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
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
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
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
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.
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.