Guidebook

Mount Mitchell - Hike the Highest Peaks in the East

From the observation deck on Mount Mitchell to the Black Mountain Crest Trail, plan your next vacation to North Carolina.

Description

Ready to escape the heat of the summer? Did you know that the average July temperature on top of Mount Mitchell is in the 70’s, compared to the 90+ degree temperatures in the valley below? Even better, the windswept and weathered mountaintop offers some of the best views in the east at nearly 6,700’. To put in in perspective, that’s well over 1-mile higher above sea level than the nearby cities of Charlotte, Greensboro, or Raleigh.

Mount Mitchell is part of the Black Mountain Range, the highest mountains in the east. Dark red spruce and Fraser fir trees define the mountains, giving them a dark appearance - hence the name. This southern Appalachian spruce-fir forest is reminiscent of the geography typically confined to the northern latitudes, especially the White and Green Mountains of New England. Hikers, backpackers, cyclist, and countless others visit the state park each year to enjoy its beauty. There are multiple hiking opportunities atop the summit, and camping is extremely popular, so reserve a site early.

If you’re seeking an easy, relaxing weekend, a short walk to the observation platform and lunch at the restaurant is the perfect option. If you’re seeking a wild adventure with endless views, the Black Mountain Crest Trail is arguably one of the most epic and airy ridgetop traverses in the Appalachian Mountains. Trail runners even consider the trail a rite-of-passage, with some of the fastest times still taking close to 3 hours for the 12-mile trek!

Other popular hikes include the 4-mile “High Loop” and the Mount Mitchell Trail which connects the Black Mountain Campground to the summit over a grueling ~6-mile trek with nearly 4,000’ of climbing! Along the northern portion of the Black Mountains and just below the crest, the Cattail Mine Loop explores ancient mining roads and pays a visit to an abandoned mine. This wild, rugged loop showcases the region’s pristine waterfalls, sweeping views, and long history - all in a day.

North Carolina’s premier 1,200-mile-long Mountains to Sea Trail also passes over the summit and is the final stop for the iconic “Pitchell” hike, a popular 60+ mile route for backpackers and trail runners connecting Mount Pisgah to Mount Mitchell. Leaving the summit, thru-hikers continue eastbound towards the Linville Gorge, ultimately bound for the Outer Banks.

No matter what you’re into, Mount Mitchell State Park has something for everyone. The park is extremely family-friendly and dog-friendly, and there is no daily entry fee to drive in. Though winter access is limited due to snow and ice, this should top your list for summertime destinations in the southeast.

Black Mountain Crest Trail
The best Routes on FATMAP, hand-picked by FATMAP’s Editorial team.

Black Mountain Crest Trail

Asheville
5 - 6 hrs
17.7 km
1,619 m
558 m
The single most epic ridgeline traverse in the Appalachian Mountains.
Severe
Private
Mount Mitchell Summit Trail
The best Routes on FATMAP, hand-picked by FATMAP’s Editorial team.

Mount Mitchell Summit Trail

Asheville
0 - 1 hrs
0.7 km
30 m
30 m
An easy, paved path to the observation platform on Mount Mitchell.
Easy
Private
Mountains To Sea Trail: Pisgah Inn to Mount Mitchell State Park
The best Routes on FATMAP, hand-picked by FATMAP’s Editorial team.

Mountains To Sea Trail: Pisgah Inn to Mount Mitchell State Park

Brevard
1 day +
97.6 km
3,980 m
3,447 m
A historic and iconic route connecting Mount Pisgah to Mount Mitchell.
Difficult
Private
Mountains to Sea Trail: Mitchell to NC-181
The best Routes on FATMAP, hand-picked by FATMAP’s Editorial team.

Mountains to Sea Trail: Mitchell to NC-181

Asheville
1 day +
95.2 km
3,774 m
4,923 m
A segment of the Mountains to Sea Trail best known for its traverse through Linville Gorge.
Difficult
Private
Cattail Mine Loop
The best Routes on FATMAP, hand-picked by FATMAP’s Editorial team.

Cattail Mine Loop

Asheville
3 - 4 hrs
17.5 km
603 m
603 m
A wild loop with waterfalls, sweeping views, and a trek past an abandoned mica mine.
Difficult
Private
Mount Mitchell Trail Loop
The best Routes on FATMAP, hand-picked by FATMAP’s Editorial team.

Mount Mitchell Trail Loop

Asheville
5 - 6 hrs
18.1 km
1,175 m
1,175 m
An incredibly challenging, yet rewarding, approach to Mount Mitchell.
Severe
Private
Mount Mitchell High Loop
The best Routes on FATMAP, hand-picked by FATMAP’s Editorial team.

Mount Mitchell High Loop

Asheville
1 - 2 hrs
6.4 km
356 m
356 m
A classic hike to the summit of Mount Mitchell, the highest point east of the Mississippi River.
Difficult
Private