Hiking the Middle Prong Wilderness Area
The Middle Prong Wilderness lies west of the Shining Rock Wilderness in the Pisgah Ranger District of the Pisgah National Forest, soutwest of Asheville, NC.
In this area, the Blue Ridge Parkway forms a big "U" and the Middle Prong wilderness occupies the western half of the U. The Shining Rock wilderness occupies the eastern half, and right down the middle runs NC Hwy. 215, which is the only thing that separates the two wilderness areas.
The Middle Prong is the smaller of the two wilderness areas, but still provides people plenty of room to spread out and enjoy a true natural experience in an area of exceptional natural beauty.
In light of this, NC 215 is where most access points for this wilderness area lie, starting with the Sunburst area in the north. Here the stream that drains most of the Middle Prong joins with the West Fork Pigeon River. Gravel forest service road 97 skirts the northern edge of the Wilderness and trails entering the heart of the area start here and generally travel south to the Parkway, which provides another possible access point for these trails.
The 7,900 acre wilderness was designated in 1984. Part of the reason of designating this area was to take some of the traffic away from the increasing visitation of the nearby, popular Shining Rock Wilderness. Next time you wish to take a hike into some spectacular, high-elevation terrain, or beside a crystal-clear, pristine mountain stream, consider a trip here - especially if you enjoy solitude.
Several designated trails, combined with the North Carolina Mountains to Sea Trail, form a loose network within the Middle Prong Wilderness. The trails are neither signed nor blazed, and receive minimal maintenance; however, they are for the most part easy to follow.
Buckeye Gap is a mountainside and ridgetop trail, which is extremely steep on one half and nearly level on the other.
Green Mountain is the longest trail in the Wilderness, and runs the length of the ridge that makes up the backbone of the entire area. It's a difficult trail which passes over the summit of Green Knob, one of the highlights of this wilderness. The upper portion of this trail makes up the Green Knob hike, one of the best in the region.
Haywood Gap is the area's primary streamside trail, as it follows Middle Prong upstream to a tributary with the same name as the trail, and ends in its namesake gap at the Blue Ridge Parkway.
This is just an overview of the trails in the Middle Prong wilderness area. For all the trail details, visit the Middle Prong Wilderness Trails page.
Places to Stay
As with any wilderness area, there are no developed campgrounds in the Middle Prong Wilderness. Backcountry camping is allowed, but group size is limited to 10 and no open fires are allowed.
Several campgrounds are within a short drive, however, making day trips into the wilderness a possibility if you're staying in one of them:
- Sunburst, north of the wilderness area on NC 215
- Mount Pisgah Campground, North on the Blue Ridge Parkway
- Davidson River Campground, North on the Parkway and then East on US 276.