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Shining Rock Suggested Hikes

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There are many loops and in and out hikes that can be done here, this listing is not intended as a hiking guide. Use the topographical map to navigate and plan your hike.
2000 to 3000 foot climbs are necessary to climb from the deep valleys to the highest points in the wilderness area. A topographical map is a must in this area.
You also can combine a series of trails here to make a relatively moderate hike here as well. Due the large amount of logging roads and railroad grades, easy to moderate hikes can be planned. Below are some of my favorite hikes.

.Order the map for the hikes listed below here>>

The Balds

My current favorite short hike, this one can be short and sweet or as long as you like. A short walk from the first parking area on Forest Road 816 (Black Balsam Road) this one has the best views in this area. Park at the first "pull off" style parking lot on Black Balsam Road. This is approximately one half of a mile from the Blue Ridge Parkway. Enter the blazed Art Loeb / Mountains to the Sea Trail (#146) and turn to the north (left). Follow the trail through a dense fir forest for one quarter of a mile and begin your descent to the first bald. After a walk of one half of a mile, you will see a great view of Graveyard Fields, the Middle Prong Wilderness and Looking Glass Rock.

The views only get better as you continue up the Art Loeb Trail. You may camp here and I highly recommend it. Waking up to this view is a greatest pleasure.

After crossing the fist bald, the Art Loeb Trail continues north. Take the side trail that climbs to the summit of Black Balsam bald, elevation 6214 feet. This is an un-official trail but it takes you to the top of the highest point on this section of the Great Balsam Mountains. You may continue following the many trails here, they all lead to the Art Loeb Trail. If you continue, the trail drops in elevation to a small gap. The next high point is Tenent Mountain. A plaque at the top is a tribute to George Tennent, one of the moving forces behind the Carolina Mountain Club. At this point you can back track to return to you car. You do not have to follow the exact trail that you came from. After descending Tennent Mountain, any trail that leads over the balds that you just hiked over will lead you in the right direction and back to your car. Be sure to stay on top of the balds for the best views and to orient yourself.

Shining Rock Grand Loop

I consider this hike to be the "Grand Tour", it begins and ends at the same parking lot described above. For a comfortable hike, make this one an overnighter. Take the Art Loeb Trail (#146) North and cross the balds described above. After descending from Tenent Mountain, you will walk on a very well defined and used forest road. Take this forest road until you reach the Tri-Board at Ivestor Gap. At Ivestor Gap, the Trail splits. To the right is Trail 145 and Grassy Cove Top, a huge hill that is covered with blueberry bushes. Follow the trail over the north shoulder of the mountain and continue to Flower Gap.

After Flower Gap, you enter a damp, dense and beautiful northern hardwood forest. Follow this path , Trail 145, another mile until you reach Shining Rock Gap. At this trail junction, you can take four choices of trails. The trail that is in the center, that is straight ahead, leads to the Shining Rock formation. This short section of trail leads through a maze of small rocks and craggy trees. The white rocks that lay ahead are what are name Shining Rock. A short climb up to these rocks reveals a nice view. Many lay here and gaze at the mountains all around.

After returning to the trail junction at Shining Rock Gap, follow the path to the right and you find the Art Loeb Trail. Follow this trail in the direction that you started from. This section of the Art Loeb Trail is a pleasant and relatively level hike. It follows an old logging railroad grade and is extremely smooth. The green forests of northern hardwoods provide a cool shade like no other forest. This is even more pronounced in the hot summer months. Although it rarely gets hot at this elevation, the cool forest is welcome during summer season.

After following the Art Loeb Trail several miles, you return to the tri-board at Ivestor Gap. You can follow the Art Loeb Trail or follow the old road. Either way will return you to you car. Loop map>>


Shining Creek Loop - Big East Fork Loop

Begriming on RT 276, this is a three day loop that takes you through the best features of the Shining Rock Wilderness. You begin on the Big East Fork Trail (#357). This trail winds along the Big East Fork, climbing up through the valley to the higher elevations. You begin at a relatively low elevation, passing through some very old trees. As you climb to Ivestor Gap, the forest and ground cover changes. After the climb to Ivestor Gap, you follow the Art Loeb Trail. This section of the trail is welcome after the 3000 foot elevation change from the trail head. After following the trail for 3 miles, you will come to a trail intersection just before Shining Rock Gap. This intersection is easy to miss as it, like so many other trails in this wilderness area, is unmarked. The trail is in as stand of conifers. You will have to walk through the clearing under the trees to find the trail. After you find the trail, you begin to hike along the headwaters of Shining Creek. The trip down this trail is steep, however, the creek scenes steal the show. There are many nice camping spots along Shining Creek. After a few miles, and a three thousand foot elevation change, you are back at the parking area.

Cold Mountain Hike

This hike has a 3000+ foot elevation change. Begin at the Boy Scout Camp Daniel Boone trail head. There is limited parking here on weekends, so planning a hike during the week avoids this. Follow the Art Loeb Trail from the tri-board, up to an exhilarating 3000 foot elevation change. After a hike up through a beautiful forest, you will reach Deep Gap. Follow the trail to Cold Mountain. Back track to return.

Flat Laurel Creek Trail (Formerly Sam Knob Trail)

A very pleasant, relatively level 3.5 mile hike that follows a railroad grade, this is another all time favorite.

The Art Loeb Trail

The 30 mile Art Loeb Trail begins (or ends) at the Davidson River Campground. The longest hike in this area, it take approximately 4 days to hike it. The sites that it passes are second to none and you ascend through different ecosystems as you climb towards the Shining Rock Wilderness. Begging in a lush valley, you climb through several ecosystems gradually ascending to the Shining Rock Wilderness. I you want to see all that this area has to offer, this is the hike for you.

Gettin' There

At Blue Ridge Parkway milepost 412, turn northwest on US 276. Travel approximately 1.25 miles to Big East Fork Parking Area. For a less strenuous access, exit the Blue Ridge Parkway at milepost 420.2 onto FR 816. Travel 1 mile to parking area. The Ivestor Gap Trail leads into the wilderness.


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