A nice hike exploring the birds, wildflowers, and more on the Sam’s Knob and Art Loeb Trails in the Black Balsam area. This is a moderate hike with some uphill and downhill hiking, but nothing too strenuous. Be prepared to hike 3-4 miles in total on a combination of paved & dirt/gravel road, and some rocky trails. Part of the trail will be exposed to the sun so please bring sunscreen, hat, and sunglasses.
The Black Balsam area is surely one of the most breathtaking landscapes in the Western NC region. Well known among locals and tourists alike, the mountains here host a number of ridgetop trails which traverse the windswept, mountain bald terrain. These trails, including the famous 32 mile long Art Loeb Trail, allows visitors multiple opportunities at experiencing spectacular 360-degree views which include such famed peaks as Cold Mountain. Located right off the Blue Ridge Parkway at mile marker 420, Black Balsam is also a fantastic birding area, hosting good numbers of Alder & Least Flycatcher, Veery and Hermit Thrush, and Canada, Black-throated Blue, Black-throated Green, Blackburnian, and Chestnut-sided Warblers. Dark-eyed Juncos call from the spruce-tops and Red Crossbill are regularly seen, albeit mostly as flyovers. Ruffed Grouse can be common and in late summer it is possible to see hens with fluff-ball chicks, often startling visitors as they burst noisily from the trail and roadsides. This is also a good area to be on the lookout for Black-capped Chickadee, a bird we can only find in certain high-elevation areas. By mid-August many of the birds will be done breeding but some of them, such as Alder Flycatcher, should still be singing and we may find an abundance of younger birds and fledglings, as well as the first southbound migrants of fall migration.
Our hike will take us through mountain meadows with blackberry thickets and rhododendron as well as pockets of spruce-fir and northern mixed hardwood forest, to the summit of Sam’s Knob, where amazing views await. We’ll also do sections of the Ivestor Gap and Art Loeb Trails, as well as part of the paved road, before the day is out.
Join Aaron for a mostly easy hike through one of the region’s most beautiful areas!