May 25, 2015
This is an excellent 12 mile loop: East Fork Trailhead to Big East Fork Trail to Greasy Cove Trail to the Art Loeb to Shining Creek Trail. This isn’t exactly the easiest way to summit Grassy Cove Top, but I did see a wonderful section of the Shining Rock Wilderness and Pisgah National Forest I had never seen before.
Gracie and I started out at Big East Fork Trail around 11:00 am. The trail itself is very flat, but hiking felt impeded because of the rocks. If there is one thing that I have learned about Shining Rock hiking is that it’s hard to develop a natural gait, because of the rock-stepping. The views are great, as the trail follows the East Fork River for 3.4 miles. As we were hiking, a lot of the Memorial Day campers were heading out. Some of the conversations were really nice with lots of trip details; others were abbreviated with people looking to beeline it to the car.
After 3.4 miles the trail bifurcates at a large campground. The Big East Fork Trail continues south (becoming Bridge Camp Gap Trail). To reach Greasy Cove Trail, we had to cross the Pigeon River (stones are stacked indicating the path). The crossing was not difficult. There were more than enough rocks to jump across, however we are in the middle of a mini-drought, and I could envision this being a semi-difficult passing in higher waters.
After 1/16 mile we reached Greasy Cove Prong and made a smaller creek crossing that was not difficult.
Greasy Cove heads either west or northwest for 3.2 miles. There is a lot of elevation gain; roughly 2,000 feet from the trailhead to Grassy Cove Top. Without a lot of switchbacks, the trail literally goes up the gut. It’s a fabulous trail though. Whole meadows filled with ferns, grass growing under every tree, thickets of rhododendron making tunnels over the mountain. It’s certainly a wonderful, less-traveled delight.
Greasy Cove intersects the Art Loeb and we headed north. After ½ mile there is a trail up the north side of Grassy Cove Top, elevation 6,040 feet. It’s not hard and very short. The views from the summit are tremendous.
We went back down the mountain and continued north of the Art Loeb. After 1 ½ miles a sign instructs one for the trailhead for the Shining Creek Trail, a pleasant 3.4 mile hike back to the East Fork Trailhead, where we finished at 4:30 pm.
Total mileage is 12 miles.