Mount Mitchell

Hike the highest peak in the eastern United States

Mt Mitchell Park

At 6,684, Mount Mitchell is the highest peak east of the Mississippi River. At its summit you'll find a 360° panoramic view of the surrounding Appalachian landscape, filled with mountains and valleys. Experience the gradual change in plant life as you ascend this epic mountain.

Mount Mitchell State Park offers several different hiking options, a short loop (less than a mile), a ridgeline hike with endless spectacular views and, for the most rugged adventurer, there is a trail that goes all the way to Black Mountain Campground. A trail map is available on the park's website.

In addition to hiking, the 1,946-acre park also features an exhibit hall filled with fascinating details about the area, a concession stand and gift shop, and a restaurant where hungry hikers and view-seekers can enjoy a relaxed meal, surrounded by scenic vistas.

  • Length: 46.5 total miles
  • Elevation Gain: up to 4,235 feet
  • Trail Type: Many options
  • Skill Level: Easy to Strenuous
  • Summit Elevation: 6,684 feet

Alternate Directions from Asheville

  1. Take I-40E to Exit 72 at Old Fort.
  2. Continue on US-70E for 9.6 miles, then turn left onto NC-80N/Lake Tahoma Rd.
  3. Follow NC-80N for 12 miles, then turn left to enter the Blue Ridge Parkway.
  4. Take the Blue Ridge Parkway south for 11.2 miles, then turn right onto NC-128 N.

  • Length: 4 miles round-trip
  • Elevation Gain: 975 feet
  • Trail Type: Out-and-back
  • Skill Level:Strenuous

Old Mitchell Trail

Visitors to Mount Mitchell State Park can walk in the footsteps of Elisha Mitchell himself, the man credited with discovering the highest peak in the east. This area of the Black Mountains would have been quite wild during Mitchell's treks in the early 19th century. Today, this well-marked trail offers a challenging but rewarding route to the summit.

Tip: Pack a sweater or extra layer. The weather at the summit can be quite different from what you experience on the Blue Ridge Parkway or even at the trailhead by the Park Office.

Mt Mitchell Trail

What to Expect

To embark on the Old Mitchell Trail, park your car at the Park Office, grab a trail map, and enter the trail up the hill beside the building. The trail is marked with yellow circles.

As you climb, you may begin to notice the changing forest around you, and be on the lookout for wildlife--several species that live on the mountain aren't found anywhere else south of Canada!

After climbing for a bit, the trail will descend into an open gap where the park's restaurant is located. You will be able to see the summit of Mount Mitchell straight ahead. Continue across the lawn and parking lot, and then turn right to follow the trail past a map board.

From here the trail will go up and down, through some open areas and more forested areas. You will pass a park water tank, encounter some rock outcroppings, wood and rock stairs and a bridge.

At one point, you will come to an intersection where the Old Mitchell Trail meets the Mountains-to-Sea Trail. Turn left here to continue to the summit via a set of swtichbacks. You'll encounter another intersection with the Campground Spur Trail at the top of a clearing--turn right. The trail becomes quite rocky for a brief section before you reach a paved path that leads you the rest of the way to the summit.

After exploring the summit area, return the same way. Or check out the trail map to turn your hike into a loop via the Commisary and Camp Alice trails.

Hike by Danny Bernstein, accomplished Western N.C. hiker and author of The Mountains-to-Sea Trail Across North Carolina: Walking a Thousand Miles through Wildness, Culture and History. Pick up a copy of her guide in The Asheville Shop at the Asheville Visitor Center.

Find more hiking trails in the Asheville area