Hike To The Highest Peak In The Eastern US On This Popular Trail

What better way to explore the Appalachian Mountains than by hitting the trails and immersing yourself in the wilderness? Mount Mitchell is not only the tallest peak in the Appalachian Mountains, but it is the tallest peak east of the Mississippi River — making for an unforgettable trek. If you're an avid hiker looking to take your outdoor skills to the next level, or a nature lover seeking a one-of-a-kind trek, add hiking the Mount Mitchell Trail to the top of your bucket list.

The Mount Mitchell Trail is a classic out-and-back route that is around 11.4 miles round trip, and is a go-to for experienced hikers who want to reach the summit of Mount Mitchell. The famous mountain is located in Mount Mitchell State Park in western North Carolina. More specifically, it's part of the Black Mountain range of the Blue Ridge Mountains, and towers a whopping 6,684 feet above sea level. The Mount Mitchell Trail is the best way to explore the state park because it offers breathtaking views of forests, wildlife, and other well-known landmarks in the North Carolina wilderness. To better prepare for your hiking trip at this popular park, this is what you should know about the rugged Mount Mitchell Trail.

The Mount Mitchell Trail

The Mount Mitchell Trail is ideal for avid hikers seeking a challenging trail. Beginning at the Black Mountain Campground, this well-marked trail gains around 3,600 feet in elevation over the course of steep inclines, switchbacks, and sometimes rough terrain. At the very least, you should plan to set aside eight hours to complete this trail, which includes time to rest and explore.

While traversing the Mount Mitchell Trail may be rough at points, the trail is packed to the brim with distinctive forest ecosystems, wildlife, and beautiful changes in scenery that make the rigorous climb up worth it. As you begin your ascent to the peak of the mountain, you'll first be embraced by lush cove forests, followed by hardwood forests that consist of mountain ash, fire cherry, yellow birch and mountain maple. When you near Mount Mitchell's summit, you'll quickly become surrounded by red spruce and Fraser fir trees.

Visiting the summit's observation tower

When you reach the Mount Mitchell summit, you will find an observation deck that offers panoramic, 360-degree views of the Pigsah National Forest, as well as the surrounding mountain ranges. On clear days, you can see as far as 85 miles. Aside from enjoying the remarkable views, birdwatching and wildlife viewing are popular activities on Mount Mitchell. The summit can also be a bit chilly due to the elevation, so be sure to bring a jacket to stay warm.

The shorter Old Mitchell Hike is another scenic, out-and-back trail that also leads you to the summit. The moderately difficult hike is around 4 miles round trip. Like the Mount Mitchell Trail, this trail weaves through the diverse flora and fauna of the Black Mountain range. For more sightseeing on your descent, you can diverge from the Old Mitchell Trail to visit Camp Alice, a historic logging camp from the early 1900s.

If you don't have time for a day-long hike, you can still enjoy the scenic views that Mount Mitchell has to offer by driving to the top and traversing the paved Summit Trail,  which is only .1 miles away from the observation platform. While this is a busier destination, you can still typically find a quiet spot to set up a picnic that overlooks the varying Appalachian landscape. Visiting the historical peak of Mount Mitchell is an unforgettable experience, whether you opt for a shorter excursion, or take on the challenge of hiking the stunning Mount Mitchell Trail.