A popular hike for so many reasons. One, with the trailhead at about 5,900 feet, you’re looking at minimal elevation gain. The views are are everywhere as the trail spends much of its time in high-mountain meadows, balds and barren stretches resulting from a devastating fire a century ago. Once at Shining Rock you’ve got great scrambling on the white quartz boulders that give the region its name. And the hike from Shining Rock to Deep Gap is along a ridgeline that’s razor-thin at points, offering an unusual, for this part of the country, alpine challenge.

More info: USDA Forest Service, Pisgah Ranger District, 828.257.4200; “Backpacking North Carolina,” Trip No. 15.

Map: “Shining Rock & Middle Prong Wilderness, Pisgah National Forest,” USDA Forest Service.

Map of trailhead here.
View 20 Classic North Carolina Hikes: Sam Knob Loop and Investor Gap/Shining Rock Wilderness in a larger map

shining rock
Location: Shining Rock Wilderness, off Blue Ridge Parkway, Milepost 420
Nearest town: Brevard
Latitude: N35 19.836
Longitude: W82 53.645
Difficulty: Easy
Distance: 7.3 miles (14.6 miles roundtrip)
Loop/one-way: One-way
Time to complete: All day