Mt. Mitchell, 2037m (6684')
Mt. Craig, 2026m (6647')
Balsam Cone, 2010m (6596')
Cattail Peak, 2007m (6584')
Big Tom, 2006m (6580')

Mountain area : Black Mountains
Location : North Carolina USA
Hiked : Apr 2002
Mt. Mitchell seen from Mt. Craig

Mt. Mitchell seen from Mt. Craig


These mountains reside on a high ridge north of the Blue Ridge Parkway and south of the Pisgah National Forest.

Mt. Mitchell and Mt. Craig are the two highest peaks in Eastern U.S (east of Mississippi). Clingman's Dome in Tennessee comes in third. Note that some sources will state that Clingman's Dome is the second highest, and this is probably due to the marginal 300ft primary factor between Mt. Mitchell and Mt. Craig. Depending on how you do/see the calculation, Mt. Craig may be considered a spur.

A number of trails, with varying elevation are accessible from the Blue Ridge Parkway. Additional trail can be found at the Mt. Mitchell State Park Visitor Center. One may also drive all the way up to Mt. Mitchell.

As in the Smoky Mountains, the timberline run all the way to the top of the mountains. One may question if these mountains should be referred to as "high forest hills", instead. As such, good views are rare. Best views are found on the Mt. Mitchell Lookout Tower, but you will also get views from Mt. Craig.

The Deep Gap Trail takes you from Mt. Mitchell to Cattail Peak. Along the way you will get Mt. Craig, Big Tom (a spur of Mt. Craig) and Balsam Cone. Near Cattail Peak you can also do Potato Hill, and near the Mt. Mitchell Visitor Center, you can do Mt. Gibbes (Clingman Peak).

Trail descriptions:

The most popular (and recommended) trailhead is the Black Mountains Campground. Several trails will take you up to Mt. Mitchell. This page will describe the Old Mitchell Trail from the Visitor Center to Mt. Mitchell, and the Deep Gap Trail from Mt. Mitchell to Cattail Peak.

Mt. Mitchell - Cattail Peak (summer)

Difficulty : Somewhat strenuous
Risk : None
Distance : Approx 5 miles (one way)
Time : 2-4 hours (one way)
Starting Elev.: Approx. 1900m (6300')
Vertical Gain : >600m (incl. ups and downs)
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Click on map w/route for larger image

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From I40, take exit 155 just outside Asheville, NC. You will get onto highway 70. Take highway 70 west half-a-mile-or-so and exit onto the Blue Ridge Parkway. Follow the Parkway (north) 27,5 mile before exiting towards Mt. Mitchell State Park. Follow this road 2,3 miles to the Visitor Center.

The trail:

The Old Mitchell trail begins at the visitor center. The trail runs up in the forest and takes you around Mt. Hallback on the west side. Down on the other side, cross the lawn of a dining facility and pick up the trail again by the parking.

The trail once again run into the forest, but shortly after takes you onto the Mt. Mitchell summit road. Follow this road to the Mt. Mitchell campground, and follow the yellow markers into the forest. Soon you will have the Mt. Mitchell lookout tower in view. Follow the trail through the forest up to the Mt. Mitchell lookout tower.

After enjoying the summit vistas, head towards the rest area at the north end of the Mt. Mitchell visitor plateau. Locate the Deep Gap Trail (marked with red triangles). The trail descends gradually down to the gap between Mitchell and Craig, before it climbs gradually up to Mt. Craig. The trail continues down the Bug Tom spur before it more steeply descends to the gap between Big Tom and Balsam Cone. The climb up to Balsam Cone is not as steep as the descent from Mt. Craig. The trail then descends before it reaches the summit of Cattail Peak.

The trail is easy to follow and the terrain is not difficult, even where it runs over rocks.

Trip report Apr 23 2002:

The plan was to scale Mt. Mitchell with several thousand feet of vertical gain. But I had been unable to get hold of the map, so I finally ended up at the Mt. Mitchell State Park visitor center. When I inquired about the trails, a friendly lady said the Mt. Mitchell trail trail began just outside the visitor center. I was confused, as I head read on the internet that one could hike from a campground, gaining thousands of feet. The lady said the campground was further up the road, so I just stopped pursuing the matter.

As I was eager to get going, I traded vertical gain for a longer hike. My feet was starting to get sore after the past days of hiking in the Smokies, so I would just play it by the ear.

The hike was interesting, as I never knew what mountain as I was on, before I got there. Thanks to summit plates left from early surveys, I was able to tell where I was. I met one person on the whole hike. He carried a book about hiking in North Carolina, and finally I could reveal the campground mystery. If I had continued on the Parkway, instead of driving up to the Mt. Mitchell State Park, I would have been able to get to the Black Mountain Campground. From this campground, several trails would run up the mountain to Mt. Mitchell. Oh well. Next time around..


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Mt. Gibbes/Clingmans Peak seen from Blue Ridge Parkway (93KB) Mt. Mitchell visitor center (148KB) Mt. Mitchell comes into view (153KB) The Mt. Mitchell tower (158KB) Mt. Mitchell summit sign (188KB) Summit view from Mt. Mitchell (224KB) Summit view from Mt. Mitchell (196KB) Summit view from Mt. Mitchell (207KB) Summit view from Mt. Mitchell (114KB) Summit view from Mt. Mitchell (137KB) Mt. Craig and Deep Gap mountains (148KB) The trail from Mt. Mitchell to Mt. Craig (253KB) Mt. Craig summit (246KB) View from Mt. Craig (174KB) View from Big Tom summit (133KB) Balsam Cone summit (222KB) View from Balsam Cone (152KB) Cattail Peak summit (228KB) Cattail Peak summit (233KB) Balsam Cone seen from Cattail Peak (222KB) Mt. Craig seen from Balsam Cone (234KB) Deep Gap wildlife (192KB) The trail up Mt. Craig (284KB) Big Tom summit (147KB) View from Mt. Craig (208KB) View from Blue Ridge Parkway (308KB) View from Blue Ridge Parkway (229KB)

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