2 - 3
FATMAP difficulty grade
This route is an all-seasons trail run into Shining Rock Wilderness, accessible via US-276.
A small parking area can accommodate a handful of cars, and an adjacent pull-off serves as overflow.
Snow is likely in the winter months, but the route is still passable with appropriate gear.
Trekking poles are highly recommended no matter the time of year. Beginning at the Big East Fork Trailhead, follow the trail as it parallels the creek.
This is a popular camping area with numerous tent sites and hammock opportunities.
As the trail spirals away from the creek, it will soon reach an unmarked intersection with Old Butt Knob Trail.
A hard right, and you'll begin to climb.
The next two miles will test your limits as you ascend to Old Butt Knob at 5,500'.
This steep climb is sure to challenge even the strongest of trail runners.
You'll find a couple of switchbacks along your way as you follow the steep ridge to the summit.
A couple of craggy outcroppings give way to panoramic views of the surrounding wilderness. After Old Butt Knob, the trail levels as it continues towards Shining Rock Mountain.
A series of tight switchbacks then lead the way to the midway point and destination for this loop, Shining Rock.
According to Wikipedia, "Shining Rock is named for the large white quartzite rock outcropping near its summit." A handful of side trails lead to different vantage points along the formation. Along this stretch, note that trail markings are minimal and/or non-existent.
Being designated as a Federal Wilderness Area, "trails are neither signed nor blazed, and are maintained at a low level that results in their treads being difficult or impossible to see at times," according to the US Forest Service.
Continuing on the loop, you'll reach the 31-mile Art Loeb Trail, where you'll take a left to follow it for a short stretch.
Shortly after, you'll find a marker denoting the turn for Shining Creek Path.
Take the left and begin the descent.
Along the way, you'll pass several springs that ultimately merge to form Shining Creek. The way down Shining Creek Path is steady and often chosen for shorter out-and-back runs to its multiple cascading waterfalls. Once you reach the intersection with Old Butt Knob Trail, keep right and follow the path along the river back to the trailhead. Sources: https://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/nfsnc/recarea/?recid=48260 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shining_Rock