Mount Mitchell Trail

Mount Mitchell State Park, North Carolina 28720

Elevation Gain965ft
Trailhead Elevation6,630ft
Elevation Min/Max5770/6632ft
Elevation Start/End6630/6630ft

Mount Mitchell Trail

Mount Mitchell Trail is a hiking trail in Yancey County, North Carolina. It is within Mount Mitchell State Park. It is 5.1 miles long and begins at 6,630 feet altitude. Traveling the entire trail is three miles with a total elevation gain of 965 feet. The Mt Mitchell Observation viewpoint and Mount Mitchell (elevation 6,686 feet) are near the trailhead. This trail connects with the following: Buncombe Horse Range Trail and Mt. Mitchell Summit Trail.

Mount Mitchell Trail Professional Reviews and Guides

"Hiking the Black Mountain Crest Trail and bagging its six 6000-foot peaks is a nice accomplishment—a nice accomplishment with an asterisk if you start your expedition from the Mount Mitchell State Park snack shop located atop the ridgeline.

To remove that asterisk and attain true bragging rights, you really should start from the base of the Black Mountains, some 3600 feet below. For while attaining 6000-foot peaks in the East is a notable accomplishment, better still are those rare hikes that gain 3000 feet or more. The Mount Mitchell Trail is perhaps the best of the lot."

"Mount Mitchell rises above the adjacent Blue Ridge Parkway to an elevation of 6,684 feet. Mount Mitchell State Park encompasses 1,469 acres of predominantly red spruce and Fraser fir forest. The modern-day flora and fauna are quite different from those of the past. Extensive logging and fires destroyed much of the original forest, but the forested slopes still hold a unique selection of plants and animals more typical of Canada. The forests near the peak do not look healthy. The slopes are carpeted with the skeletons of dead firs.

The dieback of the spruce fir system may be a result of a combination of air pollution and a balsam woolly adelgid infestation. The adelgid, a nonnative insect, attacks and kills fir trees, with mature trees most affected. Habitats: Spruce fir forest in higher reaches of the park. Northern hardwood forests dominate at elevations below 4,500 feet. Key birds: Summer: Northern Saw-whet Owl; Yellow-bellied Sapsucker; Alder and Willow Flycatcher; Brown Creeper; Winter Wren; Veery; Magnolia, Chestnut-sided, Blackthroated Green, Blackburnian, and Canada Warbler; Red Crossbill; Pine Siskin. Year-round: Common Raven; Red-breasted Nuthatch."

"Mount Mitchell is the highest peak east of the Mississippi. It’s a crowning part of the Blue Ridge Parkway experience—the only motorized access to the mountain is from the Parkway, at milepost 355.3. The nearly 2,000-acre Mount Mitchell State Park—North Carolina’s first—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.

The mighty Blacks are frequently seen from the Parkway as a dark ridge crest rising above the clouds. The range includes six of the ten highest peaks in eastern North America. Descriptions of the following trails are included: Mount
Mitchell Trail; Balsam Nature Trail; Black Mountain Crest Trail."

"Mount Mitchell is the highest peak east of the Mississippi. It’s a crowning part of the Blue Ridge Parkway experience—the only motorized access to the mountain is from the Parkway, at Milepost 355.3. These are good times for trails on Mount Mitchell.

In 2010 local trail enthusiast Jake Blood and like-minded hikers launched the North Carolina High Peaks Trail Association to popularize the Black Mountain range and improve its overgrown trails. Their enthusiasm promises great things for hiking in the Blacks and tourism in adjacent counties. Check out their trail resources and group hikes at"

"This hike is not direct, but it is adventurous. This route will not just take you to the top of Mount Mitchell; it will also explore neighboring summits on the Black Mountain Crest Trail, before arriving at Deep Gap. From Deep Gap you will retrace your steps to the base of Big Tom Mountain before veering down to meet the Buncombe Horse Trail. Once on that trail, you will follow an old railroad bed that gently contours the mountain up to Commissary Ridge. One last uphill push on the Mountains to Sea Trail (MST) will lead to the 6,684-foot Mount Mitchell summit."

"In 1835 professor, explorer, and scientist Elisha Mitchell measured the mountain—that in the future would be named in his memory— and proclaimed it to be the tallest summit between the Gulf of Mexico and the White Mountains of New Hampshire. This discovery brought researchers, commerce, and tourists to the Black Mountain Range. Today, we know that Mount Mitchell, at 6,684 feet, is the tallest mountain east of the Mississippi River. The Mount Mitchell High Loop follows an old railroad bed to the top of the mountain, where Elisha Mitchell is buried, and then returns to the trailhead through a dense Fraser fir forest."

"Highpoint rank by height: 16th. The Blue Ridge Parkway is a spectacular scenic road that winds through beautiful hills and forests.

Due to the lack of passing areas and the frequent curves on this highway, plan on averaging only about 30 mph (48 km per hour). The Blue Ridge Parkway is closed during foggy or other inclement weather. Mount Mitchell is the highest point east of the Mississippi River."

Mount Mitchell Trail Reviews

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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 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.
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.
I started at the base of the mountain and ran (yes I'm an ultrarunner) to the top of Mitchell. Very rocky and technical trail. The signs suggested a hiking time of 4.5 hrs one way (for 5.6 miles). I ran up in 1.5 hrs and down in 1 hour. From the top of the mountain I ran along the Black Mtn Ridge Trail to Deep Gap, turned around and came back. 21 miles for the day, could be a nice two day hike.
Excellent Trail for beginning mtn climbers. Difficulty out of 5, I'll give 3. Worth the trip!!!!
Be forewarned the observation tower is under construction and all trails leading up to it are blocked off so you cannot get to the top of the mountain, only as far as the parking lot. There was no information as to when the observation tower will reopen.
The Old Mitchell trail up to Mitchell is good hiking. A little slippery, even with good shoes. Poles would have made this an even better hike. Personally, this hike is all about the journey, I was a little disappointed in the view from the top. Maybe I caught it on an off day. The hike itself is worth it.

Mount Mitchell Trail Photos

Trail Information

Mount Mitchell State Park
Nearby City
Mount Mitchell State Park
Mount Mitchell State Park, 2388 State Hwy. 128, Burnsville 28714; (828) 675-4611; e-mail:
Local Contacts
USGS Old Fort and Mount Mitchell. Download the state park trail map at -- The USDA Forest Service South Toe River Trail Map is good too.
Local Maps

Activity Feed

Jul 2018