suffocating crowds.  My plan was to follow the Flat Laurel Creek Trail down from the Ivestor Gap Trailhead and then cut over to the Mountains-to-sea Trail via the Little Sam Trail.  From there I'd circle back along the MST and Art Loeb finishing with a quick climb of Black Balsam Knob itself.

With much of the hike flirting with the 6,000-foot mark it'd be a refreshing circuit that would take me back to Chestnut Bald and the stunning views along the ridge followed by the MST.  The mountain laurel, rhododendron, and azalea were all in bloom, the air was crisp and clear, and the rain stayed away making for an amazing new circuit I am sure to visit again.  Aside from the expected crowds on Black Balsam I met a grand total of two other hikers along the entire rest of the loop!  Come along with me on this lightly used corner of the spectacular Black Balsam Knob ridge and see what I found...

Trailhead GPS Coordinates:  35.325752, -82.881991

Route Type:  Loop + spur          Difficulty:  HARD  (Petzoldt Rating:  8.70 )

Hike Length: 6.5 miles                Hike Duration: 3:00

Trailhead Temp: 65'F                 Trail Traffic:  10-25 people

Min. Elevation: 5,500'                  Max. Elevation: 6,214'

Total Vertical Gain: 1,100'            Avg. Elevation Gain / Mile: 169'

Trails Used (Blaze Color): Art Loeb (white), Art Loeb Spur (unblazed), Ivestor Gap (unblazed), Flat Laurel Creek (orange), Little Sam (yellow), Mountains-to-Sea (white)


  • Stephanie Woodson

    on December 1, 2020

    Thanks for this write up! It gave us the confidence to trek out and explore sans All Trails; we had a spectacular, solitary winter hike until the last jag (which was to be expected).

  • Dave Kathy Weemhoff

    on June 15, 2015

    What a spectacular hike!!!