What are good hiking trails and gear for my kid and me?

Can you recommend a hiking trail for my eight-year-old daughter and me near Asheville, North Carolina? I'm looking for a trail beyond five miles, with pretty scenery. Also, what gear--other than water, snacks, and cell phone--do we need?
— Melissa Simmons
Saxapahaw, North Carolina


Try a loop you can create from the Ivestor Gap and Art Loeb trails in the Shining Rock Wilderness in the Pisgah National Forest, about an hour west of Asheville. Start on the Ivestor Gap trail, a flat, old logging road that travels through beech, birch, spruce, and fir around the Tennant Mountains. Choose an out-and-back on the Ivestor, or eventually hook into a portion of the 30.1-mile Art Loeb trail, which will take you straight to the top of 6,214-foot Black Balsam Knob--a fun challenge for your daughter. For more detailed information, Drew and his helpful coworkers at Black Dome Mountain Sports (, just east of downtown Asheville, can help you custom-design the perfect route.

Adventure Medical Kits

In addition to water, snacks, and cell phone, I’d take along the Trails Illustrated map of the Pisgah Ranger District ($12; This detailed, waterproof, and tear resistant topographic map was revised in 2009 and will keep you going in the right direction.

I’d also pack the Women’s Edition Outdoor Adventure Medical Kit ($40; The size of an overstuffed envelope, this new-for-2010 kit is waterproof, lightweight, and has everything women need to hike in safety and comfort: multiple bandages, medications for bee stings, insect bites, and diarrhea, antiseptic wipes to clean cuts and scrapes, cramp-relief tablets, tampons, and an odor-proof bag. They even thought to include hand sanitizer and Blistex lip moisturizer--two fewer things you need to put on your packing list.

Lead Photo: Courtesy of Adventure Medical Kits