We get out about once a week to hike usually in central to western North Carolina. We hike slowly and stop often to enjoy the views and the little treasures that nature offers. We enjoy waterfall, river, and mountain hikes frequently visiting The Blue Ridge Parkway, the Great Smoky Moutains National Park, and Pisgah National Forest.
The Shining Creek trail starts from the Big East Fork trail head on US 276 north of the Blue Ridge Parkway. From the parking area you can see the creek down below but it is about a quarter mile before the trail descends to the creek level. The trail turns away from the water and climbs a hill. There were several rhododendron tunnels. We could hear the creek but not see it.
At about .7 miles we topped a small rise and the Big Butt trail left on the right. This trail could be used to create a loop but it was steeper then we were ready to attempt in the summer heat. Continuing straight ahead the trail was almost level. We could see and hear cascades below. Soon the trail dropped down to the creek level and stayed close to the water.
We passed cascades, small pools, a natural dam created by a fallen tree, and several small waterfalls.The trail was narrow in places and there were rocks and roots in the trail but this section was a really pleasant walk.We had to climb over and under several recently fallen trees in one spot. A pair of juncos hopped in and out of the trail ahead of us.
At two miles we crossed the creek at Daniels cove. This is a narrow creek that we just stepped across. We smelled smoke and wondered about it. This trail is in the Shining Rock Wilderness where campfires are not allowed. We passed a campsite soon after where a couple were eating lunch. The trail climbed above the creek and we began to see more summer flowers.
The creek splits and becomes much smaller. The trail becomes steeper and there is less shade. By the last mile instead of following a creek we were crossing the springs that feed the headwaters of the creek. The trail is narrow, steep, and rocky in this area. The last switchback lead to a nicer section of trail that suddenly ended at the Art Loeb trail 4.1 miles into the hike.
At the Art Loeb trail we turned right and stopped for lunch in a trailside campside with a big log to sit on. We took a left at the next trail fork and at about a quarter mile reached the Shining Rock that the wilderness is named for. Rather then a single rock it is more like a ridgeline of white quartz rocks running for several hundred feet.
We climbed up on top the slippery rock to enjoy the view before heading back the way we came. About halfway back we got caught in the rain. There are no blazes in the wilderness so it is important to know where you are going and how to find your way back. This seems like it would be a great Springtime hike when the creek level would be higher and there would be more flowers blooming.