Black Mountain Crest Trail #179
ElevationAscent: 4,901' 1,494 m
Descent: -1,395' -425 m
High: 6,623' 2,019 m
Low: 3,085' 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
For the full climbing experience, start at Bowlen's Creek Trailhead. Your destination is the summit of Mt. Mitchell. Stash a car or arrange for a ride from the summit parking area of Mt Mitchell. Locate Bowlen's Creek Trailhead by finding Water Shed Drive (marked "PVT" on the street sign). Unless you have high clearance 4x4, use the two-car pull off on the right not far from the main road. The trailhead and several primitive camping spots are another 300-400 yards up the rough road.
The initial climb from Bowlen's Creek to Celo Knob is the physical crux. Expect a 3000 ft gain with lots of heavy breathing. Your reward after 4 miles of climbing is a beautiful meadow with see-forever views in every direction. For bonus points, you can scramble on a side track to the bushy summit of Celo Knob. Good luck finding the Geological Survey Marker on the summit.
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