Mount Pisgah/Hike Reports/Shut-in Trail/2014-10-25

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Mountain Vista seen from Shut-in Trail
Trail Name Shut-in
Nearest City Asheville
State North Carolina
Trail Marking Unknown
Trail Use/Features Use hiking.jpgUse dogging.jpg
Time expectations
Hiking Time 8 hrs 17 mins
Driving Time

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Total Time

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Trail Attributes
Total Distance 17.17 Miles
Elevation Gain 5,659 Feet
Difficulty Index 45.465*
Difficulty Rating Extreme
High Point 5,253 Feet
Low Point 2,021 Feet
Elevation Range 2,912 Feet
Latitude 35.50177
Longitude -82.59472
Nearest Medical Asheville, NC
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Hike from NC Arboretum at Bent Creek to summit of Little Mount Pisgah. As of 26 January 2015, this is the most strenuous hike the club has completed. It features very little downhill activity. It is a fairly strenuous grade to start, but then slopes resume a more modest grade in the mid section, ranging from mile 3 to approximately mile 15, when the trail takes a mean turn late in the hike to gain significant elevation in a short amount of distance. After hiking 15 miles, even small hills begin to tear at muscles you never knew existed. Little Mount Pisgah under ordinary circumstances might be nothing unique in the hiking arena, but after 15 miles of up-hill hiking, its difficulty cannot be overstated.

Difficulty rating comparisons

Hike Distance Ascent Difficulty
This hike 17.17 5,659 45.465
Uwharrie-20 Challenge 20.57 4,058 40.860
Mount Mitchell 12.30 4,365 34.125
Swinging Bridge 11.77 4,441 33.975
Cold Mountain 10.12 4,723 33.735
Grassy Gap Fire Road 12.75 2,900 27.250
Tri-peak Challenge 11.50 3,010 26.550

Complete Itinerary

  • 2.5 hours, includes stop for breakfast in Black Mountain
  • Start at 8:30 AM
  • Arrive at 4:47 PM
  • 2.25 hours return trip


The Shut-in Ridge trail is a strenuous 16.2 mile trail built in 1890 by George Vanderbilt to take supplies from his Biltmore home to a hunting lodge at Buck Springs near the top of Mt. Pisgah. When his wife sold land to create Pisgah National Forest and when the Parkway was constructed, the portion of the trail from Biltmore to the French Broad river was abandoned.

The trail head is at the base of the Bent Creek Bridge on the Blue Ridge Parkway on highway 191 south of Asheville. It’s easy to miss the trailhead and end up at the North Carolina arboretum since they share a connection to 191. The name Shut-in comes from the dense rhodenderon grove that the trail traverses in the first few miles. There is a large fence that the arboretum constructed to keep deer from eating all the shrubs that parallels the trail initially.

The first 5 miles are up almost constantly and then the trail levels out somewhat. It runs parallel to the parkway for a distance and then goes around several smaller hills taking one away from the parkway. The trail goes up and over all the tunnels that were later built in the parkway and the actually elevation gain is 5,000 feet with a net gain of 3,000 feet from the base to the top of Mt. Pisgah. The trail is well marked and well maintained but strenuous under ideal conditions.

The trail crosses the Blue Ridge Parkway five times with four parking areas that allows one to shorten the distance to 11, 12 or 14 miles from the base. One could also elect to begin in the middle and hike the final 5 miles to the top. There are great views, beautiful rhododendron areas and excellent footing in dry weather. There is a significant temperature differential from the bottom to the top. The top end of the course can be very slippery when the ground is frozen or with snow or rain. The final two miles are very steep with many areas being only small steps made in the mountain side.

I would be leery of scheduling a hike there in January because of the risk of poor footing, diminished daylight hours, parkway closing or hypothermia in individuals who were not maximally conditioned to hike strenuously in inclement weather. I would recommend hiking it in late October for leaf color or early November for better views and avoid times when the trail is frozen.

I would be happy to day hike it in advance if anyone was interested in checking it out. I ran the Shut-in Trail race for 20 years and always saw things along the trail I had not noted before. It is a different experience running it under 3 hours time and hiking it all day but both have their merits. Let me know if I can be of any further help.

Submitted by Roger R.