A Wild Shining Rock Hike

One of the best perks about working remotely with a flexible schedule is what I was able to do last Monday, which was wake up and be at the computer by 6 AM, be done by 3 PM, and be able to manage to squeeze in a solid 10-mile hike on a workday. I feel comfortable-ish saying it’s officially summer here in Asheville (the “ish” on account of this past weekend, which saw me dragging the down vest back out). One of my summer goals is to spend a day or two a week on this early-to-work-then-hike schedule to help me take advantage of particularly gorgeous days, and free up weekends for visitors and river shenanigans. 

I go into the Shining Rock Wilderness often. Still, I’ve only ever been to the titular Shining Rock once (I also tried to find it once and didn’t succeed—since it’s a wilderness area, many of the trails aren’t marked super well, and get very overgrown in the summer), so set my sights on that. 

There are two ways to reach Shining Rock once you reach the sign that says “Shining Rock Wilderness,” as well as two ways to reach that sign. The scenic way to reach the sign is to take the Art Loeb Trail over Black Balsam and Tennent Mountain—my favorite Asheville hike. I, however, was feeling lazy, so I took the Investor Gap Trail, which leaves from the Sam’s Knob parking lot and is essentially flat. The two trails converge right where the “Shining Rock” sign is, and similarly, you could take either Investor Gap, which is flat, through the woods and doesn’t have a ton of views, or Art Loeb, which has views, plenty of climbs, but also gets very overgrown in the summer. I recommend taking the Investor Gap there and Art Loeb on the way back—I find it easier to navigate overgrown trails on a descent versus an ascent. 

I like Shining Rock so much because you really feel like you’re in the middle of nowhere when you’re there. I hate to be the guy who says being able to see towns and houses from mountain summits takes away from the view, but…I am that guy. And I love the Parkway, but it’s omnipresent—it’s sight, the sound of its traffic—on so many of the hikes off of it. When you’re in the Shining Rock Wilderness, you can’t see any towns, can’t see the parkway, and can’t hear any cars. You’ll run into far fewer people than you will at Black Balsam, but the Art Loeb Trail, in general is very popular with campers. I’ve always run into enough people for it not to feel creepy (my brother and I once did a particularly remote Adirondack HIke, and something is very disconcerting about not seeing any other people for two hours or so). I had the summit of Shining Rock all to myself for twenty minutes or so, which was glorious. 

Shining Rock is a ten-mile roundtrip hike that took me about four hours. I spent the bulk of my walk listening to a new podcast, Chameleon: Wild Boys, that felt apt (almost too on the nose, honestly) for my environs. If you’re as into scammers as I am, I’d recommend checking it out, because, unlike the Anna Devleys and Elizabeth Holmeses dominating the current pop-culture zeitgeist, these scammers were two teenage boys with no funds or connections who tricked a small Canadian town into thinking they had been born and raised in “the bush.” I don’t want to say anything more because while it’s a tiny story, it’s a very wild story. However, it continues the annoying trends that’s my biggest complaint with podcasts: the hosts, for whatever reason, trying to empathize and humanize everyone, and thus not dissecting it to the depths I’d like (in this case, it’s the kid-glove treatment of the “Wild Boy” parents that bugged me—nice meaning-well people deserve pushback and to be called on their shit if they have as wild views as these folks). Still, I’d recommend checking it out. 

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