Black Balsam to Little East Fork
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These are pictures from a shuttle hike, which started at Black Balsam Parking area and ended at the Daniel Boone Camp, following Ivestor Gap Trail to Little East Fork Trail. The hike itself is just under 10 miles, but with the elevation profile shown below, easier than other 10 mile hikes would be!
This hike is a great shuttle hike, with an approximately 20 minute car shuttle between the beginning and ending points (Black Balsam Parking area and the Daniel Boone Boy Scout Camp off highway 215. The hike works well in either direction; going from Black Balsam to the Boy Scout Camp is definitely all downhill, but if you go in the other direction, you get the best views of Little East Fork Creek. Walking downstream (as we did on this hike), found us often stopping to turn and look upstream.
The 3 miles of this hike that follow the Little East Fork River are among some of the prettiest of this hike ... the river has a multitude of rapids, little waterfalls, rocky sluices, and sinkholes that the river flows over, through, and around. Much of the hike has you well above the river, but there are several places where you can get down to river level.
The 4 miles along Ivestor Gap Trail is as level of a trail as can be, albeit rocky in a lot of sections. This trail has many springs along its route, making this section also wet in a lot of places.
The upper 3 mile portion of Little East Fork Trail, that goes from Ivestor Gap Trail down to the river provids some gorgeous hiking through very open forest. Several small tributaries that feed into Little East Fork Creek cross the trail, provide rich moist areas which host a wide variety of wildflowers, especially in the spring.
The elevation profile is rather dramatic, in that this hike is truly "all downhill" !!
Elevation Profile of the trail
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GPX data for download: Ivestor Gap Trail to Daniel Boone Camp.
The two trailheads for this hike are Black Balsam Parking Lot and the Daniel Boone Boy Scout Camp.
The Daniel Boone Boy Scout Camp is located southeast of Waynesville, NC. Take highway 215 south (if coming from Waynesville) and turn left onto Little East Fork Road (SR 1129) There is a small sign at this intersection for the camp, and the turn comes immediately after the second of two concrete bridges on the highway that are less than 1/2 mile apart.
Follow Little East Fork road until you come into the camp (approximately 3 1/2 miles from highway 215 ... I didn't measure this ... just a rough estimate). The road becomes a well maintained dirt road. Continue driving through the camp until you come to the place where pavement begins going straight ahead and where the camp's road turns right (often gated), crossing the river on a bridge.
Straight ahead is private property, and is labeled as such. Just before the gated road to the right, there are spots for parking for hikers (signed with the slightly confusing "Forest Service Parking Only"). Park here, and begin your hike by crossing the creek on the bridge. The road continues through more of the camp, and then enters the Shining Rock Wilderness of Pisgah National Forest.
Black Balsam Trailhead is located at the end of Black Balsam road (FS 816), a (sort of) paved road that turns north off the Blue Ridge Parkway, just west of Graveyard Fields, a little over 3 miles from where highway 215 and the Blue Ridge Parkway intersect.