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Getting to the Top of Mount Mitchell

Mount Mitchell is an absolute paradise for outdoor aficionados. 

With an impressive elevation of 6,684 feet, Mount Mitchell offers a dramatic and awe-inspiring view at every direction. Whether you need a break from your daily grind or are yearning for a memorable family trip, Mount Mitchell is the perfect place to visit. 

If you’re planning a vacation to Mount Mitchell, this article will help you prepare for the climb to the summit of the famous peak. 

Quick Information About Mount Mitchell 

  • Address: Mount Mitchell State Park, Yancey County, North Carolina, USA
  • Elevation: 2,037 meters (6,684 feet)
  • Opening time: Open daily at 07:00 in the morning except on Christmas Day.
  • Closing time: 06:00 PM from November to February. 08:00 PM from March to April. 10:00 PM from May to August. 09:00 PM from September to October.
  • Features: There’s a museum, gift shop, and an observation deck at the summit, which is accessible by car or foot.  

Paths up Mount Mitchell

Drive up to the summit

If you have a car, reaching the summit of Mount Mitchell is easy. It’s only a short drive to reach the top of the mountain. 

From Asheville, you have to make your way to the Blue Ridge Parkway, and go north until you reach the #355 mile marker. Once there, turn left to NC 128, which will eventually lead you to the park.

If the parkway is closed due to ice or snow, take the alternate route, I-40, and go to exit 72. Drive through Old Fort (east) for around 10 miles, until you reach NC 80. Afterward, turn left on NC 80, and follow the road for 16 miles. Then, turn left to the Blue Ridge Parkway, and follow the signs from there.

Summit Trail

If you’re looking for an easy hike to reach the summit, you can take the Summit Trail. 

This article is owned by Recapture Nature and was first published on September 25, 2019

With a total length of 0.30 miles for a round trip, it’s an easy hike that almost everyone can accomplish. The short walk starts at the upper summit parking lot and ends at the summit observation platform. 

While it’s incredibly short, you’ll still enjoy magnificent views with this hike. On clear days, hikers may see as far as 80 miles and enjoy views of Pisgah National Forest and the surrounding mountains.

Details:

  • Difficulty: easy
  • Length: 0.30 miles round trip
  • Surface type: paved
  • Starting point: Upper summit parking lot

Old Mitchell Trail

Feeling adventurous? Park your car at the State Park office, and follow this strenuous 2.2-mile path to the summit! In the late 19th century and early 20th century, the Old Mitchell Trail was the main path for reaching the summit. With this trail, you get to explore the park’s flora and lush vegetation. Furthermore, it lets you observe a variety of animals in their natural habitat.

Details:

  • Difficulty: strenuous 
  • Length: 4.40 miles round trip
  • Surface type: natural
  • Starting point: Park office  

Mount Mitchell Trail

The Mount Mitchell Trail is a physically demanding 12-mile round trip that will take around 4 hours of walking to reach the summit. The hike starts at the Black Mountain Campground, which is operated and managed by the U.S. Forest Service.

Note: Mount Mitchell State Park does not offer shuttle service back to Black Mountain Campground’s trailhead. If you need this kind of service, call the Yancey County Transit Authority though this number: 828-682-611. Also, take note that this service requires a a 48-hour advance fee and notice.  

Details:

  • Difficulty: strenuous  
  • Length: 12 miles round trip
  • Surface type: natural
  • Starting point: Black Mountain Campground at Pisgah National Forest  

Deep Gap Trail

Following the crests of the picturesque Black Mountains, this 4.3-mile path crosses four peaks that are about 6,000 feet, including the Potato Hill, Cattail Peak, Big Tom, and Mount Craig. Along the way, you’ll be rewarded with some jaw-dropping mountain views.

Details:

  • Difficulty: moderate to strenuous  
  • Length: 8.6 miles round trip
  • Surface type: natural
  • Starting point: Mount Mitchell picnic area  

Commissary Trail

This easygoing 2-mile walk begins at the park office in Mount Mitchell, and follows an old logging railroad bed that was used in the early 20th century.

Details:

  • Difficulty: strenuous 
     
  • Length: 1-mile round trip
  • Surface type: natural
  • Starting point: Old Mitchell Trail to Commissary Trail   

Camp Alice Trail

While the Camp Alice Trail is short, don’t let its length deceive you. This 0.50-mile hike is quite strenuous. As you venture onto this trail, you’ll have to pass by tons of overflowing moss, rocks and roots. 

Details:

  • Difficulty: easy  
  • Length: 4 miles round trip
  • Surface type: gravel
  • Starting point: Mount Mitchell Park office  

Balsam Nature Trail

Relish the sweet scent of the Fraser firs on this short, self-guided hike. As you take this hike, you’ll feel like you’ve been transported into a fairy forest with its wondrous soft ferns and lush moss. Just don’t forget to keep an eye on the rocks and roots that stick up on the trail.

Details:

  • Difficulty: moderate  
  • Length: 0.75 miles round trip
  • Surface type: natural
  • Starting point: Upper summit parking lot  

What to Bring When Climbing Mount Mitchell

Preparation is the key to a safe and exciting hike. Here’s a checklist that will help you prepare for your trek up Mount Mitchell.

Hiking essentials

  • Fanny pack, daypack or backpack
  • Polypropylene base layer
  • Pile jacket
  • Hiking shoes
  • Extra socks
  • Fleece or wool hat
  • Thermal underwater
  • Extra clothing
  • Water: hydration pack, water bottle or full canteen
  • Wide-brimmed hat or baseball style hat
  • Sun protection: lip balm, sunscreen or sunglasses
  • Insect repellent
  • Moleskin
  • Personal medications (if any)
  • First aid kit
  • Watch
  • Whistle
  • Headlamp or flashlight with new batteries
  • Pocket knife
  • Firestarters
  • Compass
  • Guide book or map
  • High energy snacks

Optional items

  • Zip seal plastic bags
  • Iodine water treatment tablets or water filter
  • Smartphone
  • Camera with extra batteries or film
  • Bandana
  • Knee support
  • GPS with extra batteries
  • Trekking poles

Camping in Mount Mitchell

There are nine sites in Mount Mitchell State Park’s family campground that are available from May 1 to October 31. Each campsite has a grill and picnic table. The campground also has restrooms that you can use during the warmer months. Keep in mind that hot water and showers are not available.

Alternatively, you may also leave your vehicle overnight and camp in Pisgah National Forest. For this option, you must register your car at a trailhead near the parking area or the park office. You also need to leave a copy of your registration form on your car’s dashboard.

Don’t know what to bring for a Mount Mitchell camping trip? Here are a few suggestions:

  • Tent
  • Sleeping bags
  • Camping pillow
  • Flashlights or headlamps
  • Camp chairs
  • Cooking utensils
  • Eating utensils
  • Multi-purpose knife
  • Sleepwear
  • Wool or synthetic socks
  • Lightweight jacket or fleece
  • Moisture-wicking shirts and underwear
  • Health and hygiene items

Additional Tips

Check the weather

While Mount Mitchell is open year-round, the peak sees clouds or heavy fog 8 out of 10 days. As such, you should check the weather forecast to improve your chances of visiting Mount Mitchell when the skies are pretty clear. Also, pack a sweater or jacket even on a short visit since the temperatures at the peak are 10 to 30 degrees (Fahrenheit) cooler than the valley. 

  • Average winter temperature in Mount Mitchell: 17 degrees Fahrenheit (-8.3 degrees Celsius)
  • Average summer temperature in Mount Mitchell: 65.9 degrees Fahrenheit (18.8 degrees Celsius)

Be prepared for rain or snow

Be prepared for the precipitation on Mount Mitchell’s summit. Rain and snow are fairly frequent due to its high elevation, and the peak gets 74.7 inches of precipitation per year. Heavy winds on the summit can be prohibitive as well, with gusts recorded at 178 miles per hour.  

This article is owned by Recapture Nature and was first published on September 25, 2019

Watch out for bears

Sometimes, bears are spotted near the campgrounds and along the trails, so make sure your waste is disposed of properly.