View from atop Mt. Pisgah, looking toward Cold Mountain (highest peak)
Mt. Pisgah on the Blue Ridge Parkway
(Milepost 407.6) can be seen from downtown Asheville on a clear day. It's easy to pick out since it has a large transmission tower on the top! The popular 1.5 mile (one way) strenuous hike to the 5,721-foot summit is a great place to stop along the Parkway to stretch your legs. It's just 26 miles southwest of downtown Asheville in the Pisgah National Forest
. Enjoy panoramic views, including the best view of the famous Cold Mountain
. Coming from Asheville, look for the parking area on the left before you reach the Pisgah Inn. A large picnic
area includes grills, tables and restroom facilities.
The trail starts at the back of the parking area behind the large sign. At the parking lot, you are just shy of 5,000' in elevation and you are in the midst of the high-elevation northern hardwood forest. You will hike in this forest, dominated by oaks, all the way to the summit. You climb all the way, and the second half is the steepest with lots of rock steps to climb. It's a rocky trail, so wear good walking shoes.
At the summit, you'll find the transmission tower for WLOS-TV Channel 13 from Asheville and an observation deck. Try not to let the transmission tower ruin the wilderness feel. The view is spectacular. On a clear day, you can see the parking area, the Pisgah Inn, the Shining Rock Wilderness to your west with the famous Cold Mountain at its northern end, the Great Smoky Mountains far to the west and Asheville and Mount Mitchell to the North.
For a longer hike, take the six mile roundtrip hike to Fryingpan Lookout Tower, an old fire lookout tower. This trail turns to the left, shortly after you begin the Mt. Pisgah trail. A shorter hike (two miles) to Frying Pan Mountain Trail begins down the Parkway at Milepost 408.5. It goes to Big Bald, a great wildflower area. Then continue on FR 450 to the fire tower for views. Read more about Fryingpan Tower, including a shorter hike to the tower.
Take the Blue Ridge Parkway south from Asheville. From the NC Highway 191 exit at the NC Arboretum, it's 14 miles (or 30 minutes).
Mount Pisgah is 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. The now official name carried on to the National Forest which now surrounds the mountain and also to a ranger district within the national forest.
Most of these lands were bought as part of the original tract owned by George W. Vanderbilt, builder of the famous Biltmore Estate
in 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 hunting retreat. You can reach the lodge site by hiking 0.2 mile south from the first parking area on the spur road to the hike's start. 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 nearby. Vanderbilt needed to manage his vast holdings of forested lands. Therefore, he and his landscape architect Fredrick Law Olmstead and forest manager Gifford Pinchot created the country's first school of forestry in the area now known as the Cradle of Forestry
, accessible on US 276 South of Mt. Pisgah.
View from atop Mt. Pisgah looking toward Pisgah Inn (small buildings in middle)