Final thoughtsThis is a neat area no doubt. Sam Knob has some pretty impressive slopes that rival more rugged ranges esp when viewed from the south and west. I am amazed at the amount of water and waterfalls in the area. We had 2 stream crossings that were tricky and they must have been at 5500 feet or higher ( it was high water) but these streams are not seasonal and the waterfalls are really impressive.
What's wrong with the Shinning Rock area:
1. The blue ridge parkway offers high elevation access and so the masses can and do make the relatively easy trek into the wilderness area.Summer time will offer all the solitude of Times Square.
2. The "wilderness" is tiny by Western standards and surrounded by busy, paved roads on all sides. Often one can hear Harleys from miles inside the wilderness.
What's right with the area:
1. Shinning Rock and Middle Prong are both very steep and rugged areas. Go offtrail away from the higher balds and you will see no one ( save a rare hunter in season)
2. Views are very nice for extended distances due to the balds.
3. In the Winter the parkway is often closed making access tougher = less crowds.
4. It is crowded and overused but beats the development surrounding it.