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Blue Ridge Parkway in NC

Black Mountain
Crest Trail

Mt Mitchell, Mt Craig, Big Tom, Celo Knob, Winter Star Mountain, Balsam Cone, Potato Hill, Cattail Peak, Gibbs Mountain

 

 

This twelve mile trail is considered one of the toughest in the eastern USA with its 5000+ foot elevation overall gain/loss.  The trail crosses the summits of nine mountains with elevations over 6200 feet.  It's southern terminus is located in Mount Mitchell State Park, just off the Blue Ridge Parkway.  This is one of those "must do" trails if your traveling along the Parkway, even if it's just taking the short one mile hike over to Mount Craig.

The Black Mountain Crest Trail begins at the parking lot on top of Mount Mitchell.  At 6684 feet, Mount Mitchell is the highest point in the eastern USA.  The trail then heads north along the crest of the Black Mountain Range, crossing famous peaks such as the 6647 foot Mount Craig and then the 6581 foot Mount Big Tom.  Mount Craig was named for Locke Craig, the Governor of North Carolina in 1912. Mount Big Tom was named for Tom Wilson, a famous bear hunter and woodsman who found Dr. Elisha Mitchell's body at what is now called Mitchell Falls.

View from Mount Craig

The summit of Mount Big Tom

From Mount Big Tom, the trail drops into Big Tom Gap, intersecting with the Big Tom Gap Trail which descends on the east side of the ridge line to the Buncombe Horse Range Trail.  The trail then ascends to the 6611 foot Balsam Cone, the third highest peak in the range.

As the trail continues, it crosses 6584 foot CattaiI Peak and 6475 foot Potato Hill, then descends into Deep Gap where you will find tenting sites available at the gap, located at an elevation of 5700 feet.  These are primitive camping sites.  Deep Gap is 3.9 miles from Mount Mitchell.

Primitive campsites at Deep Gap

After leaving Deep Gap, the trail climbs to the 6212 foot summit of Winter Star Mountain. The trail  continues along the crest of the Black Mountain Range, first past the 6224 foot summit of Gibbs Mountain and then on to the 6327 foot summit of Celo Knob with spectacular views along the way on both sides of the ridge.  Celo Knob is 7.5 miles away from Mount Mitchell.

After crossing Celo Knob, the trail descends the head of Bowlen's Creek following an old logging road that passes by several old mines which were worked in the early 1900's. The trail then enters into a mature stand of hardwood timber. While following Bowlen's Creek, you pass many beautiful fishing spots before coming to the Bowlens Creek Road .

Most hikers start at the Mount Mitchell trailhead and hike "downhill" over the crest toward the Bowlens Creek Road trailhead.  Although this looks easy on a map, don't let this trail fool you.  The descents into the gaps between the summits plus the climbs to the peaks are at times steep and tough. 

The weather on the Black Mountain Range can change at anytime.  You can expect to see snow even in June, July and August.  Also be wary of thunderstorms that hit the mountains during the summer.  It is seldom clear and is usually very windy.  You are in North Carolina, however your in a climate that is usually seen in southeastern Canada and the northeastern United States.

For more information on this hike, as well as many other hikes along the Parkway, get the hiking guide book Hiking the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Black Mountain Crest Trail

In the clouds on the summit of Mount Mitchell in August 2006.

The view in 2009 with new observation deck to the left.

CNY Hiking HOME PAGE Virginia BRP Highlights North Carolina BRP Highlights Blue Ridge Parkway