GetBackpacking! 3-day Big East Fork / Shining Rock Loop


Virtual escapes
Shining Rock Wilderness, Pisgah National Forest.

Even if you’ve hiked the Shining Rock area of North Carolina’s Pisgah National Forest, you likely haven’t done so via the Big East Fork Trailhead. You’ll get the views and rugged exposure you love at Shining Rock, but you’ll also get intimate passages along several creeks cutting through mature hardwood forests. Waterfalls and pools abound at the beginning and end of this three-day trip.

April 22-24, $165

2 in stock


The 19-mile Big East Fork Loop is a highlight reel of the Shining Rock Area of the Pisgah National Forest. Our hike begins from the lesser-used Big East Fork trailhead off U.S. 276, as we take the Shining Creek Trail up (an elevation gain of 2,300 feet in 4.3 miles) forested Shining Rock Creek to Shining Rock, our destination for Night 1. From there, we hike south on the Art Loeb Trail, over Flower Knob (5,889 feet), Grassy Cove Top (6,050 feet), Tennent Mountain (6,057 feet), and Black Balsam Knob (6,021 feet). Views abound on this stretch. From there, we’ll pick up the Mountains-to-Sea Trail and drop into the Graveyard Fields area, checking out several waterfalls along the way. After a couple miles we drop down to Big East Fork, where we’ll spend Saturday night. The hike out is 3.4 miles down Big East Fork, a mellow end to the weekend.

Distance: 19 miles

Difficulty: Strenuous. Total elevation gain for this hike is 4,146 feet, although the last 9 miles trends downhill.

When: Friday, April 22, 1 p.m., through Sunday, April 24, noon.

Hike plan

Friday, April 22: Meet at the Big East Fork Trailhead on U.S. 276 at 1 p.m. and take the 4.3-mile Shining Creek Trail to camp for the night at Shining Rock. We should arrive by 4 p.m., leaving plenty of time to set up camp and explore Shining Rock. 4.3 miles

Saturday: Leave camp at 9 a.m. heading south on the Art Loeb Trail. We’ll enjoy views from three peaks before picking up the Mountains-to-Sea Trail and heading through the Graveyard Fields area, with several waterfalls. We will camp for the evening along the East Fork of the Pigeon River. We should arrive at camp between 4 and 5 p.m. 11.2 miles.

Sunday: We leave camp at 9 a.m. for the 3.4-mile hike out.

Additional details

Sunrise: 6:48 a.m.

Sunset: 8:12 p.m.

Weather: Typical temperatures this time of year include a daytime high of 73, overnight low of 49. 

Bear canisters are required for this trip. If you don’t have one, we will supply one for an additional fee. 

For this trip you will receive:

  • Guide to the Big East Fork Loop, including everything you’ll need for the weekend, trip logistics and a map with route description and mileages, by day
  • GetHiking! Guide to Finding Your Way, a quick-tips guide for hiking off trail
  • GetHiking! Guide to Water Crossings
  • Zoom planning meeting on Monday, April 18, at 6 p.m. 
  • Guided trip
  • Bear canister (if you need one)

Full refunds will be offered for cancellations made 14 days or more prior to the event. Credit will be give for cancellations made 3 to 13 days before the event. No refunds for cancelations made 2 days or less before the start of the event.


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