Hiking Project Logo

black Mount Mitchell - Black Mountain Crest Trail #179

  4.9 ( 46 ) Favorite


12.1 mile 19.5 kilometer point to point


Ascent: 5,010' 1,527 m
Descent: -1,498' -457 m
High: 6,680' 2,036 m
Low: 3,083' 940 m


Avg Grade: 10% (6°)
Max Grade: 50% (27°)


Driving directions Take a virtual tour
Zoom in to see details
Map Key

The highest, most airy ridge traverse in the east and a destination hike not to be taken lightly.

Eric Heistand

Features Views · Wildflowers · Wildlife


The Black Mountain Range has a small footprint but packs a mighty big punch. If tallest-peak-in-the-east Mount Mitchell is the crowning jewel of the range, then the 11.5 mile Black Mountain Crest Trail is the strand of pearls. Five of the top ten highest peaks in the east adorn this lofty ridge. Do a quick web search and one finds that the Black Mountain Crest Trail always comes with superlatives. Most describe pain and difficulty. Think critically about your water strategy and take lightning storms seriously. The trail is most aesthetically done as a one way, starting at Bowlen's Creek and ending at the summit of Mt. Mitchell.

Need to Know

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, 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.


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 hike 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.

Flora & Fauna

Black fir forests and black bears.

Hiked this trail?

We need help with the following missing trail information:

Dogs Allowed, History & Background

Is something wrong? Let us know. Have photos to share? Help fellow hikers know what's here.


Rate This Featured Hike

Rate Quality

   Clear Rating

Rate Difficulty

Share This Hike

Check In


Jul 4, 2019
Kevin Gutknecht
Great 2 night, 3 day trip. 8 miles each day. Day 1: Bowlens Creek to Deep Gap to camp. Day 2: 4 miles to the top and back to Deep Creek. Day 3: bac… 24.2mi
Jun 6, 2019
Logan Deyton
Jun 1, 2019
Ronnie Eubanks
May 7, 2019
Kelly Miller
Backpacked up to Gibbs Mtn, then finished hike the next day. I thought the hardest part would be the first 4 miles, but was surprised at how techni…
Apr 20, 2019
Jon Moreno
Did a two day hike up the mountain. Please don't take this mountain for granted. We got caught in an extremely bad storm. Great trail, just be safe! 12.1mi
Jan 2, 2019
Seth Dent
Added extra mile out and back on Buncombe Horse Trail for view of summit and rock faces. 14.3mi
Dec 17, 2018
Andrew Bak
Began at bowlens creek. Made it to the knob halfway between Gibbs Mtn and Mt. Winter star before turning around. Heavy wet 1-2ft snow. Light rain. 10mi — 6h 00m
Dec 1, 2018
Abhi DR

Trail Ratings

  4.9 from 46 votes


  4.9 from 46 votes
5 Star
4 Star
3 Star
2 Star
1 Star
Featured Hike Rankings


1,114 Views Last Month
32,775 Since Jul 24, 2017
Difficult Difficult


Hiking Project is part of the REI Co-op family,
where a life outdoors is a life well lived.

Shop REI Hiking