It was an early wake up this morning. I got up at 5:15, fed and walked Parker, and then hit the road. It would be a long 2 hour drive into the Great Balsam Mountains off the Blue Ridge Parkway. I arrived around 8 am, but found a parking lot already full with people parked all along the road, even in places that were clearly marked "No Parking". Yes, today's hike featured very pretty scenery, as well as lots of people.
I started the hike by making my way through a large group of boy scouts that were loitering near the trailhead. I quickly turned onto the Art Loeb Spur Trail and ascended up to the main Art Leob Trail where the views were already amazing.
After a moment on the summit it was time to move on. The views remained spectacular due to the lack of tree coverage.
Just before arriving at the base of Grassy Cove Top, the trail enters into the Shining Rock Wilderness.
Soon my next objective came into view: Shining Rock with its line of exposed white quartz that seems to shine in the sunlight.
I followed the Art Loeb Trail south for a bit to Shining Rock Gap. Here I left the Art Loeb and followed the Ivestor Gap Trail Instead.
I had gotten lots of great views of Sam Knob throughout my hike, finally I would ascend it. The start of the Sam Knob Trail was level and easy, another old road I believe. Then the trail descended a steep rutted section into a meadow with an imposing view of Sam Knob.