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One of my favorite trails. You will have breathtaking scenery around you every second of the hike.

1 month ago

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:

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.

12/15/17 it’s still heavy covered in snow. There were tracks in the snow up until the split, then it was guessing my way in the snow for the remaining 1.4 miles to the top. I’d recommend wearing gaiters or snowshoes. Much of the trail had 6-12”. +12” near the top made it a difficult hike. Tough hike in general. 3 hrs up and about 2 1/2 on the way down. Great hike, especially doing it in the snow!

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).

Great, quick trail. Needs a sign at the intersection on the other side of the knob (heading towards Tennent mountain).

2 months ago

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

If you like solitude this is the trail for you. The trail is very primitive and hard to follow at some points. There are no markings for the trail nor is there a sign for the trailhead. The trailhead is exactly where this app says it is, it just takes a little exploring on the other side of the stream. Tough hike but the views and solitude are well worth it.

Loved this hike! Did it yesterday 11/3 and the colors were beautiful. It took us about 7 hours to carefully navigate which included a 30 stay at the summit where the views were absolutely stunning. Not an easy hike but well worth the effort.

Loved it a fun loop to hike.

3 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.

This is sort of long so here's the run down. I am a 30 year old guy and like to backpack/camp or hike for the relatively quiet and peaceful experience away from the city (Charlotte) and all that. This trail was absolutely slammed with people. I have never seen anything like it. Used to love this trail. Would not recommend now....

Art Loeb starting at Black Balsam and venturing in to Shining Rock used to be my favorite hike in NC. I hadn't been back here in about 2 years until this past weekend. Black Balsam Knob Rd. used to be sparsely populated with cars and the trail was generally a pleasantly quiet experience.

That said, this past weekend, I have never seen so many people at a trailhead. I am from Charlotte so I will relate it to Crowders. It was like the Crowders parking lot on steroids. We arrived at about 9 a.m. on Saturday to hike up Art Loeb over Black Balsam and then take Ivestor Gap back to Black Balsam Knob Rd as a sort quick loop. First, there was hardly a place to park. Once we actually got on the trail we essentially hiked in a single-file line (behind some guy with a portable speaker blasting music from his backpack) and topped Black Balsam Knob to find a crowd of SnapChat/Instagram girls taking group selfies and the like. People drop their dog poop bags on the side of the trail. Tons of people venturing off trail in to vegetation and such for that "perfect photo."

Once we hit Ivestor everything chilled out a bit until we got back to the road where it looked like the parking lot exploded with people and cars. There were so many people walking around seemingly lost, dogs running around off leash (we have a dog and brought her and luckily she is very friendly with other animals), cars frantically trying to find a parking spot, etc. We parked maybe .25 miles down the road and I was stopped maybe 7 times in about 5 minutes to ask what I thought the people should do or where they should go and what to look for.

The trail is beautiful and if you can experience it during the week or something when it would be a lot less packed I would highly recommend it. Also, maybe I am just being a jerk. If you don't mind the noise and like that sort of trail mentality then go for it.

I just prefer being out in nature to get away from the noise and distractions of people and to enjoy (seemingly; thanks Leave No Trace) undisturbed places. If you are like me, I would suggest you try somewhere else.

3 months ago

Great hike, but not for the beginner! Difficult hike, not marked well. Many obstacles to navigate (downed trees, streams, boulders, etc.). Give yourself at least 6 hours. Wonderful views at the summit. Several streams for water, and a spring near the top.

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.

This trail was my favorite in the Blue Ridge. You can keep going for a day if you really wanted to. You hike from peak to peak over looking graveyard fields. Great hike to see mountains and the 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.

Holy Smokey Mountains! I know balds are usually known for their amazing 360 degree views, but this place was stunning in the dense fog. I bet I wouldn't even recognize it if I went back on a clear day. It made for fantastic pictures and a crisp hike. Loved seeing everyone and their puppies just grinning ear to ear. Don't pass this one up!

Easy trail with panoramic views!

Just stumbled on this site and wanted to relate a story I've had online for some years about a dog who helped me home along this very strenuous, very rewarding trail. 15 years ago we didn't have Internet resources so I picked this particular weekend's adventure not knowing exactly what I was getting myself into. It was quite the adventure and definitely one for the books.

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