Shining Creek Trailhead on HWY 276, west of the Blue Ridge Parkway. Based on the directions from the main page (I-40 to BRP), you could exit the Parkway at Wagon Road Gap onto HWY 276. The trailhead is a couple miles down and west of the Parkway. In winter the Parkway is likely closed and you could approach from Brevard NC, by following 276 into the National Forest and past the Pisgah District Station, Sliding Rock and Cradle of Forestry. Cross under the BRP and drop back down on 276 to trailhead parking. This could also be accessed traveling south from Waynesville or Canton.
As there is only one real trail to the summit of Cold Mountain, so the uniqueness of any route is which approach you take to Deep Gap. From Shining Creek Trailhead, begin the wide trail headed west along the rivver; in one half to three quaters of a mile you will have an option to head up a very aggressive ridge (Chestnut Ridge) on Old Butt Knob Trail or continue to follow the Shining Creek Trail. Both routes of this approach are around 4 miles.
Chestnut Ridge is a tough hike gaining over 1000 ft in just under a mile. Attaining this ridge allows for great vistas as you make your way west towards Shining Rock Gap and the juncture with the Art Leob Trail.
The other option is to take the Creek trail all the way to the trail juncture with Art Leob at the same point as Old Butt Knob Trail. This route gently follows the creek in a moist and forested drainage until the final switchbacks up onto Shining Rock Gap. There are great cascades and small pools as the creek falls towards the Pigeon River.
Once at the Gap by either route, follow the Art Leob Trail due north, be careful not to follow the wrong lead as this is a heavily used area with four trails and campsite paths. The author's directions on the main page should be followed from here. As he describes: to the North you encounter Stairs Mountain and the Narrows before dropping down onto Deep Gap. The Cold Mtn Trail leads about 1.25 miles to the top from here. There is still a fair bit of elevation gain and and some craggy and washed out trail sections along the ridge between Shining Rock Gap and Deep Gap.
Round trip is around 18 miles from this trailhead.
Compass, map and water (or filter), water is generally available during wet to normal periods.
There are basically no signs in the wilderness area, so using a map is essential in choosing the right trails. Thick forest and undergrowth make orienteering by sight of large geologic landmarks such as major ridges or mountains difficult. If you have a map, and know where you need to go, things are pretty straight forward!