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Mount Mitchell - Black Mountain Crest Trail #179

 4.8 (37)


12.1 Miles 19.5 Kilometers

5,010' 1,527 m


-1,498' -457 m



Avg Grade (6°)


Max Grade (27°)

6,680' 2,036 m


3,083' 940 m


Shared By Eric Heistand


Bad / Closed 22 hours ago
Muddy, Snowy: Attempted on Dec. 15th. Made it almost to Mt. Winter star up from bowlens creek before turning around. Wet 1ft + deep snow. History

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

Eric Heistand

Dogs Unknown

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. 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.


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Your Check-Ins


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
Oct 3, 2018
Scott Hrinko
Aug 27, 2018
Flynn Carney
Aug 16, 2018
Soong Lee
Hot sweaty not as cool as other times I hiked I have been hiking this trail every year. It was always cold 8mi
Aug 10, 2018
Gabriel Sanchez Suarez
Difficult hike. A lot of rock scrambling. 12.1mi
Jul 5, 2018
Bill Anonie
Jun 24, 2018
Rebekah Ketterman
Awesome hike! Started at Bolens creek, used Yancey county shuttle which was friendly prompt service. Trekking poles are a must to save your knees 12.6mi — 8h 30m
Jun 23, 2018
Bodhisattva Robinson
Dave and Claudia 40mi

Trail Ratings

  4.8 from 37 votes


  4.8 from 37 votes
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802 Views Last Month
25,077 Since Jul 24, 2017
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is the 12.1 miles one way, or if i do out and back? Apr 3, 2018
Difficult trail, specially for a day hike. A lot of rock scrambling. Unless you are an experienced hiker and you are in a good shape, you can finished it in about nine hours. It took me 14 hours to finished . I started at 8:00 Am from Bowlen's Creek, and I managed to finished at 10:30 PM. I am glad I brought a headlamp. Aug 11, 2018
Difficult trail, It took me 13 hours to finish . I started at 8:45 Am finished at 9:45pm. Wish I would have had a headlamp... RT 24.2 miles Aug 27, 2018

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