The United States Congress designated the Shining Rock Wilderness (map
) in 1964 and it now has a total of 18,479 acres
All of this wilderness is located in North Carolina
and is managed by the Forest Service.
The Shining Rock Wilderness is bordered by
the Middle Prong Wilderness
to the southwest.
Named for a micaceous rock outcrop, Shining Rock became one of the original components of the National Wilderness Preservation System in September 1964, a few months after garnering designation as a Wild area. It is now the largest Wilderness in North Carolina, separated by only a road from Middle Prong Wilderness to the southwest. Standing at an elevation of more than 5,000 feet and boasting five peaks exceeding 6,000 feet (three within the Wilderness boundaries), Shining Rock Ledge forms the backbone of this area.
Here in this series of high ridges on the north slopes of Pisgah Ridge, you'll find extremely steep and rugged terrain ranging in elevation from 3,200 feet on the banks of the West Fork of Pigeon River, a major tributary of the Tennessee River, to 6,030 feet on Cold Mountain. Streams abound, cutting narrow passages through the mountains on their way to either the East or West Forks of the Pigeon River. Loggers cut down the forest between 1906 and 1926 and fires raged through the area in 1925 and 1942. These two factors account for Shining Rock's grassy "balds" and unique vegetation.
Almost all the trails in the area rate as difficult, and they can be hard to follow. Nevertheless, this Wilderness is one of the most trampled in the state, especially along the trails of Art Loeb (11.6 miles), Ivester Gap (1.6 miles), and Shining Creek (3.4 miles). The entry at the Big East Fork Trailhead also sees heavy use. Off-trail you will see few other humans. No campfires are permitted, and group size is limited to 10.