Shining Rock Loop via Old Butt Knob Trail: return on Shining Creek Path
This is a difficult loop trail to Shining Rock in Shining Rock Wilderness.
The trail starts along the Shining Creek Path, and heads gently uphill for a short ways. At the nearly 1 mile point, the Old Butt Knob Trail branches off to the right, heading sharply uphill. This will begin several miles of very steep climbing, gaining around 1500ft in about 2 miles. From there it continue mostly uphill to Shining Rock Mountain, which is the heart and center of the Shining Rock Wilderness. Look for short user trails to the right that will take you to the solid white quartz boulders at the summit, that gives this place its name. This is a beautiful and popular spot to eat lunch while enjoy the views. Be careful navigating in this area, however, since it can be a maze of unsigned trails due to the Wilderness prohibitions against signage.
From there, you will meet up with the Art Loeb Trail and follow it South for a short distance, through Shining Rock Gap. Immediately past some camping area and a piped spring, the Shining Creek Path branches off to the left, heading sharply downhill. From here you have 4-5 miles of pleasant -- but moderately steep -- downhill hiking to return to your car at the trailhead.
The trailhead is located on US-276 in Pisgah N.F at the Big East Fork parking area. Note that there are 2 parking areas and trailhead very close together. You will be parking at the larger one just North of the East Fork of the Pigeon River. Map link is here: https://goo.gl/maps/sshR4DQHUEu
This would be a very tough hike for children. There are better options for family hikes in the area from the Black Balsam area off the Blue Ridge Parkway. The nearby Big East Fork Trail would also be good for children, for the first few miles in.
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