100 Classic Hikes in North Carolina
by Joe Miller (The Mountaineers Books)
© Joe Miller/The Mountaineers Books. All Rights Reserved.
This hike was a long one- reminded me of the Mount Marcy Hike. A long grind at an almost constant incline. Not too many breaks. A definite leg burner. Junction at the power lines can be a little confusing. The Rhoda canopy gave some of the trip a Middle Earth ambience.
One of the better trails on the east coast. The 12% incline over the 5.5 miles is no joke, but the views from the top and the feeling of accomplishment is definetly worth it. The trail is easy to find and follow (when in doubt - keep going up..). The same greenery that prevents any views along the way up also creates nice canopy to hide from the scorching sun. Just watch out for the bears and pesty tourists on the top.
The trailhead starts in the Black Mountain Campground, off the narrow, twisty Hwy 80. From the (smallish) parking area - get here early - cross the bridge into the campground, then your first trail left.
The Mount Mitchell trail rises from 2200' to about 6600' over roughly 6 miles. It's rocky, covered in roots, narrow in some places. There's not a lot to see on the way up except for views along the powerline. The views from the top were great on this clear July day.
You have to be really careful of your footing - nothing is level or clear here - or risk rolling over an ankle, which would really suck up here. Wear good boots, bring your poles and lots of water. It took me 3:12 to the top and 2:46 to come down and I felt like that was a good pace. Be prepared for a big temperature drop on the way up.
Overall, I thought this was quite a strenuous trail. The last 1.6 miles from the glade at the gate to the summit is kind of a test of character. Only people in good physical condition should attempt it.
Now that I know my way around, I'll probably be back for the Deep Gap trail too.
Started from the Black Mountains Campground at 9:15. Reached the summit at 2:15. Departed summit at 3:00 and returned to the car a little before 7:00. Read that this was "an epic hike" and that writer did not exaggerate. Very strenuous at the beginning and again at the very end. The rest was just "strenuous". Would not recommend low-cut dayhiking boots for this trail. We made that mistake and regretted it. Lots of loose rocks, small boulders and tree roots make this one rather tough going. Also, I recommend the Higgins Bald loop for the descent. It's a little easier and you can cover ground more quickly if daylight is an issue. Watch your footing on the switchbacks near the power lines. The trail gets narrow here. All in all a very enjoyable hike and... you get the bragging rights that go along with it! Enjoy.
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