Sluice Boxes State Park

Sluice Boxes State Park is located at 38 Evans Riceville Rd., Belt, MT — Latitude/Longitude: (47.212 / -110.935). The 7.5 mile trail begins at Riceville bridge and hikes along soaring cliffs and precipitous ledges.  Remains of mines, a railroad, and historic cabins line Belt Creek as it makes its way through the canyon carved in limestone.

We drove to the trail terminus at the top of the canyon and hiked a few hundred yards before the cliffs got too dangerous for the kids. Then, we drove down to the trail head at the river and the kids swam in the river while Phil, Jake and I explored part of the trail.

Art Loeb Trail – Black Balsam & Tenant Mtn

  • Distance: 5 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 600 feet
  • Difficulty: Easy to Moderate

Our usual plan of attack for this hike is to park in the Ivestor Gap Parking Lot and walk the old roadbed to Ivestor Gap. Next, we hike over the top of Tenant Mountain and then onto Black Balsam and back to the road. There is a 1/4 mile walk down the road back to the parking lot.

The section of the Art Loeb trail from the Ivestor Gap Access Road over Black Balsam and Tenant Mtn is easy to get to and a fairly easy little walk with spectacular views. During blueberry season, this trail is crowded with berry pickers.

Some of our Tenant Mtn. Hikes:

Ivestor Gap – Tenant Mtn.

Distance: 5 miles Elevation Gain: 600 feet Difficulty: Easy to Moderate Our usual plan of attack for this hike is to park in the Ivestor Gap Parking Lot and walk the old roadbed to Ivestor Gap. Next, we hike over the top of Tenant Mountain and then onto Black Balsam and back to the road. … Continue reading Ivestor Gap – Tenant Mtn.

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Art Loeb: Graveyard Ridge Loop

  • Distance: 5 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 600 feet
  • Difficulty: Easy to Moderate

This section of the Art Loeb Trail begins on the right of F.R. 816 at the Black Balsam parking area 0.8 mile north of the Blue Ridge Parkway. For the first 10 yards, the Mountains to the Sea Trail shares the same trail before it descends to the right. Staying on the Art Loeb, we hiked .6 miles to the summit of Black Balsam Knob. The 360 degree views are worth the short hike there.

The main trail continues straight ahead descending to a small saddle. Continuing on to a series of switchbacks to the summit of Tennent Mtn at 1.6 mile.

Descend down to the junction with Ivestor Gap Trail at 2.2 miles.  The trail ascends  to a pine grove and descends through a thick pine grove to Ivestor Gap after 2.4 miles. Turn left at the Shining Rock Wilderness sign walking on a gravel road.

Some of our Graveyard Ridge Hikes:

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Indian Gap

AT: Newfound Gap to Indian Gap

  • Distance Hiked: 3.4 miles Round Trip
  • Elevation Gain: 735 ft.

The Appalachian Trail crosses the Smoky Mountain Parkway at Newfound Gap. Leaving the gap and hiking north on the AT takes you to the junction of the Boulevard Trail up Mt. LeConte to the lodge. Phil and I have taken this trail more times than I can count.

This day, we decided to take a little walk out and back south of the gap in the direction of Clingman’s Dome. The 1.7 miles stretch of trail between Newfound Gap and Indian Gap is a gentle walk along the ridge top with views off both sides. The elevation gain isn’t strenuous. I would say that this short trail section would be a beginner’s trail.

When you reach Indian Gap, it junctions the road up to Clingman’s Dome. So, if you don’t want to walk back out the way you came, you can walk down the road back to the parking lot at Newfound Gap.

Newfound Gap to Indian Gap

The 1.7 miles stretch of trail between Newfound Gap and Indian Gap is a gentle walk along the ridge top with views off both sides. The elevation gain isn’t strenuous. I would say that this short trail section would be a beginner’s trail.  

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Avery Creek Loop

Avery Creek Loop

  • Pressley Cove : 1.1
  • FR #5098: .2
  • Black Mountain: 5.1
  • Buckwheat Knob:  1.5
  • Bennett Gap: 2.9

  • Total Distance 10.8 miles (per map)
  • Total Elevation Gain: 3162′

This is a VERY HARD hike.  What makes it hard is the elevation gain … going down hill … and having to re-climb the same 500 feet … over and over. In my opinion, it is easier to hike counter-clockwise. You climb a lot of the elevation early in the hike while you are still fresh. We’ve hiked it clockwise, but that way, 2/3 of the hike is uphill.

The Pressley Cove trailhead is approximately 2 miles on the right on Forest Service Road #477 after you turn off Highway 276 from Brevard. Take a right where Pressley Cove trail intersects FR#5098 and walk .2 mile to Pressley Gap. Take a left on Black Mountain trail.  Hike 3 miles to the  Buckhorn Gap shelter. Continue for 2.1 miles to Club Gap.

At Club Gap, take the Buckwheat Knob trail (1.5 miles) to Bennett Gap trail. You will remain on Bennett Gap trail for 2.9 miles back to where you started the hike.

This trail is popular with mountain bikers. It is best hiked during the late fall, winter and early spring (cooler) months for several reasons. This trail is popular with mountain bikers and there will be a lot less bikers during the icy months. The second reason is that the leaves are off the trees and you can see further.  There are nice views of “Looking Glass” mountain that you can’t see from any road.

Take plenty of water and some food.  You will need it!

Avery Creek Loop

The Avery Creek area near Brevard is an area that both Phil and I have driven by our entire lives but never stopped to investigate. We turned right off Hwy 276 just past the rangers station on our way out of Brevard. The dirt road through this low valley has several roadside camping sites, horse … Continue reading Avery Creek Loop

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Avery Creek Ridge Loop

Today Phil and I hiked the Avery Creek Loop … 10.8 miles, with 3162′ of elevation gain. It was our second time to hike this particular loop. It is a hard hike. We took a couple of PBJ’s for lunch and lots of water. We didn’t really make good time because we had to keep stopping for mountain … Continue reading Avery Creek Ridge Loop

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Bearwallow Mtn. Trail

Bearwallow Mtn.

Location

  • Distance: 2.3 miles (road/trail loop)
  • Elevation Gain: 594′
  • Difficulty: Moderate

The trailhead is at Bearwallow Gap, located at the crest of Bearwallow Mountain Road where the road surface turns from gravel to pavement. Park on the graveled area on the shoulder of the road.

Directions from Downtown Asheville

Take I-240 to US-74 Alt East toward Bat Cave. Stay on US-74 Alt for about 12.5 miles. When you reach the town of Gerton (after a series of curves in the road), turn right onto Bearwallow Mountain Road, which is a residential area at the bottom. Continue for 2.1 miles up this road, which will turn to gravel and become steeper as you climb. When you reach the top, you’ll see a metal gate on the left, which is at the entrance to the trail. The road is paved again at the top and you can park on the left or right side of the road.

Trail Description

The trail begins behind a metal gate. Walk around it on its right side by squeezing between the gate and a fence. The beginning of the trail is immediately on the right, marked by a kiosk, blazes, and a set of log stairs.

I prefer to make this a loop hike and after I go around the metal gate, I continue up the gravel drive for 1 mile to the towers at the top of the mountain.  Coming back down, the trialhead turns off the gravel road to the left. The trail meanders it’s way thru hardwood forest back down to the metal gate.

 

Some of our Bearwallow Mtn. Hikes:

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Black Mountain Trail

Black Mountain Trail

  • Distance: 7.8 miles one way
  • Elevation Change: 2125 feet
  • Difficulty: Strenuous!

The trailhead is located at a small parking lot next to the Pisgah Forest Ranger Station on US 276, 1.4 miles north of the junction with Hwy 280.

Begin walking on the gravel road beside the fence past the sign for the trailhead for 0.2 miles where Black Mountain Trail leaves the road and forks to the left. The Mountains-to-the-Sea Trail ALTERNATE merges in from the right after 1/2 mile.

The highlight of the trail is Buckhorn Gap Shelter. It is picturesque with a spring just feet from the shelter.

Some of our Black Mtn. Hikes:

Black Mtn. USGS Marker

Pressley Cove to Black Mtn. Trail

Total Distance: 5.2 miles round trip Total Elevation Gain: 1809 ft. Difficulty: Strenuous! Sunday, January 9, 2014 It was a bluebird day as the temperature climbed from the low 30’s to the mid 50’s — a great day to be outside in the woods. We accessed Pressley Cove Trailhead on Avery Creek Road (Forest Service Road … Continue reading Pressley Cove to Black Mtn. Trail

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Blue Ridge Parkway: Wagon Rd Gap to Pisgah Inn

In the winter, the park service doesn’t spend the money to plow the snow and melt ice on the Blue Ridge Parkway. They close the gates to all automobile traffic.

We access the parkway off Highway 276 15 miles north of Brevard at Wagon Road Gap and park at the parking lot at the top of the entrance ramp. The parkway is gated in both directions.

Blue Ridge Parkway

Blue Ridge Parkway

When it snows, a lot of people park at the gap and walk past the gates in both directions. Kids take sleds and enjoy sliding down the roads. Cross country and telemark skiers take advantage of the opportunity to get in some miles without worrying about traffic. Phil and I like to go an walk on the road in the snow. The Mountains to the Sea Trail crosses the parkway about 1/2 mile southwest of the gap. We hike that trail often.

Some of our BRP Roadwalks:

BRP Walk

In the winter, the park service doesn’t spend the money to plow the snow and melt ice on the Blue Ridge Parkway. They close the gates to all automobile traffic. We access the parkway off Highway 276 15 miles north of Brevard at Wagon Road Gap and park at the parking lot at the top … Continue reading BRP Walk

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