Tennent Mountain Loop (3-29-16)
If I had to make a list of 'Best Hikes in North Carolina', the 5-mile loop out to Tennent Mountain would rank solidly in the Top 5. Rarely along this entire hike are your eyes not drawn to sweeping views in all directions. A full 2.5 miles of this hike, over Tennent and neighboring Black Balsam Knob, is almost exclusively wide open as you walk through one of the largest expanses of southern bald in the Appalachians. The best part is that, due to the high elevation of the trailhead, one can enjoy all this beauty for relatively little effort. Granted, this means you'll rarely be alone up here but its hard to care with eye candy of the type you'll be treated to.
This particular loop hike begins from the busy trailhead at the Ivestor Gap Trailhead located at the end of the Black Balsam Knob access road. The hike can be done in either direction, clockwise or counter, depending on whether or not you want to walk the relatively level Ivestor Gap Trail first or save it for after the climbing is done. I traveled it this day in a counter-clockwise direction as I didn't want to be walking into the sun for pictures along the spectacular open bald section of the hike. Leaving the trailhead I'd ascend to the open ridge via the short but relatively steep Art Loeb Spur Trail. I'd then follow the Art Loeb itself for the two mile trek over Black Balsam and Tennent Mountains. At the junction of the Art Loeb and Ivestor Gap Trail I would then turn south to follow the IGT back to my car.
So, come along with me on one of the premier short day-hikes in all the Southern Appalachians. Pictures struggle to express just how amazing this area is. The following is my feeble attempt to do so, enjoy!
Trailhead GPS Coordinates: 35.325752, -82.881991
Route Type: Loop Difficulty: MODERATE
Mileage Hiked: 4.7 miles Hike Duration: 2:00
Trailhead Temp: 50'F Trail Traffic: 25-50 people
Min. Elevation: 5,710' Max. Elevation: 6,213'
Total Vertical Gain: 720' Avg. Elevation Gain / Mile: 153'
Trails Used (Blaze Color):
Art Loeb (white), Art Loeb Spur (unblazed), Ivestor Gap (unblazed)