Blue Ridge Parkway | MOUNT PISGAH HIKING TRAILS (MP 407-409)

Mount Pisgah Map

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Mount Pisgah Trail

This 3.2-mile round trip hike ascends to the summit of Mount Pisgah and is rated Moderate to Strenuous by the Blue Ridge Parkway Outdoor Guide. The trail begins at its own parking area at the Buck Springs Gap Overlook near Mile Post 407. Drive all the way to the back of the parking lot to find the trailhead.

Buck Springs Trail

The Buck Springs Trail is really just a small segment of the Mountains to Sea Trail that you can pick up at either the Buck Springs Gap Overlook parking area or the Pisgah Inn. The trail runs between these two locations and is 1.1-miles one-way. Most people who start at Buck Springs just hike as far as the Buck Springs Overlook, only 500 feet from the start, then head back to the parking lot. You can also find remnants of George Vanderbilt’s old hunting lodge near the overlook.

Laurel Mountain Trail

This 7.5-mile one-way trail begins in the Buck Springs Gap Overlook parking lot. The trailhead is not marked, but follow the sign pointing towards the Buck Springs Overlook / Mount Pisgah Lodge. Start off on the Buck Springs Trail, which itself is just a short segment of the Mountains to Sea Trail. Hike about a three quarters of a mile until you come to the intersection with the Laurel Mountain Trail. A sign marks the intersection.

Pilot Rock Trail

Like the Laurel Mountain Trail, this branches off of the Buck Springs / Mountains to Sea Trail about a tenth of a mile after passing the intersection for Laurel Mountain. A sign marks the intersection. It is about 3.75 miles one-way to U. S. Forest Service Road 1206. If you don’t have a ride at the end, double the mileage for the hike back.

Little Pisgah Ridge Trail

There are two ways to access this trail. A roadside parking area on the southside of the Little Pisgah Tunnel, which is just north of the Pisgah Inn, grants trail access. There is no trail identification sign here, but look for a yellow blaze on a boulder. You can also park in the Mount Pisgah Trail parking lot and take the Mountains to Sea Trail north for a quarter mile. The Little Pisgah Ridge Trail branches off to the right. The trail is straight downhill to the Mills River Recreation Area and is about 6 miles round trip. The destination is not within the Blue Ridge Parkway boundary.

Frying Pan Trail

This 2.1-mile one-way trail starts at the Mount Pisgah Campground and ends at the top of Frying Pan Mountain where you will find a U. S. Forest Service fire tower. You can climb the tower, though not all the way to the top, and get a clear view of the surrounding mountains and valley.

Mountains to Sea Trail

This is a 1,150-mile trail that stretches from Great Smoky Mountains National Park to the North Carolina Outer Banks. It is not part of the National Park system, so I did not hike or review it, but you can get information on the Friends of the Mountains to Sea Trail website.

Shut-in Trail

This 16.3-mile one-way trail begins at either the Mount Pisgah Trail parking lot (part of the Buck Springs Gap Overlook) or at Bent Creek near North Carolina Highway 191 at Blue Ridge Parkway Mile Post 393.7 (near the French Broad Overlook at MP 393.8). For its entire length, it and the Mountains to Sea Trail are the same (the trails stick closely to the Parkway route). However, you’d have to say that the Mountains to Sea Trail follows the Shut-In Trail because the Shut-In Trail was built in 1890 by George W. Vanderbilt, the owner of the Biltmore Estate in Asheville. This was long before the Mountains to Sea Trail was even thought of. Vanderbilt cut the Shut-In Trail to connect the Biltmore Estate to his hunting cabin at Buck Springs.

You can access the Shut-In Trail at various pullouts along the Parkway between the two ends of the trail, so it is possible to hike short stretches at a time. Most segments rate as Moderate to Strenuous in difficulty.

To hike the trail in its entirety in one day, you would need to be in great shape and start out early on a long summer day. There is no camping along the trail because it is within the Blue Ridge Parkway boundary. However, the Pisgah National Forest surrounds the Parkway, and if you can find a spur trail or can beat a path away from the Parkway and onto U. S. Forest Service land, you can camp anywhere you can pitch a tent. I would recommend doing some research on this before hiking, as there are probably well marked entrances into the forest from the trail, so you won’t literally have to beat a path into the forest.

Back to the Top | Mount Pisgah Recreation Area

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Last updated on November 28, 2023
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