Route: Shining Rock Wilderness Ridge (NC)

Submitted by Jason Marquardt on Tue, 12/15/2020 - 01:09pm
North Carolina, US
17.2 mi
Vertical Gain
4,675 ft

[Editors Note: Be sure to follow the official GPX listed below and stick to the ridge line, Jonathan’s effort deviated from the ridge line near the start of the route, the way he went adds distance and is not the official course.]

This route does an out and back on most of the prominent and aesthetically pleasing ridges of the Great Balsam Mountains, a subrange of the Blue Ridge Mountains, of Western North Carolina. The route follows a section of the Art Loeb Trail for almost it's entirely barring a brief detour to summit Shining Rock, the namesake of the area, and for Cold Mountain Trail which takes you to the turn around point for the route. The route is entirely in the Shining Rock Wilderness Area.

The inspiration behind this route came from some of the great ridge traverses from the Rockies but with some Southern Appalachian flair. The first section from Black Balsam Knob to Shining Rock is littered with social and game trails, be sure to stay on route/the ridge as this is the motivation behind the route. 

  • 17.2 Miles (8.6 Miles each way)
  • 4675 feet of elevation gain
  • Summits:
    • Black Balsam Knob
    • Tennet Mountain
    • Grassy Cove Top
    • Shining Rock
    • Stairs Mountain
    • Cold Mountain


  • There is ample roadside parking at the trailhead but it fills up early on weekends, plan accordingly.
  • The trail is narrow and tight in many sections, increased trail traffic will slow you down significantly.
  • Weather can move quickly, check the forecast, be prepared (forecast for Black Balsam Knob)
  • Water sources are pretty unreliable until you near Shining Rock and the spring about had a mile from the top of Cold Mountain.


User Picture
Profile picture for user Julie Wallace

I plan on trying this route this week.  Looks like a good one!!!