Mount Mitchell - North Carolina Highpoint

#1 of 9 trails in Mount Mitchell State Park
Mount Mitchell Trail is a 11.4 mile out and back trail located near Burnsville, North Carolina that features a great forest setting and is only recommended for very experienced outdoorsmen. The trail is primarily used for birding, hiking & walking and is accessible year-round.

11.4 miles Out & Back 3689 feet
Dog Friendly
birding hiking walking dogs leash forest rocky
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Directions from Asheville, NC: Mount Mitchell State Park is located approximately 33 miles northeast of Asheville. To reach this trail, take the Big Laurel Gap exit, milepost #346, off the Blue Ridge Parkway, You will be on Forest Road 2074. Travel about 3 miles (passing Forest Road 472) to signs for the Black Mountain Campground. Trail begins in the upper loop.

Russ Daniel

4 Completed2 Reviews

Very tough but exhilarating! Stay LEFT at the mystery turn where the power lines are.

Jeff Barry

2 Completed2 Reviews

Elizabeth Burns

1 Completed1 Reviews

Andrew Ringlee

3 Completed3 Reviews

Celeste Good

1 Completed1 Reviews

Hunter Jones

9 Completed9 Reviews

Great hike! Probably the best hike I've been on. It took my wife and I 3:15 to get to the summit from Black Mountain campground. It was a little rainy but the hike was still amazing.

David Eck

16 Completed16 Reviews

I started at Mt. Mitchell's tiny campground, where I was camped the night before, hiked down to Black Mountain Campground and then hiked back up. This trail deserves its reputation as the most difficult contiguous trail of its length in North Carolina. You're in National Forest most of the trip. Downhill was challenging and required careful footwork. It rained the previous evening and made it slippery. The campground was a nice place to stop and eat lunch. Be prepared for a steady, continuous climb shortly after Black Mountain Campground. Little, if any, flat sections. Some tunnels, some open, mostly all wooded, but all very nice. A few spots where trail-side camping sites were evident about halfway up. Mountain laurel and rhododendron were blooming/starting to bloom. I took the Higgins Bald alternate trail on the way up (it's marked) and it was easier than the Mt. Mitchell Trail for that short portion. This added about .4 miles to the climb. Made it to the Mt. Mitchell summit in 3:45, elapsed time, with 3600 feet of gain in six miles. I had a blast and slept like a log that night in my tent. Well worth it for serious hikers. Wear good boots and prepare for changing weather.

John Lopez

5 Completed2 Reviews

Its a long inclining walk past a lot of green paths. Not nearly as alpine as the New England Highpoints. At some points it felt like a world set apart from everything- like a Middle Earth movie set, or perhaps the Fire Swamp in The Princess Bride.
The turn at the Power wires were a little confusing, but not terrible. Snack shop at the top was nice. The way down was a real knee-jerker.

Brett S

2 Completed2 Reviews

Best trail I've hiked. Agree with all the practical advice, poles especially before the snow and ice are completely gone. My goal was to summit in 3 hours, made it in 3:10, and I felt like I couldn't have gone much faster in the conditions. The road to the summit was not yet open for the season, i had the summit all to myself. It was 35 at the base at 8 am, and about 65 at the summit with beautiful blue skies. It was a glorious reward for the effort.

Casey Hunter

2 Completed2 Reviews

I have never gone “hiking” so to speak. My family and I decided to rent a cabin in NC by Mt. Mitchell. I started reading reviews of the area and found out this (Mt. Mitchell) was considered a difficult hike. I brought a 40-45 pound pack with me and expected to stay overnight if necessary. My total mileage for the day was just over 15, from the cabin to the summit and back. I brought 3 liters of water and several cliff bars. We had clear skies and somewhat warm temperatures. NOTE: there is a split on the trail at Higgins Bald which adds about ¼ mile to it. With this said, just prior to HB there is a smaller split. If you are on the ascent keep left and you will run into the “real” split where Higgins Bald is clearly marked. If you go right at the smaller “split” about 2:00/2:30 minutes slow walk, you will see a sign for an over look. Here is a spot for a great picture, if the day is clear. Also it is a good reference point, if you are teaching someone to use a compass and map.

I decided to go Higgins Bald on the way up and Mt. Mitchell path on the way back. If you are climbing the mountain take Higgins Bald up or down, it has great views and is worth it. You will come across a tree there, which has to be over 300 years old. Very cool. Either route you will cross a small stream, which isn’t bad at all to cross. Conversely, we did this hike on 04-01-15 and it had snowed on 03-29-15 therefore I couldn’t say with certainty how it would be after a good rain. My partner wore sneakers and I had Salomon Quest 4D GTX boots. He has very strong ankles and was able to keep his feet dry on the hike. I have weak ankles and was very thankful to have my boots.

The trail did have sections covered in ICE and snow but wasn’t bad. I gave it a 3 on the 1-10 (10 being the worst) suck meter. Make sure you bring a topographic map and compass, just in-case. I used mine several times, just to reassure my partner we were on the right course. Give yourself between 4-10 hours to summit and return. I was wearing a 40-45 pound pack, and was able to get up in 3:55 and return in 2:54. The way down was worse than the climb for me. After rolling my ankle several times I ended up cutting down a small tree and making a walking stick. Still have the stick, and if it wasn’t for my boots I would have really hurt myself. All and all it was a great time and required a good effort. I wouldn’t recommend someone attempt this as your first “hike” like me, unless you have work background which involved mountains. However, it is a great hike and I recommend it for midlevel and above hikers. Good luck and have fun!