Hike the Highest Trails in the East
With more than 100 miles of public hiking trails, including the highest trails in the eastern
United States, Burnsville has been called the Hiking Capital of Western North Carolina.
Burnsville’s hiking centerpiece is the Mount Mitchell Trail. This renowned trail begins in a campground at 3,000 feet elevation and ascends to the 6,684-foot summit of Mount Mitchell, the highest point east of the Mississippi. Mount Mitchell is part of the Black Mountain Range and there are several other trails among those peaks that reach above 6,000 feet. In fact, approximately a third of Burnsville’s 100 miles of trails are above 6,000 feet in elevation.
And if you want to ascend the peak of Mt. Mitchell without climbing thousands of feet, start from the upper parking lot at Mount Mitchell State Park. There is a 0.15-mile paved trail from the parking lot to the summit. It is a steep trail, but the payoff is a million-dollar view from the easily-accessible observation tower atop the highest mountain east of the Mississippi River. On a clear day, visitors can see up to 85 miles, with amazing views of the Black Mountain Range and Pisgah National Forest.
“We have hiking trails of all levels and trails of all different kinds,” says Jake Blood of the NC High Peaks Trail Association in Burnsville. “We’ve got the Appalachian Trail, and the Mountains-to-Sea Trail, which is a state trail from Clingman’s Dome in the Smokies all the way to the ocean at Kitty Hawk. We have National Forest Service trails, and Mount Mitchell State Park has its own trails.”
There are also several less-traveled trails along the Blue Ridge Parkway as it meanders along the shoulder of Mount Mitchell.
For casual hikers not seeking the highest trails in the East, there are a number of less-strenuous options. Those include a half-mile path to Set Rock Creek Falls, a scenic 2.5-mile trail to Crabtree Falls off the Blue Ridge Parkway, and a half-mile hike to Roaring Falls.