Mt. Mitchell

One of the peaks of our Three Peaks region is Mt. Mitchell. (The other two mountains that make up our Three Peaks area are Roan Mountain and Grandfather Mountain).

Mount Mitchell (elevation 6,684 ft.) is the highest point east of the Mississippi River, and it offers outdoor recreation for all ages. Located 32 miles from downtown Spruce Pine via the Blue Ridge Parkway, you can check off this peak in your Three Peaks adventure and still come back to your inn, B&B, or mountain lodge for dinner and conversation around the fire pit.

One of those places that stand apart from the ordinary, Mount Mitchell’s dramatic summit is the highest point east of the Mississippi at 6,684 feet and was inspiration for one of the nation’s first state parks. From its easily accessible observation deck, the spruce-fir forest of Mount Mitchell State Park leads the eye to unmatched views. A museum explains the mountain’s cultural and natural history, and its trail network allows visitors to explore up close, offering short hikes near the summit and challenging treks leading to adjacent wilderness areas. A nine-site tent campground is open in warm-weather months, and backpacking opportunities abound, including entry onto the Mountains-to-Sea State Trail. (

 To make the trek to Mt. Mitchell head south on the Blue Ridge Parkway at the Museum of NC Minerals. (Milepost 3331). From the Parkway, you can drive NC Highway 128 all the way to the summit. From the parking area, walk up a 1/4-mile paved, accessible trail to the observation deck for 360-degree panoramic views.

Mt. Mitchell Trails

Deep Gap Trail: For great views of Mount Mitchell from Mount Craig (6,647 ft., the second highest peak in the eastern United States), take a two-mile round-trip hike through a Canadian-like forest. Deep Gap Trail begins at the picnic area near the beginning of the summit parking area. You will descend Mitchell and climb to the peak of Craig. And you can continue for a longer hike. See  Deep Gap Trail / Mt. Craig Guide .

Balsam Trail: This easy, self-guided interpretive trail gives a glimpse at the effects of acid rain. This 3/4-mile loop trail begins near the observation deck. Go to the top of the observation deck, and as you head back to the parking lot, look for the Balsam Trail on the right. The trails ends at the parking lot. Pick up a guide at the park office or summit gift shop. See Winter Hike on the Balsam Trail.

Mount Mitchell Trail: This long, strenuous hiking trail leads from the Black Mountain Campground to the summit. Most of the trail is on USFS property. Climbs 3,600 ft. in 5.5 miles. It’s steep and rough in sections, but there are spectacular views. You’ll travel through a mixed hardwood forest at lower elevations, dense, old-growth spruce forests in upper elevations, and almost pure stands of Fraser Fir at the top. An alternate trail to Higgins Bald adds 0.2 miles to the length. This path is shared with the Mountains to Sea Trail along its entire route. Many folks park one car at the top and leave from another car at the Campground, so you can easily hike this in one day. When leaving the campground (Setrock Creek Falls is nearby), the trail crosses a bridge over the South Toe River and enters a hardwood and evergreen forest. After many tight switchbacks up steep terrain, the trail crosses Higgins Bald Trail at 1.5 miles. After four miles, the trail passes the remaining foundations of the 1920 Camp Alice logging camp. The trail then joins the Balsam Trail at mile 5.2 at the observation tower on Mount Mitchell. Just 0.3 mile farther is the parking lot. Want to add another 3.3 miles? Start your hike at Green Knob Lookout Tower instead!