Mount Mitchell

OutAndBack • 12 mi • 3700 ft

Mt. Mitchell—the highest peak east of the Mississippi—is a crowning part of the Blue Ridge Parkway experience. The only motorized access to the mountain is from the Parkway, at Milepost 355.3, and the summit is only a 5.0-mile detour. Don’t miss it—even on a dismal day. The 1,700-acre Mt. Mitchell State Park—North Carolina’s first state park— clings to the highest peak of the Black Mountains, a serrated string of summits that juts away from the Parkway and Blue Ridge to dominate the western skyline of North Carolina. Cut by landslides that appear as snow-and-ice-covered chutes in winter, the mighty Blacks are frequently seen from the Parkway as a dark ridgecrest rising above the clouds. The range includes six of the ten highest peaks in eastern North America. This eTrail includes three hike options, Mt. Mitchell Trail to Mt. Mitchell, Balsam Nature Trail, and Black Mountain Crest Trail.
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Activity Type: Hiking
Nearby City: Asheville
Length: 12 total miles
Elevation Gain: 3,700 feet
Trail Type: Out-and-back
Skill Level: Three hike options from easy to extremely strenuous
Duration: Varies by option chosen
Season: Best spring through fall
Local Contacts: Mt. Mitchell Wildlife Management Area
Local Maps: USGS Old Fort, Mt. Mitchell
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Recent Trail Reviews


The trailhead for the Mount Mitchell trail starts in the Black Mountain Campground, just off NC 80. There's a small parking area, cross the bridge into the campground, then the first left. The trail elevates from 2200' to 6600' over the course of 6 miles. It's somewhat steep, narrow in many places, rocky and tangled with roots. I've hiked a lot of NC and I thought it was a pretty tough trail. The views along the trail come mostly when the switchbacks cross under the power line to the top. There's a glade about 2/3 the way up where you can see Clingman Peak to the west. Of course, the view from the observation deck is excellent on a clear day. Going up took me 3:12, coming down 2:46. You still have to pick your way relatively carefully coming down. Those 6 hours on the mountain were all I wanted to do. I will probably be back to do Deep Gap in a couple of weeks.

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