4 - 5
FATMAP difficulty grade
The Black Mountain Crest Trail is a rite of passage for trail runners and hikers in Western North Carolina.
This epic route climbs quickly out of a valley to reveal an epic ridgetop traverse like no other.
The path is incredibly challenging, steep at times, and crosses several 6,000-foot peaks along the way.
Trekking poles are highly recommended for this route, and there are several places where three points of contact will be necessary. The northern trailhead lies along Watershed Road just off of Bolens Creek Road.
The turn is easy to miss, and there is only parking for two vehicles.
If you are in a high-clearance 4x4 vehicle, you can drive past the gate for more options.
Trail runners commonly get shuttled to this trailhead, leaving a vehicle or arranging transportation from Mount Mitchell. The first few miles are demanding and relentless.
Labeled as Trail #179, the route follows old forest service roads as it climbs its way to a ridge.
Along the way, enjoy the flora as it transitions into beautiful spruce-fir forest typically confined to the northern latitudes.
Know that water is non-existent as you traverse the ridge.
Expect complete autonomy and carry all of your food and water in with you.
Around mile 4, take the opportunity to top off your water at one of the nearby springs. As you approach the ridge, the steady two-track gives way to rugged singletrack.
A clearing near Horse Rock Bald provides some views to the southwest and your ultimate destination, Mount Mitchell.
Ahead, you're welcomed with even more incredible views as the trail treks across countless peaks and high points. Once the Black Mountain Crest Trail reaches its southern terminus at the parking lot, take the short hike to the official summit and observation deck atop Mount Mitchell.
Nearly 6,700 feet, the peak is the highest point east of the Mississippi River and an excellent finish to the epic run. Sources: https://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/nfsnc/recarea/?recid=48518