Explore the most popular backpacking trails in Mount Mitchell State Park with hand-curated trail maps and driving directions as well as detailed reviews and photos from hikers, campers and nature lovers like you.

13 days ago

This trail is no joke. We started at bowlens creek carrying our 40lb backpacks. Thought it would be good preparation for our Mt Whitney hike. We are great shape as we have just ran in a half marathon two weeks ago. But it kicked our but. I would not recommend carrying anything other than a day pack on this hike. Make sure you bring plenty of water as we brought 5 liters and could of used more for sure and couldn’t find any water source. Not as many great views as you would expect since most of the hike is under canopy. By far the hardest hike I ever done, specially with the pack. Tool 9 hours to complete.

One of my favorite hikes of all time

Just did it may 2018. Trails in great shape, worth the price of admission (hard hike)

I've been able to complete most of this trail 2 times and while the views on the way up are slightly obstructed, you cannot beat the experience in terms of terrain, ecosystem changes as you move further up the trail, and the remoteness mid-mountain. Awesome experience!

trail running
1 month ago

This can be a very tough trail. It's actually a bit over 12 miles. Its not too hard if you go from Mt Mitchell to Bowlens. If you start from Mt Mitchell and then come back up to Mt Mitchell, then the trail becomes very tough. There's suppose to be water at Deep Gap but I didn't find any.

The views are worth all the pain! I will start by saying our experience is much different than the other reviews because we completed the 18.1 mile loop in one day. It is possible, but very grueling. For reference, we did this hike on May 3 and it took us 10.5 hours.

We started at the Colbert’s trail head and headed on up to the crest. The first time you get some views is about 2 miles into the hike. Once at the crest, you will have views on either side so it is well worth it!! The trail is well maintained but it’s TOUGH. We were stopping every mile for water breaks.

Make sure you have enough water because the only water you will come across the entire 18 Miles are small streams. The water fountains at Mitchell were not operational, so don’t count on them.

Be very aware of black bears. I would recommend bear spray at a minimum because we did have an encounter with a momma and her cub. She was NOT pleased to see us and charged - just make loud noises the whole time and they should try to avoid you.

It took us 6 hours to hike the 8 miles to the parking lot on Mt Mitchell, and I would do that hike again and again. Going down is not as fun. You use the buncombe horse trail which is flat with not a lot of views. Then the switch backs start and your knees and feet will hate you. (This is also when we ran into the bear so I was ready to get back to our car!)

Overall, this was an awesome hike and very rewarding. I’d recommend it for individuals in good shape with hiking experience. Not for those looking for a leisurely stroll!!! :) My husband and I both agreed we would absolutely camp next time.

On dogs, we brought our lab and she had a blast, but she is very active and we brought LOTS of water for her, so think hard on whether your pup could complete a 10.5 hour walk.

Great hike.

Decided on a whim to go hike this trail. Started at Bolen's Creek a little after sunrise and planned to go to Mt. Mitchell and back before dark. Success! Got the round trip in 11 hours 20 minutes. The first few miles were like an old road bed or four-wheeler track, for about an hour or so. Fairly steep for an old road and lots of loose rocks, so watch your footing. When I got to Celo Knob, I bushwacked to the top in an attempt to find the USGS marker, but couldn't find it after about 20 minutes of searching. Thankfully after this the trail got some variety to it, with more undulating singletrack trail. There are several steep descents going into the gaps, so again just be careful- it's a long way back if you get hurt. Saw some super cool changes in scenery and all sorts of stuff you just don't normally see around these parts. Got to the top by 12:30, ate some lunch and aired out the feet, then headed back down. Made faster time coming down, for sure, though I did stop to bushwack to the top of Gibbs Mountain. Didn't find a USGS marker, but I did find a pile of rocks on top! Considering I didn't really prepare for this hike, I think it went fine. I started with all the water I'd need for the day, about 8 liters, and drank it all. I think if you had a small filter like the Sawyer Squeeze and a bandanna as a prefilter, you could start the hike with as little as 2 or 3 liters and be good on water. Coming back down, my knees took a beating! Going back down those last few miles of old road bed was pretty close to torture. I'll come back again after I get my joints conditioned a little more. Highly recommend this trail as a round trip day hike to people who are used to hiking at least 15-20 miles.

Great trail. First and last 4 miles were most difficult.

This was a great trip. We did it backwards as well and went up Colbert Creek the first day, camped at Deep Gap, went to the Mt. Mitchell Summit and then to Maple Camp the second day and down Buncombe Horse Trail the third day.

The first day up Colbert Creek took about 4 hours to get to Deep Gap. Only encountered one other person on the trail who was coming down. Water is scarce until you get near the top. IF YOU ARE CAMPING ON THE CREST, FILL UP EVERY BIT OF WATER YOU CAN AT THE CREEK 0.5-.75 miles from the top. There is a decently flowing stream but once you reach the crest, there is no water all the way to Mt. Mitchell summit that we saw, and they don't have the water turned on at the summit until May. We camped in a little open area that overlooks both sides of the mountain. It was awesome to see the sunset and sunrise without moving, but you pay for it with insane amounts of wind. We thought our two person dome tent was going to collapse, but thankfully it held strong.

The next morning we headed towards Mt. Mitchell summit. The crest trail has some really cool forest areas as well as a couple places where you can see for miles on both sides. It is still a half day of climbing up hill most of the way so it can get a bit tiring after a while, but the views are worth it. After getting to Mt. Mitchell we deviated a bit from this exact hike and went down the Old Mt. Mitchell Trail then intersected with the Camp Alice trail. The park ranger told us there was a definite water source at the end of the Camp Alice connector. There was a decent flowing stream there and we filled up for the rest of the day. Going towards Maple Camp was a much easier hike. Was a bit soggy in places but overall a welcome change of mostly flat and grassy. We camped the second night at Maple Camp. The views are AMAZING. Once again it was crazy windy but worth it.

The third day was an easy hike down the rest of the Buncombe Horse Trail and back to the Colbert creek trail head where we started. This hike was a great trip with amazing views after the first day. In order to camp at the best places, make sure to have a tent that can handle extreme wind gusts!

2 months ago

Absolutely incredible hike. Best I've ever been on. We went Bolens Creek to Deep Gap and back.

Parking is available off Water Shed road across from the cemetery. Do not park on Water Shed road.

The first 5 miles you gain over 3,000ft in elevation with no views until you reach the top. If you do not know what that's like, it's like hell. You will only make it to Celo Knob (the top) if you are in good physical shape. The ground is littered with quartz, rose quartz and mica. Our boots looked like they had been sprinkled with fairy dust after the first 5 miles to the junction of the Celo Knob trail.

We took a detour at this point up the Celo Knob trail about a half mile up to the CK summit. The side trail was not very well maintained and we could not find the USGS seal. I wouldn't recommend this detour as the views are better from the CK/BMCT junction.

Beginning at 5.0 miles, you're in a meadow with 360 degree views from about 6,000 ft and it is incredible for about 2 miles passing Horse Rock.

Around mile 7 you really start to realize you're in Canada. As the trail winds past Gibbs Mountain and on to Winter Star you begin seeing the craziest types of moss consuming the trees and quartz boulders around you. It snows 12 months a year at this altitude and the forest is unlike anything you will find south of Michigan. Spruce and Evergreen trees thrive here.

Once you begin climbing Winter Star mountain you really start having to work for it. Grabbing hold of moss covered roots, finding footholds in exposed quartz, the climb is steep and jungle-like. Then you emerge at the summit with the USGS summit seal in plain view.

Coming down Winter Star you descend into Deep Gap. They've had some recent bear encounters in the area and signs are posted. We had no issues after taking the proper precautions.

We did this hike in 3 days, 2 nights. The second night we spent on Winter Star mountain with torrential rain and 30+ mph gusts which our 3-day forecast did not predict. The weather is notoriously unpredictable at this altitude. We were prepared and stayed warm and dry throughout the night but I also make the best hammock shelters my side of the Mississippi. Be prepared for changes in the weather pattern. Do not rely solely on a forecast. Also, you should probably not camp on Winter Star. We had to harvest icicles for water. Camp in Deep Gap where there is a fresh spring not far; about 1000ft down the Colbert Ridge trail which is beautifully marked in a clearing.

Fairy dust, HUGE quartz and mica deposits, a Canadian ecosystem, emaculant views of Appalachia, moss covered jungles, Bob cats, potentially black bears, mountain summits, 6,000 ft meadows, and fresh water springs are what you can expect to see on this amazing one of a kind hike- that is.... if you can make the first 5 miles.

Happy hiking!

We go in the summertime. Love the campground so much.. it is next to a beautiful stream. The showers are nice to have since we hike too. Loved the hike to Mt. Mitchell!!

Just did this hike in reverse over 3 days. Camping at Big Gap and Maple Camp Bald. I suggest going up Colbert Ridge first instead of Buncombe Horse Trail, it makes the last day easier. This hike is a challenge to put it lightly but it's not unattainable. There's plenty of places to get water, none of them are at places you can camp, but are within a half a mile hike. This time of year, there were springs everywhere but in dryer times, I doubt there would be. It took us about 3.5-4 hours to do the 4 mile hike up Colbert Ridge. It was pretty windy when we got up there but there is at least 1 camp site that is protected by a large rock outcropping. I wouldn't call any of the campsites up there "flat". Be prepared for the weather to turn cold. The hike over the crest was beautiful with all the views and the changing forests. The rope climbs up Big Tom were difficult but my 12 yr old dog was able to navigate the climb with a little assistance on the hard parts from me. The ropes definitely came in handy. The hike down from Mt. Mitchell was steep and taxing. The meadow campsite at the crossroads of the MST and Buncombe Horse Trail is an awesome spot and we would have stopped there to camp except we knew that Maple Camp was better. The hike to Maple Camp is relatively flat but it feels like it goes on forever (mostly because we had already hiked the entire crest). You'll pass another great camp site on your right before you reach the Big Tom connector. It's a good one as well but Maple was still better. The Big Tom connector is the last place for good water, it's another half a mile to the Maple Camp Bald. It was about 8.5-9 miles from Big Gap to Maple Camp Bald and it took us about 6 hours including stops for lunch and at the Mt. Mitchell tower. The bald gets gusty at night so make sure you orient your tent into the wind and tie it down very well. The view is worth the wind, I guarantee you. Make sure to take the time to watch the sunset and see the stars at night. We went when there was a full moon. The view of the moon over the town was absolutely perfect. The hike down the mountain on the Buncombe Horse Trail is easy and beautiful. It took us 3.5-4 hrs to do the 5 miles.

It’s steep at first but pence your on top it’s beautiful

I’ve never hiked the entire black mountain crest trail but this review is for Ben Clark. What an incredible story man, but I can’t help but laugh because I’m the guy on the atv ! I offered to help you guys out but you didn’t really seem like you knew where you were going or where you came from. I thought you were just some college kids from cattail creek hiking up to the mine so we never thought anything of it. You guys were on the old mining roads and most of them aren’t on google maps. Don’t go by just what you saw though man the views are amazing up there and I don’t have any idea how you ran out of water because it’s everywhere lol. We’ve got property at the base of the mountain so I know the area pretty well. Shoot me an email if you want more info on how to get around without getting lost. Sorry y’all had to had to suffer but when we came back down we never passed you so we went on to the house.

PS: I have to rate the trail so I’m going with 5 Stars. I’ll hike it someday but I don’t live there and my time is always limited. That area has become my favorite place on earth and I intend to live there permanently one day.

Do not underestimate the difficulty of this trail. First of all, if you are climbing from Bowlens Creek, the first 4.5 miles is the EASIEST climbing portion of the trail. For some people to say that the first 4.5 miles is the hardest, they obviously didn’t complete the entire trail. The AllTrails app is incorrect, it is more like 12.5 miles to Mount Mitchell from Bowlens Creek. We completed our hike in January of 2018 and the trail was very icy, making it very difficult to climb the rock scrambling portions of the trail. It really doesn’t get difficult until you start making your approach to Winter Star Mountain. From Winter Star Mountain to Mount Mitchell is some of the most strenuous hiking that I have done considering the iciness of the trail. There is a portion on Big Tom were there are ropes attached to two separate angled rock faces to assist in your scramble up the rock. I would recommend doing this trail in the summer when you do not have to worry about ice. Also, DO NOT expect to camp at Mount Mitchell in the winter. The campground is closed during winter months and they do not allow camping. DO NOT take on this trail unless you are a well prepared, experienced backpacker. We spoke to the park ranger and he said they are constantly rescuing unprepared, inexperienced hikers because they bite off more than they can chew. Luckily we were well prepared and were able to finish.

I have now hiked this trail 28 times. Looking forward to my 29th and 30th as my goal was 30. It is a good workout and there are two major water sources along the way. The trail is well maintained. You won't find many decent views of the surrounding mountains or the valley below.The Higgins Bald Trail has a waterfall but it is only decent after a heavy rainfall.

Wonderfully difficult climb to one of the best trails in western North Carolina!!!!

gorgeous and really hard loop!

7 months ago

This was my first backpacking adventure. Probably not the wisest choice for my first time out, but why start small?

Started at the Bowlens Creek trailhead and the first four miles are grueling and exhausting. Once you get to the top of that, you have a reward of incredible views and more level hiking. Following that, more steep terrain, breathtaking views and absolute exhaustion. We did a total of eight miles before making camp at Deep Gap.

The next day was only four miles through woods and into the National Forest side of the trail. Interesting terrain and some steep climbs aided by ropes as we got to the top of Mt. Craig and then finally to the summit of Mt. Mitchell. A total of 12 miles for us on our first backpacking adventure.

If you are looking to push your limits and really want to challenge yourself, this is the trail to do this on. Add it to the bucket list to hike what North Carolinians refer to as “The Death March”. It’s a challenge, but so rewarding!

Excellent hike. You will probably need to split this trail up in to two days. Multiple beautiful peaks and strenuous hiking.

I wanted to leave a review here since this weekend me and a group of friends hiked the trail and ended up getting lost and not making it home until 11:00pm. The trail starts at Water Shed, which is a private drive at the end of a turn, so it's easy to miss. Once you walk down the private road you will see some previous parking spots that are now marked off as private (3 cars were still using the spaces however). The trail from there is very pretty, as you are walking along side a creek the whole time. The creek has tons of beautiful falls where you can take pictures and you will stumble across an abandoned bridge as well as what appears to be an old dam as well. When you continue on the trail you will eventually find yourself getting to a trail head where you can stay on Black Crest or move down to a small trail that appears to lead to a road called North Fork. This is where you need to be aware that although Google Maps, MapQuest, and All Trails have that road as an actual street, IT IS NOT! Our plan was to get to the cut off where you will notice a trial that leads to to Winter Star Road, and follow that until our ride could pick us up. WARNING! North Fork Road and Winter Star ARE NOT ACCESSIBLE BY VEHICLE! We passed 2 gentleman on ATV's who told us the quickest way to get the main road was to stay on North Fork, which was accurate, however there is a turn on there that is not labeled and we ended up walking almost 2 hours to a dead end trail. We had been hiking for over 8 hours and had no water or food left, and despite filling up water in the spring we hadn't come across any other water sources for several hours. With night setting in and no service or idea where to go, I got lucky and happened to get some service in a overlook and called 911. They informed us that North Fork is an actual road, but it is only state maintained for the very beginning, and although it shows up as a road on Goggle Maps, it doesn't become paved or lead to civilization for several miles. Fortunately, after 11.5 hours and 19 miles of hiking we were able to get down to where the paved road started and were given a ride back to our place. Although we were all good to go and happy to be back we got lucky and avoided a nightmare. We had no water, no food, had been hiking for almost 12 hours, and no flashlights except for our phones and 2 out of the 4 were already dead, with mine only at 13%. Luckily the ranger we talked to on the phone was able to put us in the right direction because we weren't sure if we were going to make it out that night or the next morning.

Morale of the story, stay on the trail. I understand it was making the road seem like a trail but what we should have done is just turn around and come back after we met the fork. For anyone planning on hiking this trail make sure you don't plan on taking Winter Star or North Fork as an exit, it will take several hours to go down and there was numerous cut offs that aren't labeled, and you could get lost like we did. For those who see the cutoff, it's labeled near the Horse Rock X and says it is .6 miles to Winter Star. If you want to use this as a means of exiting the trail head you will need to understand it will take 4+ hours to make it down to the bottom and only than will you be on the paved part. Take it from me who had that being lost feeling as the sun was going down, only to know you were out of water and had no flashlights.

Also, I will go ahead and tell you the trail is pretty tough. It was 3 friends and myself who are all in pretty good shape, but it's long and doesn't get flat much, so if you are trying to make good time prepare to work hard. The views aren't really that good to the exception of the clearing when you have hiked about 5 miles. If your looking for a great open view of the mountains and good photo opportunities I would find another trail. The good thing is aside from the last view you get, most of the good pictures were taken during the first hour and mile of the trail. I hope this helps and someone is able to avoid what could have been a disastrous night.

One last thing, 3 of my friends had Verizon and I have AT&T. I had service for the first 2-3 hours on the trail but once you get around the 6k elevation mark service is rare for Verizon/AT&T. The dispatcher I talked to that provided me some directions was very surprised I even had service when they pinged my phone for coordinates so make sure your cognizant of that before you start. I hope this helps and happy hiking!

Really good hike! Parked a car on top at Mt Mitchell the night before then started at Bowlens Creek the next morning. First 4 miles is straight up the mountain with little break. The remaining hike had a good mix of elevation change to keep it honest.

Unfortunately, it was quite foggy along the ridge so we didn't get the fall views we would have liked. Really well marked and easy to follow. Started to see a lot more people the closer to Mt Mitchell we got. Took us 7.5 hours and my watch had us at 11.75 miles.

Worst part was having to drive back to Bowlens creek once we finished :(

Nice trail, good views, not a lot of people

Lots of great reviews here, so just a few added tidbits:

Parking on Watershed Road is a now a definitive no-no, so hiking the entire BMC south-bound requires a drop off.

Verizon reception is excellent northbound from the Horse Rock Meadows all the way to Watershed. Therefore, calling a pickup can easily be done while finishing the final northbound miles on the trail.

The hardest southbound ascents are up Potato Hill from Deep Gap, and up Big Tom from Big Tom Gap - the latter is where the climbing ropes are located. These gaps serve as good launching pads for a favorite candy bar before turning on the jets!

That's about it. If I were to recommend a single trail to any hikers unfamiliar with the southern Appalachians, it might very well be this one.....on most days.

Did this trail near the end of winter in 3 feet of snow. Easily one of the premier trails in North Carolina. Would highly recommend a winter hike if properly equipped as the views with the leaves down are unreal.

10 months ago

Awesome trail for getting to the top of Mt Mitchell. We did it in two days starting at Bowlens Creek (the real way to do it) and it's definitely strenuous. I climbed Mt. Rainier a few weeks ago and did BMC multiple times in preparation for Rainier. Didn't have any problems on Rainier so it's obviously a good training ground for loftier future trips!

10 months ago

Started Friday evening about 6:30 from watershed Rd. Hiked about an hour and a half ( bout 2.5-3 miles in) Thankfully, we decided on the second campsite we saw. We learned in the morning there wasn't another campsite for miles. Continued our hike the next morning at 9 am. Got to deep gap around 2:00. Horseshoe meadow was amazing w butterflies galore! Set up hammocks, dropped off packs, and set out to complete the last half of the trail. It was HARD! Took about 3.5 hours to summit Potato Hill, Cattail, Balsam Cone, Big Tom, & Mt. Craig. Got to Mt. Mitchell around 5:15. Filled up on water, went to the bathroom. There is a little store on top w soda and snacks. I wish we would have brought money, it would have been a nice treat! Turned around and made our way back to deep gap at 5:30. Got to camp around 8:30. We needed water so we made our way to the water source by camp. The water is "close" but it is a STEEP climb, so be ready for it! We heard about the bear activity at deep gap, so we blew the bear horn before going to sleep and hung our food. We didn't have any problems. Left at 9:00 am from deep gap and made it to the car at 2:30. Toughest hike we have completed yet, but very rewarding! I'm still having trouble walking 2 days after!

10 months ago

Great trail. We went from Mt Mitchell to Deep Gap. VERY tough inclines at times, especially hiking out of Deep Gap. Water is hard to find but available from a spring off the Colbert Ridge trail (Less than 100 yards on left).

I live around 800' elevation so starting and hanging out at 6,600' is noticeable (especially on the inclines). We camped right before Deep Gap at an established site next to the trail. Great site but we did get a visit from a bear at 9:30 the next morning (twice). I had just retrieved our bear bag that was properly hung over 150' away. We were talking full volume and packing up everything when we look up, a black bear was standing less than 10' away. He came in quiet as a mouse. Our trash bag was sitting at the site ready to be packed away and the bear snagged it and ran off. He came back 5-10 mins later but ran off as we were leaving. I did make a report the Rangers. They indicated that there was an older juvenile bear in the Deep Gap area that is getting too close to people. Another report from the same weekend said a bear put its head into a tent (with the guy in it).

Don't forget to check out the old plane crash site about a mile from Mt Mitchell. Its on the left and you can see it from the trail and hike down to it. Please remember its a final resting place for the people on board and do not disturb the site.

Beautiful but you need to start early! It's pretty tough if you want to do it all in one day.

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