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Mt. Mitchell State Park Must Be On Your Bucket List

  • Post last modified:October 31, 2020
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It’s possible you’ve never heard of Mt. Mitchell. It’s also likely you’re wondering why some random mountain in North Carolina “must be on your bucket list”. Well, if you actually have a “bucket list” or any other “must see” list, you’re probably like me and love lists. How could you not? They’re wonderful, but I digress. 

It may also be a fair assumption to say you likely love doing things that earn the title of “the tallest,” “the oldest,” and “fill in the adjective.”

Yeah me too! I’ve eaten Australia’s biggest burger, ridden the world’s fastest roller coaster, and have even seen the world’s tallest flagpole. Though, these checkbox items are no longer the biggest, fastest, nor the tallest. Who knew flagpole height was so competitive, am I right?

However, Mt. Mitchell offers you phenomenal views from the top of the highest mountain east of the Mississippi. That’s not changing any time soon. Mt. Mitchell will always have that title and you will always have that box checked. Oh, and huge bonus, it sits along arguably the best section of the Blue Ridge Parkway. It’s all win!

A Few Facts On Mt. Mitchell

Not only the highest mountain in North Carolina, Mt. Mitchell is the highest mountain east of the Mississippi. If you’re from Colorado or South Dakota, its 6,684 ft elevation may not sound impressive, but for us east coast folks, it’s massive.

Fall at the top of Mt. Mitchell, Mt Mitchell State Park, NC
Air view of road in fall, Mt Mitchell State Park, NC

You see, the Appalachian Mountains are known more for their beauty than their size. Plus, some of the most popular U.S. National Parks are only a short drive away from Mt. Mitchell, including the Great Smoky Mountains and the Blue Ridge Parkway. Actually, you have to drive a gorgeous piece of the Blue Ridge Parkway to access Mt. Mitchell State Park and the Pisgah National Forest in which it sits.

Visiting Mt. Mitchell

Cyclist on Mt. Mitchell foggy day in fall, Mt Mitchell State Park, NC

Our first attempt at seeing the views from Mt. Mitchell was a complete white-out. Though it was only a little foggy along the Blue Ridge Parkway, by the time we reached the half-way point on Mt. Mitchell, we could barely see in front of us.

We made it to the top parking lot. Considering it was mid-week and zero visibility, it was really busy mid-day. Instead of hanging around we headed back to the parkway.

On the plus side, the fall colors below the fog line were amazing! Several unofficial pull-offs made great spots for a few photos.

Attempting Sunrise At Mt. Mitchell

Sunrise at Mt. Mitchell, Mitchell State Park, NC

Our next attempt at Mt. Mitchell couldn’t have been more different. We knew we would have a clear day, but there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. 

Trying to get to the top for sunrise, we only made it to the park’s office when the sun started peeking over the mountains. Here’s a tip: the online sunrise times for Mt. Mitchell and the Blue Ridge in general are about 20 minutes late.

Though we didn’t make it to the top for sunrise, it was still a beautiful view. Plus, the golden light lit up the orange of the trees in spectacular color.
Road on Mt Mitchell during fall, Mt Mitchell State Park, NC
Parks office Mt. Mitchell, Mt Mitchell State Park, NC
Road facing fall trees, Mt Mitchell State Park, NC

From The Top Of Mt. Mitchell

After a few photos around the visitor center, we headed to the top of Mt. Mitchell. During normal times there’s a restaurant just past the park’s office, but it was closed due to Covid (2020).

The road ended in a parking lot just shy of the summit. At the top was a little store that wasn’t open for the day yet, and restrooms. With only a few other folks milling around it was peaceful.

View At top of Mt. Mitchell, Mt Mitchell State Park, NC

The walk to the summit was short (280 yards), but steep and paved. At the very top, an elevated observation platform provided 360-degree views of the surrounding mountains. Though the day was clear, in the distance fog filled the gaps between the mountains. Stunning!

The view reminded us a lot of Clingmans Dome Viewpoint, highest point in the Great Smoky Mountains. Like there, all the trees at this elevation were evergreens, so no beautiful fall foliage here.
Elevation sign and view from Mt. Mitchell, Mt Mitchell State Park, NC
View of the south mountainside from the top of Mt. Mitchell, Mt Mitchell State Park, NC
View from north side of Mt. Mitchell, Mt Mitchell State Park, NC
View from top of Mt. Mitchell, Mitchell State Park, NC

Hiking Mt. Mitchell

Though we drove to the top and only did the short walk to the lookout point, you can climb Mt. Mitchell. The strenuous 6-mile hike starts at the Black Mountain Campground at around 3,040 feet. It takes about 4.5 hours to climb and 3.5 hours to descend.

A few other trails also link to the top of the mountain. The easiest is the .75 mile Balsam Nature Trail which starts at the summit’s lower section of the parking lot. Another popular hike, The OId Mitchell Trail, starts at the park office, and goes for two miles along the Black Mountain Range.

Old Mitchell Hike, Mt Mitchell State Park, NC

Where To Stay To Visit Mt. Mitchell

Most visitors to this area of the Blue Ridge Parkway stay in and around Asheville, NC. Famous for its brewery district, sweet little bed and breakfasts, and its laid back atmosphere, it makes the perfect vacation destination.

  • For some Victorian era charm try The 1899 Wright Inn & Carriage House bed and breakfast. A little outside of town, but that makes it quiet with free parking.
  • To stay closer to the attractions and the breweries, the Kimpton Hotel offers stunning accommodation with a prime location. 
  • Another popular option are holiday homes and cabins. Asheville Cabins of Willow Winds is in an amazingly convenient location, close to the city and the Blue Ridge Parkway. Plus they offer various size houses in a serene location.

Best Books On The Blue Ridge Parkway

The Blue Ridge Parkway releases a free travel planner seasonally. These useful books can be picked up at any visitor center, and many grocery stores have them in the free publishing racks at the store entrance. This is a great way to know what’s at each milepost.

However, if you plan on doing hiking, you’ll need something with more detail. We have the larger Falcon Guides Hiking the Blue Ridge Parkway: The Ultimate Travel Guide and the smaller pocket size Best Easy Day Hikes Blue Ridge Parkway.

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