Exploring Mount Mitchell: Your Essential Visitor’s Guide

Spectacular Views From Soaring Heights

If you’re planning a trip to Asheville or elsewhere in Western North Carolina, Mount Mitchell is well worth the visit. Not only is it the tallest mountain in North Carolina, but it’s the highest point on the entire US east coast.

Mount Mitchell State Park entrance sign.

Mount Mitchell is a favorite outdoor attraction in the Asheville area for locals and visitors alike.

It’s a great stop along the Blue Ridge Parkway because you can choose to make it a quick one or stay a while and explore.

This article details how to make the most of your Mount Mitchell visit. First, we’ll share information about the state park, then access to the park, and details on various amenities and hikes, weather and even a few FAQs.

About Mount Mitchell

At 6,684 feet in elevation, Mount Mitchell is not only the tallest mountain in North Carolina, but it’s the highest point in the United States east of the Mississippi River. It is part of the Blue Ridge Mountains within the Appalachian Mountain Range.

View to the north from the Mount Mitchell observation deck showing mountain peak and fir trees.

Only 30 miles from Asheville, Mount Mitchell is one of the most accessible mountain peaks in Western North Carolina with road access to a parking lot near the summit. 

Within the Blue Ridge Mountains, Mount Mitchell is part of the Black Mountains named for the dark appearance of some of the tallest mountains within the Appalachians. The range is adorned with an evergreen forest of Fraser fir trees contributing to their dark color that makes for magical surroundings. 

Mount Mitchell State Park Access

Mount Mitchell State Park is surrounded by Pisgah National Forest. The park is open 7 days a week year-round unless roads are closed due to winter weather.

Park hours are from 7am until 9pm. There is no fee to access the park, making it one of Asheville’s great free attractions!

The State Park is accessed from the Blue Ridge Parkway.

The park’s access road is located between Blue Ridge Parkway mileposts 355 and 356. To access the park, turn from the Blue Ridge Parkway onto Road 128.

You’ll pass an easy hike at Craggy Gardens on the way to Mount Mitchell from Asheville. It’s worth a stop if you have the time!

Sign for Mount Mitchell State Park from Blue Ridge Parkway near Asheville, NC.

The drive from Asheville typically takes about an hour on the Blue Ridge Parkway, but plan for extra time if you want to stop at some of the spectacular overlooks along the way. Also, if you are prone to getting carsick, you may want to take Dramamine before embarking on your adventure.

Parking at Mount Mitchell State Park

There are three parking lots in the park. The first is at the park headquarters, the second is at the restaurant (currently closed) and the third is near the summit. 

If you are interested in a short hike or walk up to the summit you will want to park at the last parking lot. You can take the 0.25-mile paved path or the 0.7-mile Balsam Nature loop through the forest to the summit. 

For longer hikes, you will want to park in the first lot at the park headquarters (Old Mitchell Trail) or at the trailhead on South Toe River Road (outside the park) for the Mount Mitchell Trail. 

Mount Mitchell State Park Amenities

Observation Deck: The observation deck at the summit is the highlight of the park. From this vantage point, you can see for miles in every direction. It also makes for a great photo op in front of the sign that says “ highest peak East of the Mississippi River”

Museum and Gift Shop: The small museum near the summit gives an overview of the area and the history surrounding the mountain. Please note that as of summer 2023 it is a cash-only shop.

Concession Stand: There is a concession stand near the peak offering snacks and drinks.

Restrooms: Restrooms are available next to the concession stand

Picnic Area: A picnic area is available just below the last parking lot. It has a beautiful log cabin-style picnic shelter and picnic tables with breathtaking views. 

Campground: There is a tent campground available in the park with limited camping spots so make sure you reserve a spot online in advance.

Restaurant: The Mount Mitchell Restaurant closed due to Covid-19 and has yet to reopen.

Mount Mitchell Hiking Trails

With 40 miles of marked hiking trails, Mount Mitchell State Park has great hikes for beginners and experts. There are eight hiking trails with a range of difficulty and length. 

Be aware that not all of the trails begin in the state park. The trailhead for the Mount Mitchell Trail is on South Toe River Road off the Blue Ridge Parkway for example. 

If you’re not into hiking or short on time, you can drive to the parking lot near the peak and walk the 1/4 mile path to the observation deck. 

Below is a list of the trails found in the state park along with a park map and area map.

Mount Mitchell Hiking Trails List

Trail NameLengthDifficultyBlaze
Mount Mitchell Trail5.6-mile one wayStrenuousblue diamonds
Black Mountain Crest Trail11.3-mile one wayStrenuousorange triangles
Old Mitchell Trail2-mile one wayModerateyellow circles
Commissary Trail2-mile one wayEasyorange diamonds
Camp Alice Trail0.5-mile one wayStrenuousblue squares
Balsam Nature Loop0.7-mile loopModeratewhite triangles
Campground Trail0.4-mile one wayEasyred squares
Mountains-to-Sea State Trail in the Black Mountains22.9-mile one wayStrenuouswhite circles

Balsam Nature Loop

If you are looking for a nice dose of nature but don’t want to attempt anything too strenuous, we especially love the Balsam Nature Loop. The Balsam Nature Loop is nicely shaded and is surrounded by beauty in every direction. There are informational signs along the way that detail the various tree types, common birds, and more.

The loop is great because it ends on the path up to the observation deck. We typically take the loop and then pop up to the peak before heading down the paved road to the restrooms and concession area.

Mount Mitchell Trail Maps

Topographic map of Mount Mitchell area trails.

Mount Mitchell Weather

The weather at the peak of tends to be quite a bit cooler than temperatures in Asheville. Average highs in the summer are in the 60s so it’s a good idea to pack an extra layer. Even if it doesn’t feel like it before you leave. It always catches us by surprise!

The peak is also known to be windy at times which can also make it feel cooler. 

Clouds at the Mount Mitchell observation deck.

FAQs

Are dogs allowed at Mount Mitchell State Park?

Yes! Dogs are allowed in the State Park as long as they are on a leash.

Is Mount Mitchell kid-friendly?

Yes, there is a road to the summit and short trails around the peak which make for great spots to adventure with kids. Our two especially love the Balsam Nature Trail with a quick walk up to the peak after.

What is the elevation of Mount Mitchell?

Mount Mitchell’s peak has an elevation of 6,684 feet above sea level.

How far is Mount Mitchell from Asheville, NC?

Mount Mitchell is about 30 miles from downtown Asheville via the Blue Ridge Parkway.

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