Mount Mitchell - Black Mountain Crest Trail #179
ElevationAscent: 5,010' 1,527 m
Descent: -1,498' -457 m
High: 6,680' 2,036 m
Low: 3,083' 940 m
GradeAvg Grade: 10% (6°)
Max Grade: 50% (27°)
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“The highest, most airy ridge traverse in the east and a destination run not to be taken lightly.”— Eric Heistand
Unless you have high clearance 4x4, use the two-car pull off on the right not far from the main road, but this fills up quickly. A paid parking area is available at Stanley Trail which is just before watershed road and operates on honor system. Do not park along state road near entrance to watershed road due to wet swampy conditions. The trailhead and several primitive camping spots are another 300-400 yards up the rough road.
Mile eight is Deep Gap and it is significant for two reasons. First, it is the only legitimate camping spot on the trail. Second, and most importantly, it is the only spot to replenish your water supply. Don't expect a gusher in most seasons. To locate the water spring, take the Colbert Ridge Trail (which intersects the BMC trail at Deep Gap) for a short distance, probably less than 100 meters. A small rock/cave is where the spring is located. Your next water source is the Mount Mitchell Summit, assuming the bathrooms are open.
From Deep Gap, it's onward and upward to Potato Hill. Don't let the lowly name fool you. It's a crusher of a climb. The next four, 6,000+ ft peaks on the ridge start passing more easily. Enjoy the black fir forests filled with weathered stone and leafy ferns. A sense of the ancient abounds here.
An easier trail section and picnic tables are the sure sign that your wilderness run is almost over. Mt Mitchell and the inevitable tourists who have driven up in their cars await you. Take the short ramp to the summit and try not to gloat.
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Land Manager: USFS - Pisgah National Forest, Pisgah Ranger District