Rattlesnake Lodge: hiking the Mountains to Sea Trail just off the Blue Ridge Parkway near Asheville, NC

Rattlesnake Lodge

Hike to a beautiful overlook view and the ruins of Rattlesnake Lodge, a 1900s summer estate, following the Mountains to Sea Trail near Asheville.

trail info

3.8 miles
(round trip)
moderate
Dog-
friendly

LOCATION:just off the Blue Ridge Parkway north of Asheville (maps & directions)

GEAR: Osprey Stratos 24 Backpack w/ our favorite hiking gear list and Canon 6D Camera

Compared to other view-packed hikes along the Blue Ridge Parkway near Asheville, this hike to Rattlesnake Lodge lacks the breathtaking summit views of the likes of Craggy Pinnacle or Black Balsam Knob. But what it lacks in views, this hike makes up in scenic beauty and history, trekking through a beautiful hardwood forest along a narrow, historic road to the remains of an estate from the early 1900s. And, unlike many other trails along the Parkway, this is a lesser-traveled, often-quiet route, thanks to its limited views and limited parking.

Hike to Rattlesnake Lodge on the Mountains to Sea Trail, catching beautiful views just above the Blue Ridge Parkway near Asheville, NC

This is a scenic hike throughout the year, but especially so in autumn, when fall’s colorful display paints the surrounding hardwood forest in vibrant hues of red, orange, and gold. Along the way to Rattlesnake Lodge, the Mountains to Sea Trail catches a rather beautiful view from a broad rock outcrop just above the Parkway. And reaching the former site of the lodge, the remains are fully worthy of exploration: a collection of stacked-stone foundations are all that remain of the lodge, barn, tool house, spring house, swimming pool, and several surrounding buildings from the estate.

The lodge was built in 1904 by the Dr. Chase Ambler as a family summer house near Asheville, and was named for its infamous living room ceiling covered in rattlesnake skins. The family later sold the lodge before it was destroyed in a fire in the 1920s. (Read more about the lodge’s history and view historical photos on the family’s website: rattlesnakelodge.com.)

Rattlesnake Lodge: the hike

The adventure begins at one of two small parking areas just off Ox Creek Road at Bull Gap (view maps and driving directions), following the Mountains to Sea Trail eastbound. (This hike departs from the western of the two trailheads, closest to the Blue Ridge Parkway access from the Elk Mountain Scenic Highway.) The hike reaches Bull Gap at .4 mile, passing the rock foundation of the Rattlesnake Lodge carriage house and the alternate parking area.

The Mountains to Sea Trail ascends from Bull Gap, following its iconic, white circular trail blazes and climbing through a series of sharp switchbacks, following the original access road to Rattlesnake Lodge from Bull Gap. The road to the lodge is exceptionally narrow, and relatively moderate, leveled by stacked-stone walls scattered throughout its length.

Hike the Mountains to Sea Trail to the historic ruins of Rattlesnake Lodge, exploring a beautiful forest near Asheville, NC

Exiting the switchbacks, the hike catches through-the-trees views of a neighboring ridge. The trail carves through another set of switchbacks at just under 1 mile, passing through a rocky terrain with several enormous, lichen-covered boulders. The hike scores its only noteworthy view from a broad, smooth outcrop just above the Blue Ridge Parkway at 1.1 miles, stretching south to the Bull Creek valley and Swan Mountain.

The hike passes through a grove of leathery-leafed, gnarly-branched mountain laurel at 1.5 miles. Shortly after, the trail reaches the first of the scattered remains of Rattlesnake Lodge, passing the stacked-stone foundation and a hewn timber from the lodge’s barn.

Hike to the ruins of Rattlesnake Lodge on the Mountains to Sea Trail near Asheville, NC, exploring the remains of a 1900s mountaintop estate

Continuing eastbound, the Mountains to Sea Trail passes the stone remains of the lodge’s shallow spring-fed pool. The trail reaches the remains of the flat, terraced yard at 1.75 miles, exploring the foundation of Rattlesnake Lodge to the left of the trail. Continuing east, the trail hugs the contours of a stacked-stone wall, reaching the remains of the tool shed on the trail’s right, and the spring house on the trail’s left at 1.85 miles. An enormous fallen tree lies just before the circular stone spring.

Hike to the historic 1900s remains of Rattlesnake Lodge, just off the Blue Ridge Parkway north of Asheville, NC

Reaching the foundations of the caretaker’s cabins and potato house, this route turns around to retrace its steps to the trailhead, following the outbound hike in reverse. It’s a nearly continuous descent from the lodge to the trailhead along the Mountains to Sea Trail, making for an easy return hike through the particularly scenic forest. The hike passes through Bull Gap and then reaches the trailhead at just under 4 miles, completing the adventure.

Nearby hikes on the Blue Ridge Parkway

Finished the hike, and have energy and daylight to spare? Hike through a high-elevation forest filled with blooming rhododendron on the Craggy Gardens Trail, or summit a view-packed mountaintop to an exceptional sunset on the Craggy Pinnacle Trail. And follow our favorite hikes on the Blue Ridge Parkway near Asheville to exceptional summit views, tumbling waterfalls, and some of western North Carolina’s most beautiful terrain.

Wherever your adventures take you, please pack out everything you pack in and leave no trace to help preserve the forest’s natural beauty.

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Rattlesnake Lodge on the Mountains to Sea Trail Map, Directions & Details

Rattlesnake Lodge on the Mountains to Sea Trail Map
Rattlesnake Lodge on the Mountains to Sea Trail Map
This map is not a substitute for official trail maps or topographic maps.

Driving Directions


Parking

Free (but extremely limited) parking is available off Ox Creek Road, north of Asheville just off the Blue Ridge Parkway.

GPS Coordinates

35.668067, -82.476050     //     N35 40.084 W82 28.563

Elevation Profile

Rattlesnake Lodge on the Mountains to Sea Trail
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Please Remember

Always leave no trace, tell someone where you're going, pack safety and wayfinding essentials, don't rely on a mobile phone to find your way, and follow these trail etiquette tips.

 
Eric Champlin is a writer and photographer who loves to hike, run, backpack, kayak and cycle the southeast. He’s the editor and founder of Atlanta Trails and Asheville Trails, online magazines that cover the South’s best outdoor adventures. His mission? To inspire others to get fit outdoors and explore the South’s incredible scenic beauty.
 
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