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SHUT-IN TRAIL

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A long, historic route extending from North Carolina Hwy 191 near Bent Creek and Asheville to the Mount Pisgah parking area

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This 16.3 mile long National Recreation Trail located in the Pisgah National Forest coincides with the Mountains-to-Sea Trail (MTS) along it’s entire length. Section seven of the MST leaves the Shut-In Trail at the North Carolina Arboretum, crosses the French Broad River and continues along the Parkway to the Folk Art Center just outside of Asheville.

It had its beginnings when George W. Vanderbilt, builder of the famous Biltmore Estate near Asheville, constructed the trail around the year 1890. He used it to climb the Pisgah Ridge, linking his hunting Buck Spring Hunting Lodge to his famous estate, the Biltmore House.

Since that time, this route has been converted to a hiking trail and although parts were obliterated with the construction of the Parkway, parts still follow the original route. In 16.3 miles, the trail changes elevation almost 3,000 feet, and in places can be quite challenging. Except where the trail crosses the Parkway, it is a quiet walk through beautiful hardwood forests with many nice views of the valleys below. The Shut-In Trail was named for the tunnels of rhododendron and mountain laurel through which it passes, giving the traveler a “shut in” feeling. The remnants of the lodge are near Buck Spring Gap Overlook.

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Though the trail can be used as a long-distance route, it is most frequently used for short exercise and day hikes. This is generally necessary since overnight camping is not allowed along the Parkway (and 16.3 miles, with 3000 feet of vertical climbing, is a bit long for most day hikers). There are many convenient access points where the trail touches and crosses the Blue Ridge Parkway, mainly at overlooks.

Not everyone limits themselves to day hikes, though. For over 20 years the Shut-in Ridge Run has been using the trail as an event venue, on the first Saturday in November. Joggers cover the entire 18 miles on this run.

To reach the trailhead, when leaving the Pisgah District Ranger Station/Visitor Center, turn right (north) onto US 276. Proceed north 14 miles to the Blue Ridge Parkway, and then 4.2 miles north on the Parkway, to MP 407.6, just beyond the Pisgah Inn. Here two connected parking areas serve the Buck Spring Gap Overlook and then the Mount Pisgah trailhead. The Shut-In Trail starts at the steps at the northern end of the overlook’s parking area, but a large sign on the right side of the Mount Pisgah parking area’s southern end provides a more prominent access point. There are many additional access points along the Blue Ridge Parkway; wooden posts with a white hiker symbol mark these crossings. The trail ends near the French Broad River, at the Parkway’s entrance/exit ramp for North Carolina Hwy 191. Paved, roadside parking is available there.

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