Saturday, August 11, 2012

Mount Pisgah Trail

Mount Pisgah (5721 ft), for which the Pisgah National Forest is named, was our hike for today.

The name “Pisgah” comes from the Bible.  It was atop Mount Pisgah that God revealed to “Promised Land” to Moses.  This is not that Mount Pisgah.  There seems to be some controversy on how this mountain got its name.  However, both stories credit the naming of the mountain to ministers who looked out over the rich land surrounding the mountain and were reminded of the Moses story of the Promised Land.

Mount Pisgah
During the late 1890s some 125,000 acres of land, including Mount Pisgah, was acquired by George Vanderbilt.  Down the mountain from Mount Pisgah, near Asheville, is the Biltmore Estate, the home of George Vanderbilt.  In addition to the Vanderbilt mansion down below, they also had a hunting lodge on the ridge about a mile from where the Pisgah Inn is located today.  A seventeen mile trail led from the Biltmore Estate to the Buck Springs hunting lodge.  The lodge was rustic compared to the mansion in Asheville, but what it lacked in marble it made up for in having, in the late 1890s, hot and cold running water. That trail is still open today and is called the Shut-In Trail.  Of course, the hunting lodge is long gone.

Our hiking friend, Sharon, had recommended a hiking guidebook, Hiking the Carolina Mountains, by Danny Bernstein.  This was the first hike we have done which was described in that book.  Danny’s route was up the Mount Pisgah Trail to the WLOS TV tower on the summit and back for a 2.6 mile round-trip hike.

The Mount Pisgah Trail begins at the “back” of the very large Mount Pisgah Parking Area just off the Blue Ridge Parkway.  There are three trailheads at this parking lot--Mount Pisgah Trail, Mountains to the Sea Trail, and the Shut-In Trail.

View of Pisgah Inn from Mt Pisgah Trail
The Mount Pisgah Trail starts out on a very gentle incline.  The trail is wide and a little rocky, but not bad.  There are several viewpoints along the way, even with the trees in full leaf.  About halfway in our climb to the summit, the trail narrowed and became noticeably steeper and more rocky.  Also, by this time, the clouds were really beginning to move in.  We pressed on, however, knowing there’d be no views from the top.

View from the summit
They say you can see a whole lot of stuff from the summit on a clear day, including the Biltmore Estate.  Today wasn’t the day.  All we saw was fog.  We lingered a while on the observation platform then headed back down the mountain to the parking lot.

View from the site of the hunting lodge
But, that was only the first half of the hike.  Danny then sent us westward on the Mountains to the Sea trail to the site of the Vanderbilts’ hunting lodge at Buck Springs Gap.  The lodge is no longer there, but there is an information board with photos of what it once looked like.  There are also benches from which to enjoy the view.  The view wasn’t much better here than from the top.  Since the site of the lodge was so close to the parking lot, we came back on another morning for a better view.

View from the hunting lodge on a clearer day
Down the hill from the site of the lodge is the springhouse.  This is the only building which remains of the lodge complex.  By the way, after George Vanderbilt died, Edith spent most of her remaining years at the hunting lodge.

Stairs leading to the springhouse

After looking around there we continued westward on the Mountains to the Sea Trail to Pilot Rock Trail which led to the summit of Little Bald Mountain.  This once bald knob is mostly filled in with small trees and shrubs.

Thunder reminds us of pressing business so we hurry back to the car.  We missed the rain only by minutes.  We were back at the motor home for lunch and a quiet afternoon reading.

That’s all for today.  Thanks for tagging along.


  1. Ya gotta love it. Glad to see you're still having fun even now that you're home owners. Hope to see you in about a month or so.

  2. On a trip to Pisgah Inn two years ago, Bill & I tried TWICE to do this trail and both times, were turned back by thunder. In both cases, turning around was the right thing to do as we would've been caught by the storm. So view or no view, the illusive TV tower remains unseen by us!! We did enjoy visiting the site of the old lodge. Be sure and do the entire Graveyard Fields trail if you haven't already. (I think that's the correct name - somehow it didn't sound right when I wrote it) Hope to see you soon!

  3. Yeah, I've done view hikes where I've reached the top, only to find things socked in. Oh well, it's great to be out hiking in nature.