Hiking Hotspot: Mt. Pisgah in Western North Carolina
Mt Pisgah, located within the Pisgah National Forest, is a prominent mountain easily visible from Asheville. The trek to the 5721 foot summit is the perfect option for adventurous fitness buffs seeking an intense hike. Located at Milepost 407 on the Blue Ridge Parkway in Western North Carolina, this hike is quite popular with tourists visiting Asheville and nearby mountain towns like Boone, Blowing Rock, and Hendersonville. This hike is a popular respite during the hot Carolina summer season, and also a prime leaf peeping destination during the picturesque fall foliage season. If you are seeking a longer Parkway hike, located within close proximity to Asheville, consider adding a hike to Mt. Pisgah to your itinerary.
History of Mt. Pisgah
Mt. Pisgah is part of the beautiful Blue Ridge mountain range. The summit hike is located on the Blue Ridge Parkway, about 15 miles southwest of Asheville. In terms of Parkway hikes, Mt. Pisgah is one of the tourist favorites. The relatively short hike distance and close proximity to Asheville makes it a popular choice. The most notable feature of this mountain is a 339 foot broadcast tower (WLOS Channel 13 in Asheville) located on the summit. On an interesting side note, it is reportedly the highest TV antenna east of the Mississippi river. Although the tower does distract a bit from the view at the top, there is a small observation deck which looks out upon the mountains.
The Pisgah National Forest was established in 1915, making it one of the first national forests on the East coast. In the late 1800’s, George Vanderbilt owned 125,000 acres of land including Mt. Pisgah. The Weeks Act in 1911 allowed the US Forest Service to purchase forested lands. In 1914, the forest service purchased 80,000 acres including Mt. Pisgah. The Vanderbilt’s kept 476 acres in Buck Springs Gap and built a lodge. Remains of the Buck Springs Lodge can be viewed via an easy 1 mile hike along the Buck Springs Gap trail (begins at the same parking area as Mt. Pisgah).
According to the NPS, the name Pisgah is biblical in origin. In Deuteronomy, The Lord ordered Moses to go to the top of Mt. Pisgah to reveal the “Promised Land.” In 1776, Reverend James Hall named the mountain. In Hebrew, Pisgah translates to summit.
Read more about the history of Mt. Pisgah
The hike to the summit
A moderate 1.6 mile hike leads you up to the 5721 foot summit. While the first half mile or so is quite easy, the hike gradually progresses to a very steep climb. The rigorous climb will definitely satisfy avid hikers/fitness buffs. Note – please make sure that you can handle a fairly steep 1 mile climb. The overall elevation gain is over 700 feet. You will definitely get in a fantastic all over body workout. Sore legs the next day is a guarantee!
After meandering through a Northern Red Oak Forest you will eventually reach a heath bald at the summit. Leaf peeping is a treat during the fall season and will help motivate you to continue on the challenging uphill climb. From the summit, you will enjoy views of the Shining Rock Wilderness Area. On a clear day, you can see all the way to the famous Biltmore Estate. While this is not the most scenic summit hike on the Parkway (Devil’s Courthouse and Craggy Pinnacle offer better views), it’s an enjoyable and challenging feat.
A few views from the hike
Summertime is a great time to plan your visit as the temps at this high of an altitude are oftentimes refreshingly cool in comparison to the hot and humid summers experienced by Asheville. On a particularly hot day, it’s a treat to walk through a cool shady forest.
The haunting of the Pisgah National Forest
North Carolina has a long history of paranormal occurrences. Most infamously, for hundreds of years, people have claimed to see bright orbs near Brown Mountain. This unexplained phenomenon has puzzled ghost researchers and attracted the attention of numerous publications including the Travel Channel. On another unique side note, rare Blue Ghost fireflies only inhabit this region. These rare fireflies glow a bluish color during mating season (late spring-early summer). You can read more about the science of blue ghosts for additional info. Tours are available.
Although it draws the most press, paranormal occurrences are not limited to Brown Mountain. Many ghost sightings have occurred over the decades. Really, not a surprise given the isolated, dreary, and mysterious vibe of the forest. Many off-the-beaten path trails are located deep within the remote wilderness where you may not see a single hiker. As you walk through a creepy forest all by yourself, the ghost sightings are quite more believable.
There’s also been no shortage of “real life” horror in the forest. One of the most notorious serial killers in the state, Gary Michael Hilton aka “The National Forest Serial Killer,” committed a series of murders in several national forests, one being the Pisgah National Forest. Along with various murders, many hikers have mysteriously disappeared.
While it may not be haunted, the Pisgah National Forest does have its’ fair share of horror stories. And large portions of the forest are eerie and desolate. Strangely, our phone went completely dead while hiking Mt. Pisgah despite being 100% charged, on battery saver, and on airplane mode. This has never happened before. Sadly, we did not get as many pictures as we intended to due to this strange occurrence.
However, keep in mind that there are many wonderful waterfalls and trails to explore in the Pisgah, just be cautious, never hike beyond your comfort level, and always let others know were you will be! Here is my guide the best waterfalls near Asheville.
Mt Pisgah hike directions & parking
The hike begins at Milepost 407.6 on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Parking is free, although it often fills up fast on busy weekends. Restrooms and picnic facilities are located at the Mt. Pisgah Inn at Milepost 408.6. Bring with plenty of snacks and water for your hike. If you plan on grabbing a bite to eat, there are many great breakfast choices in Asheville.