The Big Creek/Spencer Gap/Shut-In loop is an excellent trail run in the heart of South Pisgah. The tour begins at the rim of the Mills River Valley and drops down into a forgotten corner of the North Mills area. A long steady climb up Big Creek culminates in a heart pounding grade to the Blue Ridge Parkway near Mount Pisgah. The iconic Shut-In Trail leads back to the starting point with a gradual eight mile descent. This run has a little of everything—flowy singletrack, technical creek crossings, and big views from one of the highest peaks in the east.

What Makes It Great

Looking for a way to drop out for a few hours without spending much time behind the wheel? Bent Creek Gap is a short 20 minute drive from downtown Asheville. 

Starting at 3500 feet, runners will appreciate a mellow warm up jog on Wash Creek Road. After side-hilling across the ridge for a few easy miles, the bottom drops out on one of Pisgah’s recently rerouted trails, Spencer Gap. Spencer Gap is one of the buffest trails in the area. Designed for mountain biking, it is a hoot to run down too. 

After crossing the Never Ending Road, the trail returns to typical Pisgah terrain. Multiple creek crossings will leave even the most meticulous runners with sopping wet feet. The loop bottoms out around 2,500 feet at the confluence of Big Creek and Fletcher Creek. Then the climbing begins, gradually working up the Big Creek drainage. As the trail turns away from the river it cranks up the mountain, climbing to the Parkway at over 5,000 feet in just a couple of miles. The Parkway connects to the famous Shut-In Trail near the summit of Mount Pisgah. Masochists can add a 2.6 mile round trip out and back to the summit of Pisgah. All that remains is an eight mile, mostly downhill cruise back to Bent Creek Gap.

Who is Going to Love It

Runners looking for a classic course close to town will enjoy this loop. Elite runners seeking a challenging time trial can knock this run out in a few hours. Up and comers training for their first ultra-marathon will find it a great way to get a feel for the challenge of a long run. Anyone who wants to get away from it all will find the solitude and beauty of Big Creek rewarding.

Directions, Parking, & Regulations

From downtown Asheville take I26 east to exit 33. Follow 191 south to the Blue Ridge Parkway. Follow the Parkway south to mile marker 400. Pull off on Wash Creek Road and park. This is Bent Creek Gap. Run down Wash Creek Road to Spencer Gap. Take Spencer Gap to Big Creek Trail. Run Big Creek up to the Parkway. Turn left on the Parkway to connect to the Mountains to Sea/Shut-In Trail. Turn right on the MST to get back to Bent Creek Gap.   

Written by Adam Herzog for RootsRated.

Featured image provided by Adam Herzog

In the past decade, Jennifer Pharr Davis has clocked more miles in the Appalachian and Blue Ridge Mountains than most people do in their lifetimes. She’s often moving at a high rate of speed. An ‘endurance hiker,’ Pharr Davis holds the record for fastest thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail, completing the 2,185 mile journey in an incredible 46 days, but she also finds joy in encouraging anyone to get outside on any trail no matter the pace or place.

Davis hiked the Appalachian Trail solo for the first time in 2005 after graduating from college. She later transformed her trail journal into a really captivating, down-to-earth, and at times, totally shocking book called Becoming Odyssa: Epic Adventures on the Appalachian Trail. After completing the AT, Pharr Davis went on to hike the Pacific Crest Trail (a 2,663-mile route which begins in the desert near Mexico and follows the Cascade and Sierra Nevada mountain ranges through California, Oregon, and Washington), and she's even completed long-distance hikes in Africa, Australia, South America and Europe.

Jennifer Pharr Davis at Springer Mountain
Jennifer Pharr Davis at Springer Mountain

A second Appalachian Trail hike in 2008 earned Pharr Davis the title of fastest woman completing the trail on a “supported” hike (meaning she wasn’t carrying a pack). Logging 30 to 40 miles a day and sometimes sleeping only a few hours a night, she was able to cover the 2,175 miles in just 57 days, 8 hours and 35 minutes. She topped that record in 2011, becoming the overall record holder for both men and women, the first woman to hold that title. On that attempt, she completed the trail in 46 days, averaging 47 miles a day, with support from AT and Pacific Crest Trail speed record holder David Horton, Warren Doyle, and her husband, Brew Davis.

In 2012, Pharr Davis was a nominee for National Geographic’s Top Adventurer of the Year. She followed up on her first book with Called Again_ _about her second record-breaking hike. She’s also the author of several books about hiking in the Asheville Area, including Five-Star Trails: Asheville: Your Guide to the Area's Most Beautiful Hikes and Best Easy Day Hikes Charlotte.

Davis has been sponsored on her treks by leading outdoor brands like Deuter, Subaru and Vasque.

The Blue Ridge mountains
The Blue Ridge mountains

David Wilson

With her husband Brew, Davis now owns the [Blue Ridge Hiking Company]( , which offers guided hikes through the region for individuals, groups or families. She’s also a motivational speaker on topics such as goal setting, conservation, faith, and her experiences on the trail. We were lucky enough to sit down with this trailblazer (literally) to discuss some more lighthearted hiking topics:

Early spring in the Blue Ridge. It could be pleasant at lower elevations, but snowing higher up. What advice do you have for those getting out this time of year?

It’s a great time to hike, but you never know what you’re going to get. It could be mild in Asheville, but when you get to higher elevations, the next thing you know, you’re in inclement weather. I’d advise people to wear layers (wool or fleece is always a good base) and always bring rain protection, a hat, and gloves.

What should hikers expect to see this time of year?

It’s different every year. This year, everything is going to be late. In April, we’ll get the flame azalea and mountain laurel. Rhododendron comes out in June. One thing that’s unique to the Smokies is the synchronous fireflies. They migrate each year, but it’s a good bet that you’ll see them in the Smokies in early June.

Spring in the Blue Ridge Mountains
Spring in the Blue Ridge Mountains

You have a little one now. What family-friendly hikes do you recommend?

There are three, actually.

1. The Visitor Center at the Blue Ridge Parkway. There’s an easy, fun TRACK trail next to it that gives kids a scavenger hunt of things to look for in the woods, plus there are interactive exhibits inside.

2. Holmes Educational State Forest. It’s located between Brevard and Hendersonville. It’s a short circuit with ‘talking trees’: recorded messages located throughout the trail that tell you about the area’s biodiversity. It’s really engaging.

3. The Carl Sandburg Home, National Park. Kids love the goat barn and there are some easy, short trails and great places to picnic.

Courtesy of Brew and Jennifer
Courtesy of Brew and Jennifer

After your big accomplishments on the AT, what’s next for you?

We’re trying to hike in all 50 states together as a family. We’ve done 30 states so far.

For more information on Jennifer Pharr Davis and her company, check out [Blue Ridge Hiking Company](

Written by Joanne O'Sullivan for RootsRated.

D.D. Bullwinkel’s Outdoors philosophy is simple: the outdoors is our playground.

With that as their foundation, the family-owned retailer has spent 25 years cultivating a love for the outdoors in their community of Transylvania County, North Carolina, simultaneously earning the store a reputation as an authority in the outdoor industry. DDBO and their ‘sister’ store, MooseTracks Footwear are two complimentary stores in one location.

They are seeking to expand that vision even further with the addition of a new Sales Manager to oversee operations of their retail store. The Sales Manager will be provided the tools, training, and support to enhance his or her personal skill sets in order to grow the business and advance their own career.

If you are interested in learning more about this position or applying, please click HERE. We look forward to hearing from you!