8.5 Mile Loop with 2890′ Elevation Gain
Make no mistake. This is a hard hike either way you do it. We hiked this loop counter-clockwise so we could get most of the elevation gain done in the beginning of the hike. We parked at the trailhead and walked in .7 miles to the junction and took the right fork up Old Butt Knob trail.
This trail gets real steep real fast. About 1/2 mile up this section, there is a rock outcropping “overlook” on the left side of the trail. It is a good place for a picnic. The view is really nice from there as seen in this picture. If you are here in the fall, the colors are spectacular.
We continued on up the trail and the majority of the elevation gain is done 2.5 miles in when you reach Old Butt Knob (approx 5,500′). You are in the trees and thick undergrowth here and drop down around 250′ to a little swag before going back up to Dog Looser Knob (approx 5735′). From there, you have less than 1/2 mile to Shining Rock summit rocks. To get to the summit rocks, go right where the trail dead ends and pick your way through the vegetation. The trail is still there, but blueberry bushes and briars are so thick on each side that the trail might be difficult to spot.
The view from the summit rocks is really nice as seen here in the picture and there is almost always a breeze there. We like to spend time there and have a snack before heading down to Shining Creek trail.
So, retrace your steps from summit rocks back to where Old Butt Knob trail forks off to the left. Keep right to complete the loop.
The top of the mountain is a bit overgrown right now, but someone has cleaned out the complicated trail junction that leads to Ivester Gap and put up a sign. Make sure you keep straight on the trail here and continue on to a trail junction to the left. There is a sign there. TURN LEFT AT THIS SIGN! Interestingly, over the years so many hikers have had trouble finding this trail. I guess that is why there were signs put up in the wilderness.
Anyway, after taking this left fork, you are now on Shining Creek trail. This trail is very rocky and finding your footing can slow you down quite a bit.
Shining Creek is so pretty and the trail follows the creek most of the way back down. The creek grows quickly as you go down. The water falls over rocks and boulders making little pools and waterfalls. It’s a beautiful walk.
By the time you get back to the car, your feet hurt. We hike a lot of 8 – 8.5 mile hikes, but this one is in a class by itself. Lots of elevation, lots of rocks and unsure footing makes it very tiring and slow. Allow at least 6 hours to hike this loop.
Check out my activity on AllTrails.https://t.co/n56dXwihbB
— Sandy Rumsey (@SandyRumsey) July 30, 2017