Monday, August 22, 2022

Hiking Mount Mitchell via Loop

Mount Mitchell State Park 
Saturday, August 13, 2022

This was such a fun hike with elevation changes, rock scrambling, views and more. Turned out to be an overcast and misty day for most of the hike but I did get some opportunities to see a view views of the mountains. Below are the trails I used to create the loop which basically boards Mount Mitchell State Park with some of the trails located in Pisgah National Forest. 

Here are the trails I used to make this loop: 

Commissary (MMSP) …………………………… 2.0 Miles
Buncombe Horse Range (PSN #191) …  2.4 Miles
Big Tom Gap (PSN #191a) …………………  0.4 Miles
Black Mountain Crest (PSN #179) ……… 1.5 Miles
Old Mitchell (MMSP)……………………………… 2.0 Miles 

MMSP = Mount Mitchell State Park
PNF = Pisgah National Forest 

3D Picture of my route through Mount Mitchell State Park

Parking at the park office I started off on the Commissary trail. The trail starts off as a graveled road and has a moderate descent and on a clear day there are several spots that provide great views. When you reach the Camp Alice trail junction Commissary switches from gravel to dirt. Just before you reach the junction with Buncombe Horse Range there are several nice backcountry campsites.  

Commissary trail turns into Buncombe horse Range and now you are in Pisgah National Forest. Most of this trail is under tree cover and you travel at a gradual incline but nothing hard at all. At least on the day that I hike the trail it was very saturated and appears it must be that way often. There were circular cut logs throughout to try and help people stay out of the muck.

When you hit Big Tom Gap / Pisgah National Forest Trail #191a is when the hike gets real. I knew a head of time that this section, while only 0.4 miles, was going to be a doozie. Most of the elevation gain on this hike is on this trail. There are sections that when muddy are supper slick and I feel it is easier going up this trail as opposed to down it. Hiking this today with all the fog and mist I really felt like I was in the Lord of the Rings book and at any moment I would have ring wraths on my tail. There are also a few rock scrambles on this trail as well.  

After climbing up Big Tom you reach the ridgeline and at this point the trail is call Deep Gap but actually starts off in Burnsville, NC as the Black Mountain Crest. I tried to hike this one a few months ago and had to turn around mostly because I was not going to have enough time. I plan to try this one again in the very near future.  

- Pictures -

The trail goes through several up and downs and you hit two summits above 6,000 ft. Before you even get to Mount Mitchell. Those are Big Tom at 6,580 ft. and then Mount Craig at 6,663 ft. There is a lot of rock scrambles at this point hard but extremely fun. You are also rewarded with sever nice views of the surrounding mountains.  

After you hit Mount Craig you go downhill for a little bit and then you start heading up and good incline. They do have stone steps to help you up however you are on natures stair mill. You will start hitting picnic areas that will open up to a parking lot. The summit is crowed with a lot of tourists since you can pretty much drive to the top. There is a gift shop and restaurant (snack) place and then you have just under a half mile hike up the summit trail to get to the top.  

Unfortunately, my wife’s luck rubbed off on me today and I was provided with a blanket of fog and not a real view from the top. I still enjoyed the whole experience and maybe I will get a better view after finally completing the Black Mountain Crest hike. After spending a little time on the summit I took the Old Mitchell trail that will be the final leg of my loop hike. 

While not the Black Mountain Crest this trail is pretty difficult in its own right. It is steep, there are rock scrambles, and it is currently under construction that makes extremely slick in spots. The trail hugs the road down the mountain and you get a forest vibe. You will hit the parking lot to the main restaurant where the trails pick back up on the other side. 

Extremely fun and challenging hike I would recommend this one. Also stay tuned for my second attempt at the Black Mountain Crest trail.  

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Hiking Mount Mitchell State Park via Loop

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