By Jim Grode and Friends of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail
Seventy-one mile long Segment 3 is where Asheville comes to play. It is the most heavily used part of the MST within the mountains, and you are likely to encounter hikers, dog walkers, and trail runners at any time throughout the year. Virtually all of it is easily accessible from the Blue Ridge Parkway (BRP), and there are road crossings every few miles for most of the length.
Don’t let its accessibility and popularity fool you, however: With elevations ranging from 2,000 feet at the French Broad River to over 6,600 feet at the summit of Mount Mitchell, this segment is quite rugged. Indeed, the section just west of Asheville hosts the infamous Shut-In Ridge Trail Run, an 18-mile trail run that annually humbles racers from around the country.
Complementing the natural beauty of the Blue Ridge Mountains in this area is the vibrancy of Asheville, a city of 80,000 nestled in the French Broad River valley, which regularly makes lists of the top 10 cities in the United States. Crammed with restaurants, shops, art galleries, and breweries, Asheville offers something for nearly everyone and is well worth a layover in your hiking schedule.
Segment 3 Eastbound Elevation Profile