Mt. Mitchell is one of the most amazing discoveries I’ve made since moving to southeastern U.S. As the tallest peak east of the Mississippi, it sits almost 7000 feet above sea level as part of the Appalachian Mountain range. Surrounded by Mount Mitchell State Park and the Pisgah National Forest, it’s a true escape. If you want to disconnect, leave your technology behind, find peace and quiet, or get a major dose of fresh mountain air, this is the place to do it.
Driving to the top of Mt. Mitchell
To get to the top of Mt. Mitchell, you should drive from Asheville along highway 70, then to hwy 80 because a portion of the Blue Ridge Parkway was closed. Taking the parkway would have been the most direct route, however, taking this detour added a great deal more excitement to the drive up. As you make your way up into the foothills of Mt. Mitchell along hwy 80, about 5 miles (8 km) from Marion, NC, is Lake Tahoma. A beautiful private lake with homes dotting the edge, look forward to an unexpected treat! This is definitely perfect for a quick photo stop.
Hwy 80, as it winds its way up the mountain, begins to narrow and turn in on itself. At times hugging the jagged mountain face and at others the sheer cliffside. Caution is definitely a must if you decide to take this route, because the hairpin turns continue up the mountain for a few miles. The locals that live on the mountain and are used to driving seem to throw caution to the wind and go a little too fast for comfort. About halfway up, where the Blue Ridge Parkway intersects hwy 80, the view starts to open up and there are lookout points where you can stop to take in the scenery below. This is where the clouds seem to meet the hills and the horizon is endless.
Once you reach the top, you see nothing below you but the rolling hills and trees of Pisgah National Forest. It’s one of the most breathtakingly beautiful sights I’ve seen.
Before you begin your hike
Before you begin your hiking adventure it’s a must that you check in at the ranger station once you reach the top of the mountain. Here, you’ll get information about the conditions on the mountain, and if you’re camping out overnight, you’ll need to register. Since there’s little or no cell phone service on the mountain, which is a good thing, it’s important to let the rangers know you’re up there and where you’re planning to hike.
The hiking trails
There are several hiking trails available for all skill levels, from the short ¼ mile (0.4 km) Balsam Trail to the strenuous 6 mile (9.65 km) Mt. Mitchell Trail. I took the mid-length 4 mile (6.43 km) Deep Gap Trail. Being prepared is crucial if you decide to hike one of the longer trails. Not only are there fewer people on the trails, but it is a real hike. The level of intensity of The Deep Gap Trail can take you by surprise, because it starts off very easy and flat then gets harder as you go further. Also, due to the higher elevation, the climb back up is much harder. The trail goes up and down and you’re doing a fair amount of climbing, but the cool thing about the trail is that there are rocks that have been strategically placed on it for climbing. That being said though, it’s not for small children or anyone who’s not in relatively good shape.
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When I visited Mt. Mitchell, it was at the beginning of the winter season and there were only a handful of people on the whole mountain. To stand in a silence that is void of the sounds that we’re all familiar with allows you to take deeper breaths, close your eyes, and let go of anything that may have been bothering you. Because we live in a manmade environment, we take for granted the importance of nature, and the importance of resting our minds and being alone with ourselves for a short time.
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