Hiking the Black Mountain Crest Trail to Mount Mitchell, N.C.

Roof of the East: Hiking North Carolina’s Mount Mitchell

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By Michael Lanza

At 6,327-foot Celo Knob, on North Carolina’s Black Mountain Crest Trail, I stand in bright sunshine and a chilly October wind gusting to 50 mph, staring at the long ridge stretching for miles ahead of me. It’s both stunning and daunting. Several more summits that top 6,000 feet, and others nearly that high, form a forested, earthen rollercoaster, culminating at 6,684-foot Mount Mitchell, the highest peak east of the Mississippi. There are a few ways one can climb to the roof of the East. I’ve chosen the longest, hardest, and most scenic.

For many reasons—not always easy to enunciate—I find hikes that are challenging are usually also the most satisfying.

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One Response to Roof of the East: Hiking North Carolina’s Mount Mitchell

  1. Zachary Robbins   |  July 23, 2017 at 12:50 pm

    I’m glad to finally see your full report of the crest trail, it seems like you encountered some gnarly wind on the trip. I agree that when you finally get to Mt. Mitchell it is always a shock. I was just hiking a loop there 2 weeks ago, and I saw less than 5 people over a period of 4 hours, then when I got to Mt. Mitchell there are suddenly hundreds. It is the drawback of these peaks in the Southeast with roads to the top, but every time I’ve hiked on the northern half of the trail it is desolate and beautiful. That section from Celo Knob to Gibbs Mt is known as the Horse Rock Meadows btw, but it’s not an official USGS marking. That’s one of the best sections of trail in NC in my opinion.

    I would like to note that unless National Geographic Trails Illustrated is one of your sponsors, I would recommend another map for your readers. Generally we discourage any hiker in NC from buying those maps unless it is the only option. The scale of most of them is between 1:65,000 and 1:75,000 which is too high for compass navigation and judging contours, and their trail accuracy is notoriously spotty. They get people in trouble in more remote places or Linville Gorge where the detail is bad. I always recommend USDA Forest Service maps which are typically between 1:24,000 and 1:35,000. They are also cheaper than NatGeo, and almost always better with trails and topographic information.

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