Segment 3: The High Peaks & Asheville
Pisgah Inn to Black Mountain Campground
Distance: 71.4 miles (all on trail except incidental stretches on the Blue Ridge Parkway, mostly on bridges at highway crossings)
Significant elevation changes involving steep climbs and descents and difficult trail tread
Trail Community: Asheville
- Check Trail Updates before starting your hike.
By Jim Grode
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.
- The views atop 6,684-foot Mount Mitchell, the highest point east of the Mississippi River
- The Shut-In Trail, which follows the old bridle trail from the Biltmore House to George Vanderbilt’s hunting lodge near the summit of Mount Pisgah (which no longer stands, but a few remnants of which are still visible)
- The cultural and scientific displays at the Blue Ridge Parkway Visitor Center & Headquarters near Asheville
- The fine collection of southern art and crafts at the Folk Art Center also near Asheville. Outside the Folk Art Center, look for the bronze plaque honoring Arch Nichols, who worked tirelessly as a volunteer leader of the Carolina Mountain Club and as a United States Forest Service employee to complete the MST from Mount Pisgah to Mount Mitchell.
- The ruins of Rattlesnake Lodge, a summer lodge built in 1903-4 by Asheville physician Chase Ambler
- In early summer, the azalea and rhododendron displays at Craggy Gardens
- In the fall, brilliant color displays that attract people from all over the country
Segment 3 Eastbound Elevation Profile