Standing out above its Appalachian counterparts, Mount Mitchell is one of the southeast’s best hiking destinations. The North Carolina mountain holds the title of the highest peak east of the Mississippi River, measuring in at 6,684 feet above sea level. As part of the Black Mountain range, Mount Mitchell State Park is one of the best (and most challenging) hiking spots in the region.
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What You Should Know About Mount Mitchell
Located 60 miles northeast of Asheville, NC, Mount Mitchell State Park sits in the Pisgah National Forest, a wilderness covering 500,000 acres in western North Carolina. According to the mountain’s page on the North Carolina State Parks website, Mount Mitchell is home to a wide range of plant and animal life, including red spruce and mountain ash trees, white-tailed deer, black bears and even peregrine falcons!
According to the North Carolina History Project, Mount Mitchell earned its name after University of North Carolina professor Elisha Mitchell who explored the Black Mountains in the 1830s, and prior to Mitchell, Frenchman Andre Michaux reportedly scaled Mount Mitchell in 1789. From the time that the mountain was first explored until now, its vegetation has changed dramatically, due to loggers, fires, and infestation from the balsam wooly adelgid, according to North Carolina State Parks. However, the mountain still remains beautifully populated with trees.
Hiking the Mountain
Experienced hikers from the South are undoubtedly familiar with Mount Mitchell, but if hiking is your passion and you’ve never experienced this Appalachian monster, then re-prioritize immediately. Trails.com listed the peak as one of the Top 100 Trails to hike in North America, and in 2014 GearPatrol.com named it as one of the “15 Best Hikes of the South.” It should be no surprise, then, that Outside Magazine named Mount Mitchell as the best summit hike in the Southeast.
Any hike of this size requires preparation, and when you set out to tackle the tallest mountain in the East, you had better be ready. Given its location in North Carolina, you might be surprised to find that the weather on Mount Mitchell is much colder than that of its region. In fact, it’s said that the climate is much closer to that of Canada that the southern U.S. North Carolina State Parks advises you to dress appropriately, with lower temperatures common, regardless of the season. As mentioned earlier, wildlife including black bears inhabit the park, so extra caution should be taken when heading out. Guidelines for encountering bears can be found on the FAQ section of the park’s website.
HikeWNC.info has a highly detailed and informative summary of the hike to Mount Mitchell’s peak, which totals 11.4 miles. However, you don’t have to conquer the mountain all at once, and the mountain’s website has all of its trails listed, allowing you to break up your trek into manageable lengths.
Kick Off Your Hiking Boots With Us
Anyone with a deep appreciation of nature and a sense of adventure owes it to themselves to visit Mount Mitchell State Park. While no easy task, this Appalachian highlight should top your hiking to-do list. The next time you visit western North Carolina, plan to visit the park, even if only to observe. Of course, you can make your trip to the area even better by staying at The Esmeralda! We love when our guests take advantage of the natural beauty that fills our state. Contact us about rooms and rates today!