View – the nearly 360 degree view from the 5072 ft. Pilot Mountain summit gives commanding views of the mountain ranges to the east and to the west in the Pisgah National Forest, including Black Balsam and Looking Glass Rock. The north face of Pilot Mountain is populated with the rare wild mountain azaleas that bloom the first week of May. This bloom event is not to be missed.
Hike Profile – the hike is a loop that climbs to the summit of Pilot Mountain on the Art Loeb trail and then returns via the Art Loeb trail to Deep Gap and FS 229 back to the trailhead. The Art Loeb trail climbs through a series of switchbacks to the top of a knob then makes a short descent to an open area to what may have at one time been a logging road. The trail then begins a moderately steep climb through thick mountain laurel to the open bare rock of the Pilot Mountain summit. The Art Loeb trail makes a series of switch backs down the backside (north) of the mountain to Deep Gap. A short spur trail branches off to the right that connects to FS 229, a gravel/dirt road which crosses the Art Loeb ascent trail twice before reaching the trailhead.
Trail Surface – mostly smooth dirt with some roots. A few areas have eroded with stones showing.
Environment – an upland forest with rhododendron and mountain laurel on the steep side of Pilot Mountain The FS 229 road goes through an open woodland.
Navigation – the Art Loeb II Trail is well-marked and easy to follow from Gloucester Gap, across Pilot Mountain summit and down to Deep Gap. As the trail starts to level out at the bottom of Deep Gap, there is a spur trail that forks off to the right where it meets FS 229. The trail is only 20 yards long and you should be able to see the Forest Service road which is more like a trail at this point. Take a right onto FS 229. After a couple of miles and before FS 229 comes to the trailhead, it will cross the Art Loeb trail twice. This is the same trail that you made the ascent on. You can shorten the return to the trailhead by switching over to the Art Loeb trail at this point for the final part of the descent to Gloucester Gap.
Directions to Trailhead – From the intersection of NC 280 and US 276 north of Brevard, take US 276 to the Pisgah National Fish Hatchery on FS 475 (Fish Hatchery Road.) Continue on FS 475, which becomes a gravel road, about 6.5 mi. to Gloucester Gap at the intersection of FS 475, FS 471, and FS 229. There is no established parking area, but a pull off for 2-3 vehicles. The trailhead starts to the right of the intersection across from FS 475 up several stairs.
Wild Mountain Azaleas