Why You Should Hike the Highest Peak East of the Mississippi

All the big peaks are out west, everyone knows that. The east still has some notable high peaks, with the biggest one standing at just over a mile above sea level. At 6,684 feet, Mt. Mitchell is the highest peak in Western North Carolina and all of the east coast. Most of the thousands of people that visit Mt. Mitchell every year chooses to drive up the Blue Ridge Parkway and park at one of Mt. Mitchell's parking lots. From there they walk a couple hundred yards up a brick paved path to the summit, huffing and puffing the whole way.

The lesser known and arguably more rewarding route to the highest peak in the east is the Mt. Mitchell Trail. It starts at Black Mountain Campground and goes virtually straight up for over 5.5 miles.

North Carolina

Here are seven reasons you should hike the Mt. Mitchell Trail to the summit:


  1. You're virtually alone on the trail the entire time. Most people want to get to the summit, take a picture and get on with their day. Hikers know it's all about the journey and they want to take the path less traveled. This is definitely the path less traveled.
  2. The elevation gain is no joke. Gaining about 3,600 feet in a little over 5.5 miles is no joke. Whether you're going to the summit of a 14er or a 6,000-foot peak, it's something that's not meant to be taken lightly.
  3. It's the highest trail on the east coast.
  4. When you get to the summit of Mt. Mitchell, you don't have to battle for a parking spot. Just enjoy the summit, eat your snacks, and head back down to your car at the Black Mountain Campground.
  5. Along the trail, there are tons of side trails and backcountry campsites. Register at Mt. Mitchell's visitor center and you can easily camp and hike around for a week without getting bored.
  6. This trail is great training if you're planning a trip out west to tackle some bigger peaks. It's also a great trail to break in your new hiking boots.
  7. Depending on your fitness, you don't need to acclimatize for too long if you're coming from a lower elevation. Just one night's sleep at elevation should suffice compared to two or three night's sleep if you were coming from a lower elevation to hike a 14er.

Mt Mitchell Sign

Mt. Mitchell's busy season is from Memorial Day Weekend through Labor Day Weekend. You'll really want to hike the Mt. Mitchell Trail up to the summit in order to stay away from the crowds for as long as possible. Then again, if you hike the trail during the off season (or a bad weather day), you very well may be the only soul on the summit.

For more of a trip report on climbing the highest peak east of the Mississippi, visit Justin's Blog: The Weekend Warrior.

TeamSierra
Justin Fricke
posted by
Justin Fricke
Blogger at The Weekend Warrior
As a member of #TeamSierra, Justin Fricke receives promotional consideration from Sierra Trading Post. Justin traded in his comfy desk job for a life of adventure on the road. Nowadays he's a freelance content creator while living in a van full time, exploring America. Follow his adventures on his website, The Weekend Warrior, and on Instagram and Facebook.
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