Hike to New Heights
If you love the outdoors, you'll love Burnsville, NC
With nearly 100 miles of hiking trails and the country's first state park, there's no better place to explore than in Burnsville and Yancey County. From the majestic Black Mountains to the Toe River Valley, there is a hike for every skill level!
Yancey County has 20 mountain peaks above 6,000 feet including Mount Mitchell at 6,684 feet, the tallest mountain east of the Mississippi River. Free maps of the Black Mountains and the Mount Mitchell State Park/Black Mountain Campground trails network are available at the Visitor’s Center located at 106 W. Main Street in Burnsville, NC.
Numerous trails, including the spectacular and challenging Black Mountain Crest Trail, can be accessed from Mount Mitchell State Park located on the Blue Ridge Parkway near mile marker 355. Trails range from easy “walks” to advanced technical climbing.
Mount Mitchell Observation Tower
Length: 0.2 miles round-trip
Mt. Mitchell’s dramatic summit is the highest point east of the Mississippi River at 6,684 feet and offers unmatched, ever-expansive views. The Park has an easily-accessible observation deck, concessions, a museum, camping facilities, and hiking trails that allows visitors to explore short hikes near the summit and challenging treks to adjacent wilderness areas. Access Mt. Mitchell State Park via the Blue Ridge Parkway, “America’s Favorite Drive” at milepost 355.4.
Length: 4.8 miles round-trip
For spectacular views of the Black Mountain Range from Little Butt (elevation 5,620), begin at the Walker Knob Overlook at mile marker 358.9 on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Park your vehicle and look for the "Big Butt Trail" sign to your left. The out and back hike to Little Butt is a strenuous 4.5 mile round trip hike. Thanks to the North Carolina High Peaks Trail Association, the trail is blazed with white markers and is very well maintained.
Green Knob Lookout Tower
Length: 5.5 miles round-trip
Difficulty: Moderate to Difficult
The Green Knob Lookout Tower is atop 5,080-ft Green Knob Mountain near Milepost 350.5 on the Blue Ridge Parkway. The top of the tower is not open but the staircase provides perfect views of the Black Mountain Range including Mt. Mitchell, the highest peak east of the Mississippi River. The fire tower was built by the U.S. Forest Service in 1931. Throughout the 1970s staff lived in the cab of the tower to watch for forest fires.
To hike to the tower, park at the Green Knob Overlook, five miles north of the Mount Mitchell State Park entrance. From the overlook, walk about 100 yards north and look for the trail on the opposite side of the road. The 1/2-mile trail, maintained by the NC High Peaks Trail Association, gains 340 feet in elevation. When the trail forks, continue straight a short distance to reach the tower.
Mount Mitchell to Mount Craig
Length: 2.1 miles round-trip
Difficulty: Moderate to Difficult
Mount Craig (altitude 6,647 feet) is the second highest peak in the eastern United States, only 37 feet lower than neighboring Mount Mitchell, the highest peak. Mt. Craig is part of Mount Mitchell State Park surrounded by the Pisgah National Forest. Located on the crest of the Black Mountains, the peak has a lot of exposed rock and is home to some very rare species of plants and animals that exist nowhere but the high elevations of the Black Mountains.
To reach the Mt. Craig summit, take a two-mile round-trip hike on the Deep Gap Trail (a section of the Black Mountain Crest Trail) from the picnic area on the summit of Mt. Mitchell. The hike includes a good bit of climbing and some rock scrambling. From Mount Craig, you can view much of the southern portion of the Black Mountain Range along with a look back at Mount Mitchell. Look for the Mt. Craig marker on the summit pictured here.
Weather conditions at high elevations can change rapidly so be sure to dress properly. Mount Craig is named for Locke Craig, who was governor of North Carolina from 1913 to 1917. He was largely responsible for the establishment of Mount Mitchell State Park. Please remember to Leave No Trace.
Length: 2.5 miles round-trip
Difficulty: Moderate to Difficult
Crabtree Falls is at Milepost 339.5 on the Blue Ridge Parkway in Yancey County. The 70-foot falls are nestled in hardwood forest. At the base of the hiking trail is spectacular Crabtree Falls, where water cascades over a big cliff. The wet rocks here are slippery so follow waterfall safety practices and please remember to leave no trace.
Visitors enjoy a scenic moderate 3-mile hike (counting the walk from the parking lot to the trailhead). After viewing the falls, hikers can return by retracing steps, or continue on a longer ascent back to the parking lot by completing the loop (adds an extra .5 mile). To continue, cross the bridge over Big Crabtree Creek, climb the stairs, and head up the trail.
Big Creek Falls
Length: 1.8 miles round-trip
Big Creek Falls is an 18-foot-tall waterfall adjacent to the road on 19W near Spivey Gap in Yancey County, NC. In the town of Cane River, US 19 splits into 19E and 19W. Take 19W north for nearly 18 miles. The falls will be on the left. Look for two pullouts on either side of a short guardrail. In the summer, Big Creek Falls a popular swimming hole with a large but shallow wading pool.
When exploring the outdoors, practice safety and common sense. Remember to leave no trace.
Roaring Fork Falls
Length: 1.3 miles round-trip
Looking for an easy hike to a beautiful waterfall? Roaring Fork Falls is one of our favorites! This easily accessible waterfall is located at the base of Mt. Mitchell and is nearby Setrock Creek Falls so you can visit two waterfalls in one trip.
From the intersection of NC 80 and the Blue Ridge Parkway, go 2.2 miles north on NC 80 and turn left on South Toe River Road. Cross the bridge and turn left. Follow the road 0.2 miles to the gate and parking area. From there, follow the trail for 0.6 mile.
Nearby (2.5-mile drive) is another easy hike to Setrock Creek Falls, so you can visit two waterfalls in one trip. Remember to always leave no trace.
Balsam Nature Trail
Length: 0.9 miles round-trip
From Mt. Mitchell State Park, visitors can enjoy a short stroll or take more extensive hikes into the woods. The Balsam Nature Trail is a moderate 3/4-mile loop, self-guided nature trail accessible from the summit. Go to the top of the observation deck, and as you head back to the parking lot, look for the Balsam Trail on the right. Follow the white triangle blazes to hike the highest trail east of the Mississippi. The trails ends at the parking lot.
Pro tip: Hikers should carry proper gear, as the high altitude makes the climate chilly, even in the summer.
For an extensive description of trails we recommend websites such as All Trails, NC State Parks, and Paddling.com. For more information about Yancey County trails, visit our trail stewards, High Peaks Trail Association. Printed maps are available at the Visitors Center located at 106 W. Main Street, Burnsville, NC.