Shining Creek-Old Butt Knob Loop Trail

HARD 50 reviews
#27 of 141 trails in

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.

8.4 miles
2913 feet

dog friendly




nature trips




wild flowers

This loop is not blazed because it is located in the Shining Rock Wilderness Area. Some trail junctions are very difficult to recognize. 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.

7 days ago

Oh my!!! The reviews are blazes (Except Art Loeb Trail), you will end up leaving the trail and you need to be comfortable navigating your way back, it's a test....a real test-9.1 miles in 6 hours. I know doesn't sound fast but it's a serious incline and the decent it's nothing to discount. We took Shining Creek to Art Loeb to Old Butt Knob. Coming down OBK is work in itself be ready. The trail follows the creek with great flowing water making some beautiful cascades. The views are stunning and there was a lot of ICE today.

Really, really hard trail but glad I tested myself and it is worth the effort.

11 days ago

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.

3 months ago

Old Butt is not an easy trail, with or without a pack. We did an up and down of old butt knob.

5 months ago

Bring your oxygen. Starting out on the old butt knob trail you'll experience a rapid elevation gain. Previous posts stated this leg is a "fitness hike" and I couldn't agree more. The trail only provides two or three open views of the valley until you reach shining rock. The trail is easy to follow with just a map (no gps used). The trail head is the most difficult location to navigate to find the start of old butt. Shining rock is epic but can be a little confusing to find. The trail comes to a "T". To the right will be a tight narrow overgrown path into shining rock. Once you are up on the rocks it can be a little confusing finding the path out. Wouldn't hurt to leave the pack as a marker for the trail. We did not hike the shining creek trail to finish the loop. Instead we took the investor gap trail and camped at investor gap (about 2 miles) from shining rock. Enroute to investor gap there are a series of springs that provided ample water for filtering. The views from investor gap are spectacular. There are 5-6 well established camp sites just outside the wilderness area that allows for open fires. I would highly suggest an overnight camp at these sites.

5 months ago

My wife, my dog, and I did a 3-day backpacking trip on this trail. We took 3 days because we just wanted a couple extra nights in the wilderness, but it can be done as a day hike or an overnight. We ascended Old Butt Knob and descended Shining Creek. IMHO, The only reason to hike OBK is for the personal challenge – maybe you’ve been doing a lot of cross-fit and you want to see if there has been a noticeable change in your fitness. OBK trail is steep, fraught with leaves covering acorns, is close enough to the Blue Ridge Parkway that we heard the rumble of Harleys all along the ascent, has a scarcity of campsites, only 2 scenic views, and offers no place to filter water. The trail was not difficult to follow, but I was carrying a GPS with the tracks to follow. The split to Shining Creek trail is marked by a sign so it was not difficult to find. Camping along OBK is sparsely available around the 3-mile mark, but then there is nothing obvious again until after 4.5 miles. The best tent campsites on the OBK are near where the Art Loeb trail intersects the OBK. Even hammock-camping is nearly impossible on the OBK. Hammock camping is much more abundant on the Shining Creek trail, but tent camping sites are available as well. Water can be filtered along the Shining Creek trail, especially when the trail crosses tributary streams. Counter-clockwise, the first chance to filter water is at about 5 miles. There are some springs closer than that, but the water was very brackish – probably just easier to walk the additional half mile to where it can be filtered easily. Shining Creek trail was phenomenal. I would not recommend doing the trail clockwise with a backpack as the descent of OBK would carry a significant risk of injury due to its incline and acorns/sticks/rock hidden by leaves. Imagine carrying a backpack downhill on marbles. We started on a Thursday, and we were the only people on the trail. By Saturday, we encountered about a dozen other hikers/backpackers. We would readily do the Shining Creek Trail again, but not the OBK. Trekking poles on the ascent of OBK are probably pointless as your hands are needed to grab roots, trees, and rocks as you climb up; however, they are helpful on the descent of Shining Creek.

7 months ago

tough!!!! well worth the climb up old butt! old butt connects straight to shinning rock. shining creek is the less steep than old butt. but i love climbing old butt. some awesome vistas off old butt if you know where you are. 6 hrs including a 1hr sunset dinner at the top. not blazed. recommend being acclimated to navigating mountains. Only trail marking I saw was for shinning creek off of art loab.

9 months ago

Old Butt sucked. Super hard for no payoff. Shining Creek was phenomenal though. Steady descent/ascent so it may be hard on your knees, but follows a creek with amazing waterfalls. Great creekside campsites along the way. Easily find your way up to Shining Rock mountain and rock face for some great vistas.

9 months ago

Shining rock creek gets a 5 star. Old butt trail sucked so hard. Tips: don't do old butt, there's some really nice off trail camping near the beginning of shining creek. Old butt has tons of cob webs too, so much I had to wear a bug net and I've only ever used that thing twice ever. It was too unbearable. Whatever you do, don't ascend old butt trail either, it's extremely steep. Like straight climbing steep. The paths are also not well kept either and theres like maybe two scenic views on the entire trail. As for shining rock creek, I loved it. So many springs, rapids, waterfalls, and basins where you can swim or dip your feet. It's extremely humid in there though. If you are adamant about doing the entire loop, at the intersection take a right when you leave shining rock creek, then go straight, then at a rock clearing with some tall trees go right up the hill and you'll find old butt trail. Don't follow signs for cold mountain. Again though, I highly recommend you just stay on shining creek trail, just omit old butt because it sucks. One of the worst trails I've ever been on and I hike and backpack every weekend.

10 months ago

I would rate this loop as moderate. The Shining Creek trail is nicer than the Old Butt Knob trail. It runs mostly along a creek is is quite scenic. The Old Butt Knob trail is rather boring in comparison. There are no great scenic vistas on this loop. It's a pleasant hike, but not spectacular.

Tuesday, March 07, 2017

The nothern segment to the top is challenging and has limited views. The southern segment along the creek is beautiful with numerous waterfalls. We did the whole loop but the way down was difficult with rocky footings and deep areas covered in leaves. There are several areas where it is quite easy to lose the trail.... There are no markers. Overall it is worth it... Just wish we had more time to enjoy the falls on the way down.

Friday, February 17, 2017

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.

Monday, October 24, 2016

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.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

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.

Monday, August 01, 2016

awesome memory . Quite a challenge

Monday, June 27, 2016

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.

horseback riding
Tuesday, September 22, 2015

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!

Thursday, July 30, 2015

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.

Tuesday, July 07, 2015

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.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Didn't make it to the summit. The trail needed some maintenance a few miles in. Otherwise a nice moderate hike!

Sunday, June 14, 2015


Sunday, November 23, 2014

Hiked the southern leg of this loop as an out and back. In October-November, the trail may have many slippery dry leaves. Watch your footing. We were advised that the leaves made the Big Butt Knob descent (if you go clockwise) "treacherous".
Many lovely rapids and falls along the southern leg. Falls had ice where water splashed. As the trail turned steeper in the zig-zag at the western end, some icy puddles.
No blazes. Lost the trail a couple times in both directions in the fallen leaves. If this happens to you, look for square cuts through fallen trees. It got us back on track.
We got a late start due to me being delayed by closed Blue Ridge Parkway, which I learned is frequent occurrence from November to March. We decided we were of time about 300 feet below the ridge at Shining Rock. and turned back. The parking lot is on the east side so were in shadow as we neared the lot. About 5 hours on the trail.

Friday, August 29, 2014

One of my all time favorite loops. This loop is best hiked up Shining Creek and back on Old Butt Knob however I was unaware and although I looked at the topo I had underestimated the steepness of the ascent up Old Butt Knob. I was also very new to backpacking and had a nearly 45lb pack on my back. The trail was so amazing that although it was tough the views from the rocky outcrops made it worth it. There were 4 or 5 good places to camp along Old Butt Knob either with hammocks or tents. Once the trail nears Shining Rock you will be greeted with blueberry bushes with the best berries. Be aware that there is very little if any water on Old Butt Knob.

Shining Creek is much less steep than OBK however the camping spots seem to be a little more rocky and much better suited for hammock camping. There is water all along this trail. Although the trail does not have the spectacular views of the valley that OBK offers it makes up for it with amazing water features. Winding creeks and springs offer plenty to look at not to mention the beauty of the shining rocks that seem to be everywhere.

This loop is definitely worth checking out.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Shining rock and Old Butt are both beautiful trails with Shining rock offering more hike in camping options and generally flatter topo. We hiked in about 1 mile and staged our camp on Shining Creek and then day hiked from there. Glad we did. Shining Rock trail definitely in need of some maintenance and scrambling through dense laurel patches and multitudes of downed trees and branches would've been a pain with a full pack. From the East fork trailhead, old Butt is largely uphill but much more accommodating for those marching with packs. Both trails offer awesome scenery. Heard about bear sightings but none found during our journey.

Monday, December 24, 2012

You will get a great workout hiking up old butt knob trail and be rewarded with a couple breath taking views from Ricky outcrops off the trail. Navigation is a lil iffy going from this trail to shining creek which is a rocky, slick descent (not my favorite) but is quite scenic along the creek...

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

hiked up old butt knob trail very steep tough climb, but beautiful views all the way up. hiked down shining creek trail, it was a little hard to find at first but awesome trail as well.

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