Shining Rock Wilderness & Cold Mountain
The Shining Rock Wilderness is a protected Wilderness Area in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. Its first 13,400 acres were among the original components of the National Wilderness Preservation System passed in 1964. Today, the Shining Rock Wilderness now includes 18,483 acres, making it the largest Wilderness Area in North Carolina. This protected wilderness was later joined by the adjacent Middle Prong Wilderness Area in 1984.
Located in the Pisgah National Forest, both Wilderness Areas border the Blue Ridge Parkway where it forms a large “V”, roughly halfway between the Great Smoky Mountains and Asheville, NC. The Shining Rock Wilderness occupies the eastern half of the V, while the Middle Prong Wilderness occupies the western half. The two areas are separated by NC Route 215.
The very steep and rugged terrain of the Shining Rock Wilderness includes five mountain peaks that rise above 6,000 feet. At 6,030 feet, Cold Mountain is the highest point in the Wilderness. The 10-mile range known as the Shining Rock Ledge offers spectacular vistas and diverse habitats.
Meandering through the heart of the Wilderness is the famous Art Loeb Trail, a National Recreation Trail that traverses over the highest peaks and balds, and can be used to reach the summit of Cold Mountain. The Art Loeb is considered by many to be one the best trails in the region.
NOTE: This trail is in a federally designated wilderness area, which by law is managed to minimize evidence of human presence. Consequently, trails are neither signed nor blazed, and are maintained at a low level that results in their treads being difficult or impossible to see at times. An accurate map, compass, and the ability to use both are mandatory for travel in a wilderness area. Additionally, in the Shining Rock and Middle Prong Wilderness Areas, campfires are not allowed, groups may not be larger than ten people at any time, and bicycles are not allowed in the wilderness areas.