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

Explore North Carolina’s Shining Rock Wilderness and the brilliant, white quartz-encrusted Shining Rock Mountain on the Ivestor Gap Trail, the easiest route to this beautiful, iconic summit.

georgia hiking trails: 6 or more miles 9 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: moderaterelatively
moderate
?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 in the Pisgah National Forest

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: 4.5/5 (2 reviews)

Deep in the remote stretches of the Shining Rock Wilderness stands a peak that’s unlike any other. This 6,000-foot peak rises high above the surrounding wilderness and is instantly visible from afar: massive white quartz boulders cover the summit of Shining Rock Mountain, and gleam like a beacon in sunlight.

Shining Rock Mountain on the Ivestor Gap TrailAbove: hike to gorgeous views from the brilliant white summit of Shining Rock on the Ivestor Gap Trail

While there are many ways to the summit, thanks to an extensive trail network in the Shining Rock Wilderness, this hike follows the Ivestor Gap Trail on one of the least strenuous climbs to the summit. Dodging the rolling (though view-packed) route over the nearby mountain balds on the Art Loeb Trail, the Ivestor Gap Trail follows a railroad grade roadbed through the wilderness, maintaining a moderately level elevation for the majority of the hike. This hike scores its own, visit-worthy views, though: the trail catches beautiful vistas throughout the adventure, and the views are gorgeous on a clear day.

(Weather changes can be seemingly immediate in this remote stretch of wilderness, though – so if you go, be sure to pack for the worst and include emergency and wayfinding gear, too.)

Explore North Carolina's Shining Rock Wilderness and the brilliant, white quartz-encrusted Shining Rock Mountain on the Ivestor Gap Trail, the easiest route to this beautiful, iconic summit. #hiking #trailrunning #camping #backpacking #asheville #nc #northcarolina #travel #outdoors #adventure

Ivestor Gap Trail to Shining Rock Mountain: the hike

The hike departs from the Ivestor Gap Trailhead and Sam Knob Trail parking area, located off the Blue Ridge Parkway at MP 420 (view maps and driving directions). Hiking northeast from the trailhead, the route skirts around a metal gate and follows a rocky, old railroad bed. The trail passes a small, trickling spring, and wildflowers thrive alongside the trail in warm-weather months, stretching high into the abundant sunshine.

The Ivestor Gap Trail veers northbound, beginning a short, but steady, climb at .7 mile. The trail begins a descent a 1 mile, weaving through wide switchbacks. The hike reaches a sandy, rocky clearing at 1.3 miles, passing a fragrant grove of balsam fir, and catching gorgeous views of the surrounding, rolling wilderness from a craggy rock outcrop.

Ivestor Gap Trail in the Shining Rock Wilderness

The trail veers to the northeast, descending through a mossy forest shaded by balsam fir. The hike passes a junction with the Fork Mountain Trail at 1.7 miles, and briefly adjoins the Art Loeb Trail at 1.8 miles before splitting off to the left. The Ivestor Gap Trail rejoins the Art Loeb Trail for a second time at 2.25 miles, reaching the signed entrance to the Shining Rock Wilderness, and splits to the left.

The Ivestor Gap Trail runs nearly level over the next course of 1.5 miles, hiking a tight singletrack between tall brush before widening to an old, rocky road bed. Though views are limited in this segment of the hike, the forest is beautiful, framed in fragrant balsam fir and abundant wildflowers. Fog rolls through these level elevations frequently, adding to the beauty of the forest.

The trail veers eastbound at 3.9 miles, beginning a climb. The hike reaches the open, grassy Shining Rock Gap at 4.3 miles, hanging the second left to hike northbound to the Shining Rock summit. The trail climbs through dense thickets of mountain laurel, rhododendron and blueberries, and tunnels through a grove of balsam fir. The forest floor is littered with chunks of white quartz, gleaming in the lush forest.

Shining Rock Mountain on the Ivestor Gap Trail

Several side trails scramble over large, white boulders to climb to the mountain’s actual summit – all moderately challenging. After the scramble, the hike rises above the tree line, catching stunning views of the surrounding wilderness from the white-crusted Shining Rock.

The summit makes an excellent spot to soak in some scenic beauty and catch a break before the return hike. After descending from the summit, the hike follows its outbound route on the Ivestor Gap Trail in reverse, reaching the trailhead at just over 9 miles.

For a slightly longer but more view-packed return route, hike the Art Loeb Trail from Shining Rock, rolling over the wildflower-covered mountains of Flower Knob, Grassy Cove Top, Tennent Mountain, and Black Balsam Knob. (If you return via this route, from Black Balsam Knob, follow the Art Loeb Spur Trail to the Ivestor Gap / Sam Knob trailhead and parking area.)

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


Shining Rock Mountain via the Ivestor Gap Trail Map, Directions & Details

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

Trail Rating

RATED: 4.5/5 (2 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

35.325891, -82.881689     //     N35 19.554 W82 52.902

Elevation Profile

Shining Rock via the Ivestor Gap Trail: Elevation Profile
 
 
Leave No Trace: Atlanta Trails, Asheville Trails and Trailful are official Leave No Trace partners

Please Remember

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.