We hiked on Sunday, May 12, with Upstate Hiking on the Art Loeb trail and started at the trailhead off 276 near the Davidson River Campground (which has ample parking). It was a beautiful, sunny day with moderate temperatures. Some of us were wearing shorts and I felt overdressed as I had worn long sleeves. It’s hard in the spring to know what to wear. Always good to remember to dress in layers but I’m not always the best at taking my own advice.
This was a shuttle hike so the drivers dropped the cars off at the fish hatchery up the road a few miles and came back in one car. As shuttle hikes go, this is probably a very good one to do since it is actually a short shuttle. The trail initially starts off pretty flat as it follows the Davidson River but once it turns away from the river across from the first picnic area in the park on 276 it starts to get very strenuous as it switchbacks up. Much of the time, on this section of the Art Loeb, it seems like you are following a ridgeline as the trail takes you up and down into various gaps.
We crossed several forest roads and at one point sat down for lunch in one. Several bicyclists came by as we ate so they are definitely being used. The group took about a 20 minute break to eat and then got moving again.
After lunch, we had another difficult but doable up. Some sections of this trail still have some good views through the trees but there is no completely open place for a stop. At one point, we had a good view of Cedar Rock. The group made its way to the Cat Gap Loop turnoff on our way to John Rock. The trail to John Rock starts as an up and then levels off somewhat. I had it in my mind that this trail was pretty flat. Somehow I always seem to flatten trails out so when someone asks me if a trail is flat and I’ve been there I now just say “don’t quote me!”
The little side trails to John Rock are a little hard to find if you haven’t been there for awhile and we made one foray down a short trail that wasn’t it. But we did find a place where people obviously had camped or built a fire. We continued down the trail another 5 to 10 minutes and found the very short trail to the left that opens to a great view. Above left is a photo of the view from John Rock of the Blue Ridge. My camera picked up on the haze. From John Rock, you can also get a very good view of Looking Glass Rock and the fish hatchery below.
Once past John Rock, the trail starts to work its way down to the fish hatchery. It was full of beautiful wildflowers, unlike the Art Loeb trail, so we were a little slowed down taking photographs. All good.
We met some people coming up from the fish hatchery presumptively hiking to John Rock. I am always amazed by the people who start to hike so late in the afternoon. Not because it is bad. Just because I always worry about getting caught in the dark in a place I am not familiar with. Oh well. Always good to have a flashlight if you are planning to get a late start.
This was a difficult hike but well worth the effort. Definitely a do over.
Mileage was about 10.3. Total elevation gain about 2700 (depending on how you measure it).