Asheville Trails shirts: locally made & inspired by great Western NC adventures

Hike the Art Loeb Trail to the stunning, brilliant white, quartz-crusted Shining Rock Mountain, catching stunning vistas from Black Balsam Knob and exploring wildflower-covered, view-packed mountain balds.

georgia hiking trails: 6 or more miles 10 miles
(round trip)
? Your mileage may vary! Accuracy of your GPS device, weather conditions, and stops along your route will affect your own recorded distance.
georgia hiking trails: moderate to difficultmore
difficult
?Our difficulty estimate, based on distance, terrain, elevation change, & ease of wayfinding. May vary daily due to weather, trail reroutes, downed trees, etc.
georgia hiking trails: dog-friendly Dog-
friendly
?Leashed dogs are allowed on this trail. We’ve loved hiking this route with our trail-loving Labrador Retrievers! Check out more of our favorite dog-friendly trails near Asheville for a great hike with your pup.

LOCATION:Shining Rock Wilderness, off the Blue Ridge Parkway

GEAR: Osprey Stratos 24 Backpack, our hiking gear list and Canon 6D Camera

WEAR: Our ultra-soft Asheville Trails shirts and mountain logo hats

OFFICIAL MAP: Nat Geo 780 Trails Illustrated Map

RATED: 4.8/5 (4 reviews)

Spanning more than 18,000 acres, the Shining Rock Wilderness is the largest wilderness area in North Carolina. Located near the Blue Ridge Parkway south of Asheville, the literal shining spot in the wilderness is its namesake peak, Shining Rock, a summit covered with enormous boulders of white quartz that catch sunlight with a gleaming brilliance.

The peak is easily visible for miles: the mountain’s white-crusted summit is an anomaly in the surrounding green-covered mountains and rolling, golden, grassy balds. The mountain is nothing short of surreal: from its white, angular, boulder-crusted outcrops, the views from the 6,000-foot summit are stunning on a clear day.

Shining Rock Mountain on the Art Loeb Trail

Weather in this wilderness can be fleeting: sunny and cold one hour, socked in with dense fog the next, and suddenly balmy before sunset. We’ve hiked the mountain in fog, below freezing, and we’ve hiked it the warm, sun-drenched days of summer. It’s one incredible adventure, and easily one of our favorites in the South. It’s exceptionally remote, though, so if you go, be sure to pack carefully, including emergency and wayfinding gear.

Thanks to an extensive trail network in this expansive wilderness, there’s more than one way to the iconic summit (see our trail review of Shining Rock via the Ivestor Gap Trail for a more direct, though less view-worthy, route). This hike follows our favorite route, rolling elevation over a series of grass and wildflower-covered mountain balds on the Art Loeb Trail from Black Balsam Knob.

Shining Rock Mountain on the Art Loeb Trail

Hike the Art Loeb Trail to the stunning, brilliant white, quartz-crusted Shining Rock Mountain, catching stunning vistas from Black Balsam Knob and exploring wildflower-covered, view-packed mountain balds. #hiking #trailrunning #camping #backpacking #asheville #nc #northcarolina #travel #outdoors #adventure

Shining Rock Mountain: the hike

The hike departs from the Black Balsam Knob trailhead (view maps and driving directions), hiking northbound on the Art Loeb Trail from Black Balsam Road (MP 420 on the Blue Ridge Parkway). The hike climbs through a stand of balsam fir trees, evergreen fragrance filling the air, before beginning a rocky ascent to the summit of Black Balsam Knob. The trail passes an intersection with the Art Loeb Spur at .45 miles, rolling elevation through a saddle before making the final ascent to the Black Balsam summit. Wildflowers, golden grasses and wild blueberries cover the landscape, and the views are nothing short of phenomenal, stretching far and wide in 360-degree panoramas.

The trail reaches the summit of Black Balsam Knob at .75 mile, passing a plaque that commemorates Art Loeb, the trail’s namesake. The hike descends from the mountain, passing several Art Loeb Trail signs. Wild blueberries thrive in this sun-drenched saddle.

The hike rolls elevation, climbing Tennent Mountain and reaching the mountain’s summit at 1.9 miles. The gleaming, white Shining Rock summit is visible on the far horizon on the trail’s left, a white beacon in the mountainous wilderness. Descending Tennent Mountain, the hike carves through a sharp switchback, veering eastbound before switching back to the northwest.

Black Balsam Knob and Tennent Mountain Loop

The hike reaches the Ivestor Gap Trail at 2.5 miles, turning right at the trail intersection and, in less than a tenth of a mile, veering right to continue following the Art Loeb Trail. (Given the number of trail intersections in this wilderness, we highly recommend hiking with an official trail map, like our favorite, the Trails Illustrated #780. Also pack a compass, and GPS: wayfinding through the maze of trails in this wilderness can be tricky.)

The hike rolls elevation over a small knob, passing several campsites in groves of dense rhododendron, wind-swept pine, and fern. The trail passes through a grassy clearing and a wooden gate at 2.9 miles, briefly intersecting with the Ivestor Gap Trail once again. The Art Loeb Trail veers right once again, rounding the east side of Grassy Cove Top and diving through a forest of balsam fir and fern before descending to Flower Gap.

The trail passes several campsites in the large, open, grassy expanses of Flower Gap. The hike climbs through a young birch forest, ascending Flower Knob and ducking through a tunnel of mountain laurel, passing a spring at 4.5 miles and Shining Creek soon after. The Art Loeb Trail reaches a grassy, wildflower-filled clearing at 4.75 miles. The hike continues due north from the gap, beginning a final climb through an evergreen forest to the gleaming white summit.

Shining Rock Mountain on the Art Loeb Trail

Several side trails meander to the mountain’s summit, all requiring a steep scramble over large boulders and angular outcrops. It’s not an easy climb, but a rewarding one, as the hike ascends above the tree line and climbs the brilliant, white quartz outcrops that give the mountain its name. (Drop-offs from the summit are steep and sudden, so if you go, tread carefully.) Views extend far and wide, on a clear day, to the surrounding grassy balds and the angular peaks of the Pisgah National Forest.

The hike departs the summit and retraces its outbound steps on the Art Loeb Trail, rolling elevation over Flower Knob, Grassy Cove Top, Tennent Mountain and Black Balsam Knob to return to the trailhead, a total hike of 9.9 miles. (Or, for an alternate route on the return hike, follow the Ivestor Gap Trail from Shining Rock, reaching the Ivestor Gap Trail / Sam Knob Trailhead at 9.5 miles. From there, follow the Art Loeb Spur Trail to Black Balsam Knob and the Art Loeb Trail to this hike’s trailhead.)

What is Wilderness, and why is it important? Read more in our guide to Wilderness areas in the South.


Shining Rock Mountain Map, Directions & Details

Trails and routes may change – so please refer to official trail maps for the latest route.

Trail Rating

RATED: 4.8/5 (4 reviews)

Love the trail?

This trail is maintained thanks to the hard work of countless volunteers and donations from supporters of the Southern Appalachian Wilderness Stewards. Please support them by making a donation or joining a volunteer day. Let's work together to keep these fantastic trails maintained and open for use!

Updates

Did you have trouble accessing the trail, or notice some recent trail updates or storm damage? We'd love to know! Contact us here, and thanks for helping us keep this site updated!

Driving Directions



Parking

Free parking is available at the trailhead, located off the Blue Ridge Parkway at MP 420.


GPS Coordinates

35.320617, -82.876106     //     N35 19.237 W82 52.567

Elevation Profile

Shining Rock Mountain on the Art Loeb Trail: Elevation Profile
 
 
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Always leave no trace, tell someone where you're going, pack safety and wayfinding essentials, don't rely on a mobile phone to find your way, and follow these trail etiquette tips.

Eric Champlin
Author

Eric Champlin is a writer and photographer who loves to hike, run, backpack, kayak and cycle the southeast. He’s the editor and founder of Atlanta Trails, Asheville Trails, and Trailful, digital magazines that highlight the South’s best outdoor adventures and top Southern-worthy outdoor gear. His mission? To inspire others to get fit outdoors and explore the South’s incredible scenic beauty.