Blue Ridge Parkway Section 5 - Campgrounds and Facilities
Mount Pisgah Recration Area
Mount Pisgah itself is a sharp, distinctive peak which lies along the Pisgah Ledge south of Asheville, NC. The peak is clearly visible from most of Asheville and the French Broad River Valley and tops out at 5721'. The Blue Ridge Parkway travels from Asheville past this famous mountain. Much of the surrounding area falls into the Pisgah National Forest, also named for the mountain. This is one of the more popular recreation areas along the Blue Ridge Parkway.
Mount Pisgah itself is currently named after the biblical mountain from which Moses first saw the promised land. When the Cherokee were the land's only inhabitants, the mountain was named "Elseetoss" and what we now know as the Pisgah Ridge was named "Warwasseeta". In 1776, expeditions were led into the mountains to fight against the Cherokee Indians. Accompanying the group was Presbyterian minister Rev. James Hall. According to one account of folk history, Hall was reminded of the Biblical story when enjoying the fabulous view from the summit, and named it Pisgah. Another story tells of a different Presbyterian minister, George Newton, who named it similarly in the early 19th century. Whoever named it, the first recorded use of the name appeared in 1808 in a survey splitting Buncombe and Henderson Counties. The current county line crosses the peak of Pisgah. The now official name has been carried on to the National Forest which covers much of the region around Asheville, and the Pisgah District of this National Forest now surrounds the mountain. Several towns in the area carry the name of this mountain as well.
Most of these lands were eventually obtained as part of the original tract owned by George W. Vanderbilt, builder of the famous Biltmore Estate near Asheville. Vanderbilt also constructed the Buck Spring Lodge, just north of the current Pisgah Inn and below Mt. Pisgah's summit, which was to be his mountaintop retreat. He constructed the Shut-In Trail to climb the Pisgah Ridge to his lodge below the summit of Mt. Pisgah. This trail, still in use today, closely follows the current Blue Ridge Parkway. Later, much of the property Vanderbilt owned was eventually sold to the government to become the core of the Pisgah National Forest, but not before the first forestry school in the country was established near the Pink Beds area.
Vanderbilt needed to manage his vast holdings of forested lands. Therefore, he - along with his landscape architect, Fredrick Law Ulmstead - created the country's first school of forestry in the area now known as the Cradle of Forestry, accessible by the Buck Spring trail from the Pisgah Inn. For more information on the Cradle of Forestry, click here.
Hiking in the Mount Pisgah Recreation Area
Hiking opportunities abound right out the door if you book a room at the Pisgah Inn, or right from your tent if you're staying at the campground!
The Buck Spring Trail gradually climbs the Pisgah Ridge from the Pink Beds area of the Pisgah National Forest. It goes through the parking lot of the Pisgah Inn, and then heads north along the side of Little Bald Mountain toward the Mount Pisgah Parking Area. Before reaching the parking area, it passes the historic Buck Spring Lodge site (see History above). The Mountains to Sea Trail shares this path up to the Mt. Pisgah Parking Area.
At the Mt. Pisgah Parking Area, the Shut-In Trail (see History above) heads north toward Asheville, closely following the Blue Ridge Parkway. The Mountains to Sea Trail follows that route. The Mount Pisgah Trail (details - see the Mt. Pisgah Best Hike) leads, not surprisingly, to the top of Mount Pisgah, where spectacular views can be found - back toward the Pisgah Inn, toward the Shining Rock Wilderness, to Cold Mountain, and north to Asheville and beyond to the Black Mountains. This historic, scenic trail is a must!
Connecting with the Buck Spring trail between the Pisgah Inn and the Mount Pisgah Parking Area are the Laurel Mountain and Pilot Rock trails. A connector on the other side of Little Bald Mountain means a good, moderate loop hike can be made using these four trails. Beyond the connector, these difficult trails lead deep into the Pisgah National Forest, into the Mills River area.
Just a short distance south is the hike to Frying Pan Knob, an easier walk on a graveled road to a fire tower with a view of the Shining Rock Wilderness and the Pisgah National Forest, for those who don't want to attempt Mt. Pisgah itself.
Lodging and camping are available (see below). Dining (with a view) available at the Pisgah Inn Restaurant, where bag lunches can be purchased for day hikes. Drinks, snacks & camping supplies can be found at the camp/convenience store. Gasoline is no longer available. Restrooms are available at the Pisgah Inn, the camp/convenience store, and at the Mount Pisgah Picnic Area, halfway between the Pisgah Inn and the Mount Pisgah Parking Area. The picnic area has many tables on a level hill, with shaded and sunny sites available. Each has grills, and there is a large, grassy field for recreation.
The Pisgah Inn offers luxury traditional hotel style accommodations and is one of the highest places of lodging on the East Coast. The Inn is located south of Mt. Pisgah beside the Parkway, at the edge of the Pisgah Ridge. Views off the ridge of the Pisgah National Forest and beyond can be seen from the Inn. It's a man-made rest stop in a sea of forest and mountains. Boasting a spectacular view, the inn also has a great restaurant for after your long rides. Be sure to visit the gift shop for items related to the area including maps, guide books, and sovenirs. Reservations are recommended and more information about this can be obtained on the Pisgah Inn web site.
The Mount Pisgah Campground, across the road from the Inn, is open from May to October (this is an estimate - check weather for parkway closings in early spring/late fall). It has flush toilets, an amphitheater, a camp store, and it's at a beautiful high elevation setting within view and hiking distance of Mt. Pisgah's summit. Cool nights persist throughout the summer, and daytime temperatures rarely climb out of the 70's. There are 41 sites with separate areas for RV's and tents.