Shining Rock is located in the heart of the Shining Rock Wilderness in the Great Balsam Range of North Carolina. What makes Shining Rock so unique are the huge outcrops of snow quartz that comprise the summit of the mountain. They are easily seen from NC-215 and make an otherwise non-descript peak stand out. As unique and well-known as this peak is it does not have an official trail to its summit and can be quite hard to locate.
The two most common access points to Shining Rock Mt. and Wilderness Area are at the Big East Fork parking area on US-276 and at the Black Balsam Knob parking area.
Big East Fork Parking Area:
-Take I-40 Exit #31 (NC-215)
-Follow NC-215 south about 7 miles to junction with US-276
-Follow US-276 south another 10 miles to parking area on right.
The parking area is located just before US276 makes a hard left to make its steep ascent of the Blue Ridge.
Black Balsam Knob Parking Area:
-The access road is well marked just west of Milepost 420 on the Blue Ridge Parkway.
-Nearest access points to the Parkway are US-276(follow above directions to Big East Fork parking area but instead follow 276 up ridge to the Parkway) and NC-215(follow Big East Fork parking area directions but continue south 20 miles on NC215 instead of turning onto US-276).
Shining Rock is located in the Shining Rock Wilderness Area. None of the trails within the Wilderness area are marked or blazed. BRING A MAP!!! An unfortunate side-effect of this policy is that there are numerous unofficial trails criss-crossing the area.
There are two primary routes to the summit of Shining Rock. The first is via the Art Loeb Trail heading north from the Black Balsam Knob parking area. The second is by way of the Old Butt Knob or Shining Creek Trails from the Big East Fork parking area. YOU MUST TAKE A MAP!!!! I cannot stress this enough. The Shining Rock Gap area is very confusing and none of the trails in the Wilderness Area are marked.
The Art Loeb Trail is by far the most popular route to Shining Rock, and for good reason. It is 4.3 miles to Shining Rock by this route and it is 4.3 miles of the most beautiful trail in the Southern Appalachians. On the way the trail crosses over or near the summits of 3 other 6000' peaks (Black Balsam Knob, Tennent Mt, and Grassy Cove Top). If that wasn't enough the for the first three miles the ridgetop is virtually devoid of trees giving nonstop 360-degree views. This is one of the premier hikes in North Carolina. It is 4.1 miles to Shining Rock Gap. Once at Shining Rock Gap you follow the center path (this is the Old Butt Knob Trail) about 0.1 mile to where the unmarked summit trail branches off to the right(you will see a large cliff rising out of the woods in front of you). The summit trail is quite steep and you'll know you are on the right path when you begin scrambling over the white rock that marks the summit area.
The Shining Creek Trail leaves the Big East Fork parking area and ascends 0.7 miles to Shining Creek Gap. Here the Old Butt Trail branches off to the right and immediately begins the steep ascent of Chestnut Ridge. It is 3.0 miles from this point via the Old Butt Trail to the unmarked summit spur of Shining Rock. Continuing on the Shining Creek Trail it is another 3.4 miles to Shining Rock Gap. Follow the directions included with the Art Loeb Trail to get you from Shining Rock Gap to the summit.
Take A Virtual Hike to Shining Rock!!
Come along with me on a hike I took in October 2005 to Shining Rock via the Art Loeb Trail. This is one of my favorite hikes in North Carolina and includes three other 6000' summits - Black Balsam Knob, Tennent Mt, and Grassy Cove Top. Just click HERE!!
Shining Rock is located in a federally designated Wilderness Area. Group sizes are restricted to no more than 10 persons and fires are prohibited.
When to Climb
You can access this peak any time of the year. My favorite time is during the off-season (Nov-Apr). The winter skies give amazing views, especially from the open ridge, and there are fewer people on the trail.
Camping is allowed anywhere within the National Forest except within 500' of a roadway or otherwise designated area. Other than that and the "Red Tape" above you can stake out a spot anyhwere.
I've included a number of mountain webcams in the "LINKS" section so you can get an idea of trail conditions in the area.
For more specific info I would recommend contacting:
USDA Forest Service
1001 Pisgah Highway
Pisgah Forest, NC 28768
National Geographic Trails Illusrated Maps From this page you can browse National Geographics ever-growing series of excellent topo/trail maps. The Pisgah Ranger District map is an absolute necessity for reaching Shining Rock.