Blue Ridge Parkway | BUCK SPRINGS GAP OVERLOOK (MP 407.6)

View from the Buck Springs Gap Overlook parking area on the Blue Ridge Parkway

View from the Buck Springs Gap Overlook parking area on the Blue Ridge Parkway

View: ♦ ♦ ♦ / 5
Trails: Mount Pisgah Trail, Mountains to Sea Trail, Shut-In Trail, Buck Springs Gap Trail
Picnic Tables: None

When turning off of the Blue Ridge Parkway at Mile Post 407.6, a sign at the road reads “Mount Pisgah Parking Area.” This will take you to two parking lots, the first being for the Buck Springs Gap Overlook and the second for the Mount Pisgah Trail.

Buck Springs Gap Overlook

Parking at the Buck Springs Gap Overlook provides visitors with a decent scenic view (top photo) and the start of the Buck Springs Gap Trail, which is really just a short, southbound segment of the Mountains to Sea Trail / Shut-In Trail that runs 1.1 miles to the Pisgah Inn. You can also hike northbound on the Mountains to Sea Trail starting from the trailhead located on the opposite side of the parking lot.

Trailhead for the Buck Springs Gap / Mountains to Sea Trail at the Buck Springs Gap Overlook on the Blue Ridge Parkway

Trailhead for the Buck Springs Gap / Mountains to Sea Trail at the Buck Springs Gap Overlook on the Blue Ridge Parkway

I’m not sure how many people hike all the way to the lodge, but lots of people hike about 500 yards up the trail to an overlook where you can get a clearer view of the surrounding mountains and valleys.

View from the Buck Springs Gap parking lot on the Blue Ridge Parkway

View from the Buck Springs Gap parking lot on the Blue Ridge Parkway

View from the overlook on the Blue Ridge Parkway's Buck Springs Gap Trail

View from the overlook on the Blue Ridge Parkway’s Buck Springs Gap Trail

The overlook is also near the site of the former Buck Springs Lodge, a hunting lodge built by George Vanderbilt in the 1890s (Vanderbilt was the owner of the Biltmore Mansion in Asheville). The lodge was large enough to hold a dozen people, and the complex consisted of a few outbuildings as well, including a spring house that was used to store perishable goods. Such refrigeration was made possible by a cold spring running through the bottom of the building, in this case, Buck Springs. The lodge was removed in 1963, but part of its foundation and the spring house still stand.

The lodge stood in the field next to the overlook. You may notice a pile of rocks near the forest, but these are not part of the foundation. There is nothing remaining of the lodge in this field today.

Site of Vanderbilt hunting lodge at the Buck Springs Gap Overlook on the Blue Ridge Parkway

Site of Vanderbilt hunting lodge at the Buck Springs Gap Overlook on the Blue Ridge Parkway

However, if you continue just 50 yards or so farther down the Buck Springs Trail, you will find part of the lodge’s foundation, though I have no idea which section it is.

Remains of the Buck Springs Lodge accessed along the Buck Springs Gap Trail on the Blue Ridge Parkway

Remains of the Buck Springs Lodge accessed along the Buck Springs Gap Trail on the Blue Ridge Parkway

There are two other interesting structures near here, one that I assume is the spring house (there is nothing identifying it as such). The other is a long retaining wall. If you are at the overlook, walk across the field towards the forest and you will find a very short trail that goes downhill to a terrace. On the way down the trail forks, branching right at a stone staircase or proceeding straight ahead on the dirt trail—both come out at the terrace. To the right is the stone retaining wall and a path running alongside it. This leads back to the parking area, thus you could have reached this point directly instead of hiking to the overlook.

Retaining wall near the Buck Springs Gap Overlook on the Blue Ridge Parkway

Retaining wall near the Buck Springs Gap Overlook on the Blue Ridge Parkway

If you are at the parking lot, when facing the Buck Springs Trail sign, look slightly to the right and you will see the path to the wall.

Path to the retaining wall from the Buck Springs Overlook parking lot on the Blue Ridge Parkway

Path to the retaining wall from the Buck Springs Overlook parking lot on the Blue Ridge Parkway

To get to the spring house, look for another trail at the far side of the terrace (not near the parking lot) and opposite of the retaining wall. If you came down from the overlook on the dirt trail (not the stone steps) you would simply keep walking straight ahead. The trail is a little overgrown and works it way steeply downhill through a thicket of rhododendrons, but it only takes about a minute to get to what is most likely the spring house from the Vanderbilt days. You’ll be surprised to find that it is located right next to the Parkway at the turnoff to the Buck Springs Gap Overlook. However, it sits slightly back in the woods and is thus hidden from view when driving by unless you know where to look.

Vanderbilt-era Spring House at the Buck Springs Gap Overlook on the Blue Ridge Parkway

Vanderbilt-era Spring House at the Buck Springs Gap Overlook on the Blue Ridge Parkway

Mount Pisgah Trail Parking

A second parking area is located farther down the road from the Buck Springs Gap parking lot. This serves as parking for the Mount Pisgah Trail, a 2.6-mile round trip hike that leads to the top of Mount Pisgah. Drive all the way to the back of the parking lot to find the trailhead. It is marked with a wayside exhibit that tells about the trail.

You can also access the Mountains To Sea Trail / Shut-In Trail from here. The trailhead is located towards the front of the parking lot, opposite from the Mount Pisgah Trail. This is the official start of one end of the Shut-In Trail, which was cut by Vanderbilt as a way to get from the Biltmore Estate to the hunting lodge. It is 16.3 miles long and follows the same path as the Mountains to Sea Trail until it ends at Bent Creek near North Carolina Highway 191 (Blue Ridge Parkway Mile Post 393.7). I don’t know why the Mount Pisgah Trail parking lot is considered the start of the trail, for it would make more sense that the trail start at the old Buck Springs Lodge site, as that would have been Vanderbilt’s ultimate destination.

To hike the Shut-In trail in its entirety in one day you would need to be in great shape and to 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.

For more information on all of the above mentioned trails, see the Mount Pisgah Hiking Trails web page.


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Last updated on November 8, 2023
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