Explore the most popular walking trails in Shining Rock Wilderness Area with hand-curated trail maps and driving directions as well as detailed reviews and photos from hikers, campers and nature lovers like you.

this hike exceeded all expectations!!!! veryy rewarding! stunning and endless veiws, you're going to want to allow a lot of extra time to enjoy them. heavily trafficked. also I read some reviews prior to my trip and one mentioned the bathroom being pretty filthy-- quite the understatement actually I was blown away and disturbed buy how disgusting they actually were. strong warning- Beware!!!

Take this COUNTER-clockwise to minimize trail loss on the infuriatingly vague relentless Southern ascent, the crazy labyrinth of squirrel runs trying to find Shiny Rock, and the super slippy descent through Hobbit sized openings in the brush.

1 month ago

Good trail not marked at all and a lot of side trails

Flat and rocky. Many other better alternatives nearby to the same locations, but can be relaxing. If it has rained within the week expect parts of the trail to be completely covered by puddles with plenty of dense mud

Start to finish
One day hike. Is rough

I attempted this trail once before but started too late and took the way to the right and realized i would not make t before dark. It’s not safe to do this in the dark as some areas require a bit of rock climbing. We did this hike again in the winter, one of the warmer days. It’s was a difficult hike but fun. I didn’t do a loop and came down the same way I came up. My nephew as cousin took the way to the right and did the loop. The trail is not well marked or always seen so got lost a few time. It was fun but probably will not do it again.

2 months ago

Did this as a 2 night backpacking trip. Well established trail but NOT marked. Tough, rocky terrain that can be slippery after rain but elevation gain isn’t bad. We had intended to continue on to Greasy Cove Trail and loop around Shining Creek Path back to the trailhead but we could not find the trail after 2 hours so we made an out and back of Big East Fork.

All in all a good first time trip for this novice backpacker. Campsites were nice and flat with easy access to the creek for water.

We started and took shining Creek and had planned on coming back old butt. However the trail is NOT 3.4 miles, as it states on the map. It is more close to 6 miles one way so be prepared. It was getting dark on us so We came back out the same way We went in and do not get to do old butt. This trail was very pretty with lots of water Cascades. We tracked The trail to be around 12.5 round trip. The trail is NOT marked and is very confusing to what is and is not the trail. This trail even with a map would be super easy to get lost. we ran into other hikers and they were just as confused as we were and some had done the trail before. It would be nice if they could have some small makers at least on some of the places.

I really enjoyed this loop. The forecast was calling for Armageddon, but it ended up only coming down the morning of our last night. It’s a tough hike with a good balance of gains and losses. If you camp at Shining Rock Gap there’s a spring on the left of the trail as you head south on Art Loeb. If you hike up Cold Mountain there’s a PVC pipe sticking out of the side of the mountain about 0.75 miles up. And I’m super stoked that I wasn’t murdered by a bear or blown off the mountain while I slept. If I did this trip again I’d probably plan on camping at Shining Rock Gap for the first night and Deep Gap for the second where campsites are established and water sources are close by. All in all it was a good trip. If you feel so inclined, you can read more about my trip at: http://bit.ly/coldmtnloop

My wife and I did this loop in November of ‘17 heading up Shining Creek first (this is the direction I would go). This hike is rated hard and it holds true to that category. It starts out mellow but increases in intensity as you get closer to the summit. I am a fit guy who runs 5 miles a day so while it was tough I enjoyed the challenge. This is NOT a hike you should take a less physical or inexperienced person on... like I did with my wife. It could easily be done in one day if you're up for it and can move quickly. However this is a great hike that you can stretch into 2 or 3 days. There are a few scattered campsites that have been previously occupied along Shining Creek so finding a place to stop is not an issue. Also, there is plenty of access to the creek itself for water or to just relax. Shining Creek doesn't offer much to view other than the peaks above you, a lot of fauna and some large boulders. It is best to take a GPS and a map as this trail is NOT marked at all and some sections are very difficult to see the trail. We even took a few wrong "paths" and we weren't the only ones. We did run into a few people most of whom were day hiking. The water falls along Shining creek are small but they are there and still nice to look at.
Once you reach the summit and hit the Art Loeb there are TONS of camping options and beautiful views. It's definitely worth hiking down the AL for about 5 mins (away from Shining Rock) as there are few clearings with great panoramic views. If you look closely enough along the AL in both directions you can see some slightly worn paths. If you take these through the brush/trees they open up into some amazing and hidden places to camp. The spur/hike up to Shining rock is well worth the 360 degree view. Camping at the summit can get windy at night but it's not too bad. There were several other groups camping when we arrived so it made for a lot of fun meeting others. The summit makes a great place to set up a base camp for a few days so you can to hike to cold mountain, down the Art Loeb towards the knobs or Shining Rock itself. Just down the AL towards the knobs/Black Balsam there is a small spring that provides plenty of water.
The hike towards Old Butt Knob can be VERY confusing as there a lot of small trails that go out to more hidden campsites so if you stick to the most worn path you should be OK. The path that takes you to OBN at Shining rock is also a bit confusing but again stick to the most worn and you will eventually find where you need to be. Just past Shining rock and when you start on OBN there are some more hidden trails and beautiful campsites, especially for those in hammocks. Before you really start descending you will hit a few peaks and some beautiful changes in fauna. Like Shining Creek there are campsites along the trail and some have a decent view but there is no access to water until you reach the bottom at Shining Creek. Keep a close eye out for some small hidden trails off to the side. These lead to some beautiful overlooks where you can get some good photos. Once you start heading down back towards Shining Creek there are virtually no places to camp. Be warned that going down OBN is very tricky and at times you will be sliding down drop offs on your butt (no pun intended). Having a set of poles really pays off here. The beginning isn't too bad but once you reach a certain point it drops off quickly and stays that way for a while. You will hit switchbacks and drop offs for a mile or two.
Overall this is a very rewarding and worthwhile hike. Making it a few overnights is also worth it. Remember that there are no fires allowed but you will see where people have either built a fire or built a fire ring. So you can build a fire but you run the risk of a fine from the rangers who did come through our campsite on the second night. Also a bear proof canister is required though many just hung their packs or bags of food. This year alone many have had their packs stolen by a mom and her cub that have been hanging around so a canister is well worth the weight and bulk.

This is an awesome hike. My only complaint is they need a sign at the intersection (where the hike up to Tennent is on your left and the hike back to Balsaam through the bushes is on your right).

6 months ago

Awesome trail, flat and level, it's a beautiful area.

Loved it a fun loop to hike.

7 months ago

Loved the hike—not sure if we stayed on Big East Fork Trail the whole time, as there are really 0 indications of what trail is what and several split-offs you could venture down. We opted for what appears to be the most traveled path, climbing (gets pretty steep in some parts) alongside a beautiful creek until we reached a dead end with a sign (about 4 miles from trailhead). Then, we took a left and walked about 0.2 miles to a beautiful meadow with two huge panoramic views. It was difficult, I’d even say “hard” in terms of this ranking system. The path we took was about 9.5miles, in total there and back.

We didnt do the full trail. But great place to see some cute creeks, streams and swimming holes in the summer. Also great place to see leaves.

Great hike with a great payoff on top of Tennant Mountain. The views offer shining rock to the west, looking glass to the east and everything in between. Great day hike. Highly suggested. If you want to change the perspective up a little take the Art Lobe out to Tennant Mountain and the graveyard ridge trail to the mountain to sea trail back to the trail head. Some waterfalls and views of the graveyard flats on this route. There is a little more elevation gain on this route on the way back to the trail head.

Awesome trail. Great Views. Some water on the start of the trail. Well worth the hike to the summit.

Starting from end of Black Balsam Road, Ivestor Gap trail is the flat trail to the right of the rest rooms that looks like a fire road. It can get water logged after a good rain. The trail is pretty flat until you get to the intersection with the Art Loeb Trail. Take a right uphill to Tennent Mountain through small trees and blueberry bushes. The trail is rocky and becomes a stream bed during heavy rains so watch your step going up. On the roof at Tennent Mountain, the world opens up with awesome 360 degree views of the Shining Rock Wilderness - quite a spectacle with all the hills, small mountains and far reaching views. From there you descend along the ridge line and then back up to Black Balsam Knob and then down again to the grassy knoll that intersects with the Art Loeb Spur trail which will take you back to the parking lot at the end of Black Balsam Road. Or you can proceed down the Art Loeb trail to the other parking area, but will have to walk down the road to your vehicle. Great loop and very popular on weekends and holidays.

9 months ago

Ivestor Gap trail parallels the Art Loeb Trail, taking you through a nice quiet walk through the woods. While Art Loeb goes over the knolls, Ivestor Gap takes the low flat route from Shining Rock. Some nice stands of hemlocks. Trail can be muddy after a rain, so waterproof hiking boots are a must; also the trail is rocky in places.

Great hike off the BRP. The first half mile sees a ton of traffic as the lower falls are widely accessible to the general public. once past the half mile mark the trail thins out. Dogs do well here. A little messy after rains. Great set of waterfalls and primitive campsite at the top of the falls. Easy/Moderate.

The nearly 4 mile trudge up the ALT from Daniel Boone is rocky....and spooky - very little sun penetrates its thick canopy up to Deep Gap. The CMT spurs to the left with a fairly vigorous 1.4 mile ascent. There are several nice camping spots on the dog leg eastward toward the summit. The top provides a dramatic southward view of the SRW and the route which continues ahead. Its a straight shot from the CMT back to the ALT returning through Deep Gap. The trail becomes brushy and soon ascends up to the rocky Narrows - a pretty demanding climb after the rigors of Cold Mountain. While this section is indeed a narrow path up and down the ridge, most of the viewing is obstructed, save for two cleared spots -one to the east and one to the west. Leaving the Narrows, the ALT continues to climb for another mile then widens and levels as it arrives at Shining Rock Gap. Here, take a convenient, but well deserved side jump onto the summit of the gap's namesake. Ivestor Gap Trail continues the loop southward. After a short 1/4 mile, the Little East Fork Trail branches off to the right, actually paralleling the IGT for a good while. Not a lot of traffic goes through the north end of this trail - pretty brushy, but easy to follow. It gently descends for 2.5 miles until it reaches the Little East Fork Creek. Once crossing it, the trail broadens as it follows the creek for another 2.5 miles back to the scout camp. This last section is far more popular - very reminiscent to both the Big Creek and Deep Creek trails in the Smokies. Water is easily available only on the ascent up to Deep Gap and the descent down to and along the Little East Fork. This loop served well as a long day's workout. Unlike some of the other routes I've done in the Shining Rock / Middle Prong wildernesses, all trails are pretty straight forward and each junctions is obvious.

Very rewarding but challenging hike! Started our hike in the afternoon and got to the top of shining rock at Sunset! Then we headed back and camped at the base of the trail. Would not recommend starting in the afternoon like we did as we did not get back to our camp till the early morning hours (but totally worth it) Easy to get lost so make sure you have a map or someone who is familiar with the trail with you!

10 months ago

The trail is a little rocky in places, but with an easy grade. I enjoyed taking it back from Ivestor Gap after heading out on Art Loeb Trail over Black Balsam Knob and Tennent Mountain. It is not nearly as spectacular, but it still has lots of wonderful views.

Great! We did the loop from Art Loeb Trail
(Halfway up the road between the pkwy & parking lot) over Black Balsam Knob and Tennant Mtn., then took the Ivestor gap trail back towards the car (a nice 5 mile loop). There's an uphill Art Loeb spur trail nearby the parking lot that is def more fun than walking back on the road. Take it too. Very doable. Enjoy!

Easily one of my favorite hikes in the WNC region. Cool landscapes with consistent elevation gain to make the views even better.

11 months ago

Does anyone have the coordinates for the spring after flower gap heading south to north? Should be before shining rock intersection.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Beautiful trail up and back follows the river.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Highly recommend for anyone who has a hard time with inclines because this trail is super fun with great views and little-to-no elevation gain. It is a rocky trail at first but softens up about a mile in. Meets up with Art Loeb for amazing views of Shining Rock Wilderness. Trail then leads you into a covered forest, so you really get to experience a few sceneries for little effort. I looped around on the Art Loeb because I wanted to play on some incline, but really great trail.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Fun trail that follows the river but not marked so be aware of where you are and check maps frequently. Dog friendly.

I arrived with high expectations for this long anticipated hike and they were definitely met. The views while traveling along the lengthy exposed balds are unbelievable. I parked in the lot at the end of the road and walked back a little over half a mile to start on the Art Loeb Trail. It is only a few short minutes before you break out of the trees on the way up to the summit of Black Balsam Knob, the tallest in the immediate area at 6,214 feet. I think I enjoyed Tennent Mountain even more though, with its slightly more challenging climb and descent and, if possible, even more sweeping views (plus fewer people while I was there and a more remote feeling). I turned back after reaching the Ivestor Gap area. The return on the Ivestor Trail was easier with a much more level grade. Be sure to allow more time than usual for a hike of this moderate length so you can take in as much of the undulating scenery as possible!

Load More