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Mount Mitchell Loop is a 5.8 mile lightly trafficked loop trail located near Burnsville, North Carolina that offers the chance to see wildlife and is only recommended for very experienced adventurers. The trail is primarily used for hiking, nature trips, and bird watching and is best used from April until September. Dogs are also able to use this trail but must be kept on leash.

Length 5.8 mi Elevation gain 1,309 ft Route type Loop

Dogs on leash

Hiking

Nature trips

Bird watching

Views

Wildlife

Muddy

Over grown

Rocky

Waypoints (0)
Getting There

Leave Mount Mitchell parking lot and take the Balsam Nature Trail. Turn onto the Mountain To Sea Trail to Commissary Ridge. Turn left unto the Buncombe Horse Trail and follow it along the ridge to the Big Tom Spur sign. At this junction is a perfect camp site and water 150 feet down the hill to your right. Turn left and go up the Big Tom Spur. It's almost straight up 600-800 feet up a rocky creek bed. It's a highly over-grown and lightly used trail. At the top, turn left unto the Crest Trail to summit Big Tom, Mount Craig, and Mount Mitchell. This is a tough trail!

Weather
UV Index
Daylight
Reviews (62)
Photos (459)
Recordings (43)
Completed (181)
Madeleine Mitchell
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MuddyOver grown

This trail was really cool, but be prepared for lots of mud and overgrowth. Would recommend legging or pants and a rain coat! Beautiful views. One section of rock scrambling that will kick your butt, otherwise pretty easy.

View Madeleine's Recording
Mike Haas
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Hiking

Took a wrong turn and hiked 1 mile from Black mountain campground. Reversed course in heavy rain

View Mike's Recording
Courtney Kimball
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarJuly 19, 2020
HikingMuddyOver grownRockyScramble

Really enjoyable trail! Good variety of uphill, downhill, and flat terrain, as well as diverse vegetation. The rock scramble up to Big Tom summit was fun and the trail had lots of good shade. A few muddy patches right now, but good views.

Tomas Elmeklo
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HikingMuddyRocky

Nice hike but very very muddy on large parts. Bautiful views and some nice waterfalls along the way. It took us 3,5 hours for the full loop.

Manuel Pato
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarJuly 11, 2020
HikingMuddyOver grownRocky

Great trail but will test you in some areas!

Anna G
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HikingMuddyRocky

Amazing hike! As previous reviewers mention, not for the casual hiker. That said, I’m far from being an expert, but I took my time (leave plenty of it!), stopped often, enjoyed the view, and had a wonderful day. Highly recommend!

Tom Engwall
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Hiking

Just hiked this trail and can agree that it is difficult but the description that it is for “very experienced adventurers” is a bit of hyperbole. It is quite rocky and steep but it is only about 7 miles, so if you take your time and are in reasonable shape, you should be able to do it. I’m 72 and in only reasonable shape but I was able to do this hike. There are great views around Mt Craig and Big Tom and the trail traverses very interesting territory with firs and spruce. Definitely a worthwhile hike.

Nathan Brown
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HikingMuddyRockyScramble
Sarah Lima
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HikingBlowdownFloodedMuddyRockyScramble

The last stretch of this trail was a delight! We loved the crazy creek bed gain, the rope assists, the playfulness of the boulders leading up to Big Tom, and the stellar views from the deep gap ridge section. The horse trail section, though, was complete bullshit and we have a feeling it remains so regardless of season. Lots of flooding, mud, and not a lot of payoff. It’s probably sweet if you’re legitimately horsed, but otherwise we’d have preferred to do an out and back involving deep gap over the loop that involved the horse trail. I used poles during this hike and found them helpful. We passed several groups of hikers who were in the 50-70 age demo who were making their ways without them and were not only feeling defeated, but who were genuinely worried they wouldn’t be able to complete the trail. Don’t try it without something to counterbalance you if you have trouble with boulders.

Derrick Dodd
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarNovember 4, 2019
Hiking

Did this as loop around the top when I did Mt. Mitchell trail. Big tom spur trail is a little tough but not to bad. Buncombe horse trail is pretty rutted out and muddy in areas but manageable.

Rob Kirby
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HikingMuddyRocky

A mighty fine day-hike loop with sights, fantastic smells, and challenge. We picked a (rare?) perfectly-clear fall morning and arrived at the MMSP summit parking area about 40 minutes before sunrise. We scurried up the paved path, and were rewarded with stunning colors all around as the light overtook the darkness. A great place to watch the sunrise and we had the place to ourselves for a while - and then met others similarly lucky folks taking in the dawn. The distant, slowly evolving views of Grandfather Mtn, Roan Mtn, and the Linville Gorge peaks were stunning in the early morning glow, as was the color of the hardwood on the lower elevations of the Black Mtn Range. We could even make out (faintly) Charlotte in the east. After taking in the sights from the observation deck, we completed the loop CCW heading out north from the parking area along the crest trail up to Mount Craig and Big Tom. Along the ridge the flora is amazing - particularly the density of the fir trees, the abundant moss & ferns, the amazing (Christmas) smell, and the level of darkness. The path is rocky along the ridgeline (as expected) and the views from the crags at the two peaks are nice; the trail provided solitude, but the vistas are not unlike the view from the Mitchell summit. We headed east down-down the Big Tom Spur, which wasn't quite as overgrown as others have described - but its not as well traveled a trail. In some places you're walking down a wash - which during our trek was dry. We lost the trail near its end but arrived on the Buncombe path just the same, following the rocks in aforementioned wash-bed. The Buncombe Trail is flat, and muddy in places, as the springs above drain to its wide-ledge. There are plentiful loose rocks along the 2+ miles on the trek south. On our fall day, with peak color we were rewarded with nice views of the Toe River Valley below. Its not as scenic as ridge to be sure, but easy hiking excepting the puddle jumping. Finally, arriving at the Mt. Mitchell trail (MST) we huffed-it up the ridge line of rocky switchbacks thru more verdant forests with that perfect Christmas tree smell. The dense forest didn't afford any distant views - but at that point we're more interested in finishing the hike. We arrived back at the MM summit a little over 4 hours from our start time - this time joined by scores of other leaf peepers. The midday views didn't compare to those of daybreak. A great great way to spend a morning - worth getting up early!

Dallas Gallmann
Yellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarYellow StarGray StarGray StarSeptember 24, 2019
HikingMuddyOver grown

Absolutely loved the first section of the hike- Deep Gap Trail but the .4 trail down to the buncombe Trail was overgrown so much you had to hike with your arms above your head due to the weeds and bushes & you had little sight of your feet placement. The actual buncombe Trail was muddy but had some cool spots along it & the Mt Mitchell part of the loop was intense and has a lot of work being done to it right now. All in all it was a fun hike.

Richard Axelsson
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HikingMuddyOver grownRocky

Nice hike, but did not really like the Buncome Horse Trail part. Was expecting that part to be great view but most of it is bushes and was really wet and muddy.

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