April 2, 2016
Old Butt Knob Trail is the crown jewel of the Shining Rock Wilderness. Hiked east to west from Big East Fork Trailhead, it is unrelenting. It’s the kind of trail that never lets you forget you are climbing a mountain. Undulation and steepness greet you at every turn.
It is one of my favorite hikes. Unfortunately, it’s not for everyone. To reach the trailhead, I started at Big East Fork and hiked .9 miles on Shining Creek Trail. After that there is an unmarked trail bifurcation. The right (northern) fork is Old Butt Knob Trail. The trail then skyrockets upward over the next 3.6 miles. The first vista is memorable: your skin is sweating, your breath is heavy and you come to an unnamed rock outcropping with pines that are hundreds of years old. To your south is the rustic terrain of Shining Rock Wilderness.
I continued up the trail, before descending into Spanish Oak Gap, scaled Dog Loser Knob, before going down to Beech Spring Gap.
From Beech the trail again starts upward, encased by a sea of mountain laurel, with no vistas. At the zenith, Shining Rock Mountain becomes visible with its white cap. I summited before hiking south on the rest of the Old Butt Knob Trail.
A short descent to the Art Loeb and a left (west) turn onto Shining Creek Trail traces the route back to Big East Fork, past the tumbling cascades of the creek.
Total mileage is 7.9 miles.