Shining Creek-Old Butt Knob Loop Trail

HARD 106 reviews
#23 of 198 trails in

Shining Creek-Old Butt Knob Loop Trail is a 8.3 mile lightly trafficked loop trail located near Canton, North Carolina that features a waterfall 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.

Distance: 8.3 miles Elevation Gain: 2,890 feet Route Type: Loop

dog friendly



nature trips

trail running

bird watching




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.

Shining rock was neat but I was expecting a bit bigger!

27 days ago

This was a great hike. Great views in a few spots, and even though the trail isn’t blazed, it’s still pretty easy to follow. Like another reviewer said, the worst of the Old Butt Knob trail is over after you reach Chestnut Ridge. I saw 4 people the whole time, and all were weird and skittish.

Great trail about. 5 to .75 miles in you want to stay left otherwise you had down to the big east fork trail instead.

over grown
1 month ago

Strenuous but rewarding hike. I completed it solo anbd have done many tough hikes on the east and in the west - this is one of them. Do not recommend for beginners due to lack of trail markings and intense elevation changes. I saw 1 person the whole time at the top, but based on the number of spiderwebs I ran into I was the first person up this route for at least 24 hrs. Once you get to Cumberland Ridge the worst is over, but there's still a couple more climbs. Bushwacking required to the top. There's a lot of little trails that lead you to some of the best views money can buy. I got turned around a couple of times and was very thankful for this app and my USB battery to get back quickly. No service most of the way and no water on the way up (counterclockwise). so fill up at the bottom. I would recommend doing the counterclockwise route because going down that quickly at the end seems dangerous and painful on the knees. That said, it's tough and in retrospect I would have taken more than my 6-pack of IPA for nutrition. I will definitely do this hike again and bring some ultralight camping gear for one of the great site options.

over grown
2 months ago

We took this trail over Memorial Day Weekend and it was tough! We are experienced hikers who love day hikes and challenges. Highly recommend this but it is over grown in spots and we only saw one other hiker over a holiday weekend. Not well traveled, spots are overgrown, but the top of Shinning Rock is worth the climb. I have previously done the much easier trail up to the top. So there are options to get to this amazing place. Would not recommend for inexperienced hikers or small children

over grown
3 months ago

Love this hike! Beautiful way up along the river. The way back is steep but manageable. Definitely recommend!

4 months ago

This trail is a tough one. We started off early so that we could get back in time . Good thing we did, going up the first part of the trail we climbed about 2000’. Then it levels off a little. Finding shining rock was difficult due to the trails not marked. There was growth that hangs in the trail. I found it easier to hold my hands up while walking through. I highly recommend this trail if you are ready for a super tough, but fun hike.

7 months ago

Nice hike! We decided to go to Knobby, it was a steep climb! took is longer than anticipated. The way down was fun, the trail followed the stream, often crisscrossing or becoming the stream itself! several nice campsites along the way too! Campsite right on trail with small fire pit. good for small tent or two. 35°21'54.0"N 82°49'54.2"W Very nice camp site good for small group with several tents, places to set up hammock s, large fire ring. it's right next to the water. Very pretty! 35.3581195, -82.8441671

11 months ago

I have done this three times, all going up to Old Butt and Dog Loser Knob and coming back down the creek. The ascent is very steep, do not attempt on very hot days or late in the day. I think the navigation is better in this direction but you have to pay attention on the ridge and in the area around Shining Rock. You need a GPS to attempt this hike. Last year we did this in May when the rhododendrons were out. Fabulous. This is a Wilderness area and there are no signs except one off the summit to mark the way down Shining Rock Creek. One of my favourites

Wednesday, June 06, 2018

Took old butt knob up the mountain, as most everyone stated, it isn’t easy. It is doable, but we had to stop a few times to catch our breath. Definitely pack more water than you think you need. Once you get past the first major climb the rest seems easy, relatively speaking. There are a couple nice views along the way up, and once you get to the top of the trail, be sure to explore some of the side trails for other great views. Trails are not marked, but you shouldn’t have too much trouble staying on them. Wouldn’t do this without gps or trail map. Took shining creek trail back down to complete the loop. Two entirely different trails that gave the best of both worlds. Shining creek trail was a very muddy and wet trail, not sure if it was because of all the recent rain or if it always like this. This was one of our favorite hikes.

Monday, May 14, 2018

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.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

We did this trail backwards and started at old butt knob, we took the first right in the trail instead of the one 4 miles in. I will say, I think the climb and elevation gain this way was much more difficult than heading to shining rock first. Nonetheless, the Old Butt Knob trail was in really good shape (the weather was cruddy otherwise I think the views would have been amazing too). When we finally made it to Shining Rock, we were both relieved since it was flatter and also astounded by the place. I will say the way back down through the woods and creeks was really nice although the waterfalles were behind us rather than us walking up to then which was somewhat disappointing. All together, I still think I would prefer going down hill that way than down Old Butt as that was much steeper and muddier. I would do this again though!

Sunday, April 15, 2018

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.

Saturday, March 31, 2018

My husband and I completed this hike yesterday with our dog Charlie. Round-trip, the hike clocked in at 8.8 miles per my husband's Garmin Fenix GPS. (It is definitely nowhere close to 12 miles, as another reviewer stated.) Although the trail is not marked, it is fairly easy to follow, with a few spots being trickier at times. Shining Creek trail was beautiful, following the creek for most of the ascent up to the rock. The views from Shining Rock are incredible and well worth the hike up! We also saw spectacular views on Old Butt Knob on our way down. The descent got extremely steep near the end, so hiking sticks would really come in handy on this trail. There are also several very nice campsites off of each trail. We completed the hike in just over 5 hours' active moving time.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

OH MAN- this trail was intense!! We started off doing Old Butt Knob to get to the top of Shining rock and then took Shining Creek trail back down the mountain. I highly recommend doing Old Butt Knob first. That trail was like the ultimate stair master and going down it after a full day on hiking would have been hard. My friend and I are both active people, but we don’t hike too often. It took us about 8 hours to hike 10 miles (the trail was closer to 9 miles but we wandered a bit and that’s why we hiked 10 miles). We just took our time getting up the mountain and had a blast. I know some reviews say this trail isn’t for amateurs, but if you are an active person, you should have no problem completing it. The only problem I had was that there were not a lot of view points along this trail. Any views of the mountain range were blocked by trees. We actually hopped on the Art Loeb Trail for about a mile to get some better views and ended up hanging out at the top of one of the mountains for an hour or so. Also, make sure you bring a trail map and compass. There were no blazes on any of the trails. There were, however, distinctive paths through the forest that were easy to follow. If you are going to venture off on another trail, make sure you know how to get back! Also, if you are looking to camp overnight, there are plenty of campsites along both trails. There were these little paths that we followed off of the main trail and they always lead to a campsite. I think we stumbled upon 4 or 5. Overall, it was a good hike, but I felt it was more for the exercise rather than the views.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

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.

Wednesday, March 07, 2018

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.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

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.

Sunday, December 03, 2017

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

Friday, October 13, 2017

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.

Sunday, October 01, 2017

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.

Tuesday, August 08, 2017

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!

Monday, July 31, 2017

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.

Friday, June 16, 2017

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.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

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.

Tuesday, May 02, 2017

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.

Thursday, February 09, 2017

Shining creek trail is a great trail following the river the entire way up the mountain. lots of little falls and good pictures.

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