View – Shining Rock is a 5940 ft. elevation prominent white quartz outcropping the size of a large house and is big enough for a number of people to stand upon. The Art Loeb trail leading to Shining Rock crosses Black Balsam Knob and Tennent Mountain, all grassy balds with panoramic views.
Hike Profile – the hike is an out and back hike to Shining Rock following the Art Loeb III Trail with the option to do a loop hike by returning on the Ivestor Gap trail, by-passing Grassy Cove Top, Tennent Mountain and Black Balsam Knob. The Art Loeb trail crosses Black Balsam Knob, Tennent Mountain, Grassy Cove Top and Flower Knob, as well as other low knobs in a rather straight line course to Shining Rock. After climbing up onto the Shining Rock and enjoying the views from there, return to the access trail and continue on up to the top of the knob. The trail ends in a field of rhodo bushes featuring a number of smaller quartz rock formations. These views are worth the extra time.
The Ivestor Gap trail roughly parallels the Art Loeb trail and intersects it twice – once at the base of Tennent Mountain and also at the base of Grassy Cove Top at the entrance to the Shining Rock Wilderness. There are also short connecting trails between the Ivestor Gap and Art Loeb trails at Flower Gap and the point where the access trail to Shining Rock leaves the Art Loeb trail. Connecting over to the Ivestor Gap trail on the return has several advantages – the Ivestor Gap trail is a level trail that follows a contour line well below the ridge line. It eliminates the climbs and descents on the return and provides a safe trail off the ridge line in case of thunderstorms.
Trail Surface – smooth dirt and rock, deep rocky ruts, narrow muddy areas, roots – you name it. This route has just about everything. The final ascent to the top of Shining Rock entails a short rock climb.
Environment – grassy knobs with thick blueberry bushes in places, balsam forest areas. Exposed rock occurs in places on the balds.
Navigation – see the Tennent Mountain description for the details of the first part of the hike. After descending Tennent Mountain to the Ivestor Gap trail, continue a short distance north until the Art Loeb trail branches off to the right and continues up a short knob. The Art Loeb trail will intersect with the Ivestor Gap trail again after descending from that short knob. At this point you will see a sign for the Shining Rock Wilderness area at the base of Grassy Cove Top. The Ivestor Gap trail will be on the left and another trail to the right goes to Graveyard Fields. Take a right onto the trail to Graveyard Fields and look for the Art Loeb trail on the left a short way down the trail. Take the left and follow the trail up Grassy Cove Top. The Art Loeb trail will continue straight almost to Shining Rock. Shortly below you reach the base of Shining Rock, you will enter a small meadow area. The Art Loeb trail to Deep Gap splits off to the left along with a trail that connects to the Ivestor Gap trail. Stay to the right (actually straight) and continue to follow the trail to Shining Rock. Note that the trails are not marked in the Shining Rock Wilderness.
There are a couple of ways to climb up onto Shining Rock but the one near the top of the rock is the easiest. When approaching the base of Shining Rock, follow the trail to the right that goes along the south face of the rock. The second prominent spur trail to the left leads to the proper access point. See the photo gallery for a view of the spur trail and the large white boulder that marks it.
To reach the top of the knob in order to see the other quartz formations, return to the access trail and continue climbing on that trail until you reach the top of the knob. There you will see a three-way intersection at that point. The right-hand trail is the Old Butt Knob trail that descends to the Big East Fork trailhead. Go straight at this intersection to go to the rhodo field containing the smaller quartz rock formations.
On the return, you have the option to leave the Art Loeb trail and take the Ivestor Gap trail back to the parking lot at either of the two intersections between those trails. This will avoid climbing up and down a couple of knobs at the expense of lengthening the hike somewhat.
Directions to Trailhead – At BRP milepost 420 turn onto FS 816 and drive about 0.8 mi. to a pull off on the right side of the road. The Art Loeb III Trail starts on the right.