Climbing Cold Mountain – At Last!

Friday, February 23, 2018

More than a year ago, Wayne, Martha, and several other members of the Oconee County Hiking Club traveled to North Carolina’s Shining Rock Wilderness and made the long, hard climb to the top of Cold Mountain. Pam missed the hike that day and so did I. Since then, we’ve both been trying to make plans to get it done, but for one reason or another, we just hadn’t managed to do it until now. She, Wayne, and I were going to try to hike it together the previous Friday but had changed our plans. If you’ve read my last post, you know that because the weather forecast was calling for rain by the early afternoon, we had decided to hike the Farlow Gap Trail and the Daniel Ridge Loop in Pisgah National Forest instead.

A Few Details

The Shining Rock Wilderness consists of almost 18,500 acres of protected land and is the largest wilderness area in the state. There are five peaks within the wilderness that rise to over 6,000 feet. At 6,030 feet, Cold Mountain is the highest. The trailhead elevation, according to my altimeter watch, was 3,241 feet.

The Hike

After something like a two hour drive that led us through majestic mountain vistas, beneath the Blue Ridge Parkway, and past an impressive roadside waterfall, we arrived at the trailhead at Camp Daniel Boone. It was a quarter after ten by the time that we put our packs on, geared up, and began to hike. The hike starts out on the Art Loeb Trail. The Art Loeb Trail climbs relentlessly over rugged terrain for roughly four miles as it makes its way to Deep Gap and to the junction for the Cold Mountain Trail. From the junction, it’s still another 1.4 miles to 1.6 miles of steep climbing to actually reach the summit.

Images From Along The Trail

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This kiosk is at the trailhead along Little East Fork Road within Camp Daniel Boone.
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Approaching two miles in, the trail paralleled Sorrell Creek from high above, before descending and taking us down to the creek’s edge.
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Here, Pam is slowly making her way across Sorrell Creek on slippery boulders.
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Successfully on the other side, Pam appears to be watching to see if I’ll fall and take an unexpected dip.
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Here, the trail was lined with Rhododendron and Mountain Laurel.
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A view of the trail from just inches above the beaten path.
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A look inside the nearly hollowed out base of a huge fallen tree.
Some sections of the trail were particularly steep and bouldery.
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Later in our hike, we would be climbing towards that distant crest on our way to the summit.
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After having hiked close to four miles, we arrived at Deep Gap and to this campsite.
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From the gap, the Art Loeb Trail turns to the south and heads toward Shining Rock. The trail to Cold Mountain, on the other hand, turns left and heads North-northeast as it continues to climb to the summit.
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The trail between Deep Gap and the summit climbs steeply at first, then levels briefly along here, before turning sharply uphill again. After awhile, my thighs and lungs began to burn.
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This campsite is very close to the top. It’s probably not more than about a half mile or so away. Pam and I ate our lunches here on our way back down the mountain.
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This picture was taken right below the summit on a small rock outcrop that afforded nearly 180 degree views.
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One final push to the top through low growing, possibly wind and cold stunted vegetation.
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This picture of the U.S. Geological Survey marker at the summit is proof that we actually completed the climb!
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This was my view from the top. Though Pam had turned around to begin the hike down, I decided to sit and linger for a few minutes longer.
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We had worked hard to get here, so I wanted to make sure to take enough time to really enjoy it.

In Conclusion

In all, according to my Garmin GPS, we had hiked a total of 11.2 miles for the roundtrip to the summit and back. Our total vertical elevation gain/loss was close to 6,300 feet. It’s definitely a strenuous hike. I had described the Farlow Gap Trail from the week before as having been a real… butt-kicker! As for this hike, I would describe the climb to the summit of Cold Mountain as having been a real… booger! So how do the two hikes compare? The stats are similar and while it’s hard to say for sure, I think that they are both probably about equally difficult. Thanks for reading.

5 thoughts on “Climbing Cold Mountain – At Last!

  1. Spent the night up there last May. If you ever get the chance to hike in from Shining Rock crossing the Narrows is a highlight of the trip. Beautiful views, rock scrambles, and in early May the Laurel is blooming. Shhh, whats that? I hear the trail calling!! Lonely places waiting for us to keep them company. 🙂

    1. The Narrows sounds like something that I’d like to do. In fact, I’d like to do the entirety of the Art Loeb Trail, possibly as an overnighter, or perhaps three days and two nights. Thanks for reading.

    1. I’ve done a fair amount of hiking solo, but I haven’t hiked in these areas alone as yet. It’s not that I wouldn’t, I just haven’t had the opportunity. I don’t think that any of the people that I normally hike with have either. Some of the trails are popular and more highly trafficked, while some of the trails are more remote and fewer people do them. On this particular day, Pam and I didn’t encounter anybody else, though there was another vehicle parked at the trailhead.

    2. Nope but… The worst part of the Shining Rock system is the lack of trail markings. They have wands with trial names-numbers where branch trails occur which helps, but the trail has a few well worn “sucker trails” where people have missed turns so a map is a must. It’s fairly popular even during the week so you’ll have company. Water is fairly plentiful so carrying a liter at a time is fine. Some of the trails are steep and some exposed. I wouldn’t have any issues hiking it alone.

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