Black Mountain Crest Trail

Mount Mitchell State Park, North Carolina

Elevation Gain6,335ft
Trailhead Elevation6,549ft
Elevation Min/Max4853/6642ft
Elevation Start/End6549/6549ft

Black Mountain Crest Trail

Black Mountain Crest Trail is a hiking trail in Yancey County, North Carolina. It is within Mount Mitchell State Park. It is 8.7 miles long and begins at 6,549 feet altitude. Traveling the entire trail is 17.8 miles with a total elevation gain of 6,335 feet. The Picnic viewpoint and the Mt Mitchell Picnic Grounds picnic site are near the trailhead. There is also parking. The 169, Mtcraig, 168, and Bigtom viewpoints, Cattail Peak (elevation 6,516 feet), Balsam Cone (elevation 6,585 feet), Horse Rock (elevation 6,211 feet), Gibbs Mountain (elevation 6,198 feet), Big Tom (elevation 6,568 feet), Potato Hill (elevation 6,371 feet), Winter Star Mountain (elevation 6,188 feet), Percys Peak (elevation 6,184 feet), and Mount Craig (elevation 6,637 feet), and the Deep Gap saddle can be seen along the trail. This trail connects with the following: Woody Ridge Trail, Colbert Ridge Trail and Big Tom Gap Trail.

Black Mountain Crest Trail Professional Guides

Detailed Trail Descriptions from Our Guidebooks

100 Classic Hikes in North Carolina (The Mountaineers Books)
Joe Miller
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"Once you’re on the Crest Trail, it’s a grueling yo-yo of a climb along the rocky spine of the Black Mountains. The first mile, to Mount Craig, is comparatively easy and if you’re just in it for the glory of conquering two peaks, this makes for a nice option. The trail then drops into a gap before climbing to 6581-foot Big Tom. It’s not so much the elevation gain; rather, it’s the fact that much of it is over boulders that require a fair bit of crab walking to conquer. In fact, much of the rest of the trail is like this. Up and down, a lot of bouldering."
Best Hikes Near Asheville, North Carolina (Falcon Guides)
Johnny Molloy
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"This hike starts at Mount Mitchell State Park, where you begin on the shoulder of the East’s highest peak, then travel along the crest of the Black Mountains, scaling several mountains above 6,500 feet. The ridge running track traverses spectacular view-delivering outcrops on an uneven, rugged, and slow trail. Check the weather forecast before you take this hike at Mount Mitchell—the peak is cloaked in fog, rain, or snow eight out of every ten days. Snow has been recorded every month of the year; 104 inches of the white stuff fall annually. But that’s life at the top of the highest point in the East, right here in Asheville’s backyard."

Black Mountain Crest Trail Trip Reports

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Not for the faint of heart- crazy elevation changes. Beautiful views!
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This is for the section of USFS 179 referred to in the park map as the Deep Gap trail.

The Deep Gap trail runs 4.5 miles from the picnic area just north of the Mt. Mitchell parking area across Mt. Craig, Big Tom, Balsam Cone and Cattail Mountain, down to the shelter at Deep Gap and returning for a 9 mile round trip.

I found this a very strenuous trail, much more so than the Mt. Mitchell trail. It took me 7hr 13 minutes to complete the 9 mile round trip (versus 6 hr 2 min for the 12-mile Mt. Mitchell round-trip), with only 2 short water breaks and 15 minutes for lunch at the shelter. Be aware that the weather atop Mt. Mitchell will be significantly cooler than the forecast for nearby Burnsville indicates. It was 58 degrees when I left just after 8 AM. The ridgeline was shrouded in clouds and there was a constant 20 mph wind from the west swirling the clouds.

The trail often requires scrambles over rock (wet and slick from the high clouds), strenuous climbs and descents and lots of crab-walking over loose rocks and slick roots in gullies. There is one stretch, I believe it's coming down Balsam and about to ascend Cattail where there's a 2' wide trail that makes you hug a rock wall above the slope. I also saw bear sign at several points along the trail. You need to be very careful on this hike. If you aren't sure you can complete it, you probably shouldn't try. In that case, I'd recommend taking the first, easiest leg to Mt. Craig and returning.

For me, the two toughest stretches were descending then later ascending Big Tom, where there are two rope-assisted scrambles, and the long descent/ascent from Cattail down into and out of Deep Gap. Climbing both these makes the return leg, I believe, slightly harder.

Black Mountain Crest Trail Photos

Trail Information

Mount Mitchell State Park
Nearby City
Mount Mitchell State Park
Pisgah National Forest, Appalachian Ranger District, 632 Manor Rd., Mars Hill, NC 28754, (828) 689-9694,
Local Contacts
National Geographic #779 Linville Gorge, Mount Mitchell Pisgah National Forest; USGS Mount Mitchell
Local Maps

Trail Log