Pilot Mountain (1-25-15)
First off let me explain this IS NOT the more famous Pilot Mountain of North Carolina which is located north of Winston-Salem. This particular Pilot Mountain is located in the Pisgah Ranger District of Pisgah National Forest, not far from Brevard. This is one of those peaks which is seen by thousands but climbed by hardly anyone...myself included up until this hike.
Pilot Mountain is a highly visible peak which sits just below Devil's Courthouse on the Blue Ridge Parkway and strikes a very pointed profile when seen from NC-215 nearby. Pilot had been the subject of many photos I had taken from both those places but never for some reason had it ever entered my mind to climb it. This is most likely because it looks to be, from a distance, a thickly forested peak which fails to reach the elevations of its loftier neighbors and doesn't sport any obvious cliff faces or ledges. A recent afternoon need to just get out prompted me to look at my close-to-home options and I came across a trip report stating that Pilot did indeed sport some incredible views from its summit. Sitting in the shadows of the 6,000-foot-plus Great Balsam Range I knew that, if this report was true, Pilot Mountain was a peak I needed to climb. A glance at my map showed that to climb it only required a quick 5-mile loop so it fit the bill perfectly for a late day quickie hike.
My route would consist of a lollipop-style loop. Beginning at the Art Loeb Trailhead at Gloucester Gap along Forest Road 475 just east of Balsam Grove I'd follow the Art Loeb up and over Pilot Mountain to Deep Gap. I'd then utilize the seasonally gated Forest Road 229, following it south from Deep Gap, for a more leisurely return route. As it turned out the reports are true...the panoramic views to the east, west, and south are more than worth the effort required to climb to the top. It's not often I find a hidden hiking gem like this so close to home. Come on along and see what I found...
Trailhead GPS Coordinates: 35.265926, -82.846882
Route Type: Loop Difficulty: HARD
Hike Length: 5.5 miles Hike Duration: 2:30
Trailhead Temp: 45'F Trail Traffic: 1-5 people
Min. Elevation: 3,250' Max. Elevation: 5,100'
Total Vertical Gain: 1,850' Avg. Elevation Gain / Mile: 740' (ascent)
Trails Used (Blaze Color):
Art Loeb (white), Forest Road 229 (unblazed)