Shining Creek-Old Butt Knob Loop Trail is a 8.4 mile lightly trafficked loop trail located near Canton, North Carolina that features beautiful wild flowers and is rated as difficult. The trail offers a number of activity options and is best used from March until October. Dogs are also able to use this trail.
Wonderful S. Appalachian creek and cove, Shining Rock, and views galore. This loop is not blazed because it is located in the Shining Rock Wilderness Area. Some trail junctions are very difficult to recognize. I strongly suggest not attempting this hike without a topo map of the area. A GPS and experience in route finding are also very helpful. Begin on Shining Creek trail (old roadbed) from the Big East Fork Trailhead. Ascend along the creek most of the way to the Art Loeb Trail at the top of the ridge (approximately 4.1 miles). Turn right. You'll see Shining Rock after about 0.5 miles. Stay to the right and ascend uphill near the rock. Just past the trail on the left that leads to the top of the rock for spectacular views look for a faint trail on the right. Turn here on Old Butt Knob Trail. This junction may be difficult to recognize. Continue down this trail to rock outcrops with great views. Continue descending until you intersect with Shining Creek Trail again. Turn left to return to the trailhead.
This trail loop is not for the faint of heart. Depending on your physical condition and age is for the strong of heart or foolish of heart. We took the loop to right, this is a rugged climb, 2500 feet in a little over 2 miles. There are some spectacular views if you take the side trails off the loop. On the main trail itself, the views are sparse, and we hiked in winter when leaves are at a minimum. Continuing on past Shinning Rock there is an option to take a trail to west of the main trail. It looked more traveled, so we took it. It lead through a rich white quartz forest. Huge boulders of quartz and large rocks to hike through, absolutely beautiful. There are no trail blazes on any portion of these trails and we lost the trail in the quartz formations, so be cautious. After 15 minutes of using the Alltrails app to guide us back to the trail, we did locate it and continue on our way. The return along Shinning Creek Path is 3.4 miles of relentless downhill, filled with many obstacles, fallen trees, small creek beds, and leaves that were as much as a foot deep, making footing a guessing game. Once again no trail blazes so there were times the trail was difficult to follow, we looked for evidence of fallen trees cut by chain saws, small patches gravel not indigenous to the area, or well worn roots to help. Overall a good hike with plenty of adventure.
Hike the creek side first. The return up Old Butt Knob is steep but better going up then down. Suggest doing this as a day hike. Fully loaded pack up Old Butt Knob will be challenging.
Hard trail... Very strenuous the first part... Good training for a longer hike (AT). Started at 10am and ended at 4pm , not a lot of breaks... The top of the mountain is overgrown in some sections and a little confusing. Good adventure but not recommend for the casual hiker.
awesome memory . Quite a challenge
Went up Old Butt Knob, up Art Loeb and back down to parking area by the shining creek path. Started right before 9am and got back at 4pm - covering ~16.5 miles in total (per my watch). A few thoughts:
(1) the climb up old butt knob is fairly strenuous, as has been discussed, but I can confirm (2) once off the trailhead, going up old butt knob, I saw zero water sources until I was back on shining creek path. Maybe I didn't know where to look, but I took two liters of water with me on a fairly warm June day and I would not have known where to find water up on the Art Loeb section of my walk. If you area headed up that way to camp, probably best to bring it with you. (3) the old butt knob side of this trail had multiple points where the brush was chest high. It never felt like I lost the trail, but this definitely doesn't seem highly trafficked. (4) I saw one group of hikers all day, which was nice because I don't come to the woods for crowds.
Overall, better than a day at the office. I would hesitate to offer advice on campsites at the top of the loop or up Art Loeb because I don't know of water sources.
I am stingy with 5 stars. This is 5 stars without a doubt. I have seen it billed as all of the benefits of the AT in a weekend and while that is an exaggeration, I get the comparison.
I started at the boycott camp and walked South, which means you lose overall altitude. 4 miles or so up and then I tool the spur up to the top of cold mountain and slept there. It sounds better than it was. No views, but hey, they named a movie after it so I checked that box.
You then go South through the Shining Rock Wilderness and pass through an area called the narrows, which is just really tall weeds/plants and a little eerie. Then a really solid ridgline with some scrambling. Past some pines and eventually into the open where you hit Flower Gap and are treated to about 6-7 miles of awesome vistas with a lot of up and down over the peaks.
Past black balsam knob and you go down to cross the BRP. Then it is about 18- 20 more miles of peaks with vistas at most of the tops. Much more forested and the climbs get smaller as you get nearer the end. Finish through rhododendron tunnel and out into the campground area.
A couple pieces of advice:
1. Locate water sources before you go. there are not a lot of them so miss one and you will get thirsty
2. If you go late summer/fall be advised when you are in the open area the bees are nuts. Just suck it up and go because you will not avoid them. I did not get stung but the hum of the bees was like a plane
3. Look at a picture of the junction in shining rock. You can take a wrong turn very easily and walk for quite a way
4. I backpacked it and took 2 nights. Take you time and enjoy but...
5. Most of all, do this hike!
We hiked this mid July starting with Old Butt Knob Trail and back down Shining Creek Trail. The Old Butt Knob Trail head is about .5 mile on the right after you begin the hike. It is not marked and easy to miss. The first 1.5 miles is very steep and strenuous but footing is good. I recommend pacing yourself. After that the elevation gain is about 700 feet per mile. This is a beautiful hike and the short offshoot trails to the left are the best part of the trail because the mountain views are incredible. The last 1.5 miles are very tight quarters with the white rhododendrons and the blueberries. You really have to to pick your way through the bushes in several spots. Trail visibility is very tough in many areas. At the top of the trail you will see the junction to your left where the return begins. Don't take this trail yet. Shining Rock is actually straight ahead through very thick brush and blueberries. After you enjoy the reward, return to the trail junction and take the trail down that has white quartz rocks in the trail. This will take you to a small meadow and then part of the Art Loeb Trail. You will soon see the Shining Creek Trailhead sign on the left coming off the Art Loeb Trail. This trail descends quickly and then gets more gradual. It is very wet and rocky most of the entire trip back. You will slip and slide during this descent. Very opposite of the Old Butt Knob trail. The rewards, however, are worth it. There are many cascades along the way that are very beautiful. You will eventually end at the Big East Fork parking area. This is a very strenuous hike but the reward for doing it is worth it.
Great trail, recommend taking north/upper trail from trailhead. This is because of a difficult vertical climb (around 1,200 ft up over the first mile) that is horrible to come back down. Loved the trail, had a great many sites throughout.
Didn't make it to the summit. The trail needed some maintenance a few miles in. Otherwise a nice moderate hike!