North Carolina: Mt. Mitchell (6,684 feet)
Highest Point East of the Mississippi River!
Distance: 0.1 mile, RT (though my fitbit logged close to 1 mile RT – some of that was wandering around at the top)
Elevation gain: 100 feet
Bathrooms: None open at the trailhead this early in the season, but I’m told they exist. The Visitor’s Center about 2 miles from the parking lot can satisfy this need
Jill: August 5, 2011
Mt. Mitchell, the highest point in North Carolina, might have been the first one I ever visited. Mitchell is a glorious peak in the black mountains off the Blue Ridge Parkway not too far from Asheville, NC. Back in the 90’s you had to walk up a real path about a ½ mile long to get to the peak, but the path is paved now making it convenient for baby strollers. If you plan on visiting Mitchell and you have some time, hike a bit through the beautiful forests and visit the restaurant which has the best fried okra I’ve ever had. It’s not every day that you can find southeastern Canadian weather in North Carolina after all.
Things to Know:
1) Plan ahead in the winter – the road to Mitchell and the Parkway often close for snow and ice.
2) This is a great place to bring your kids. The paved road is a fun mini hike for the little ones, and you can use a stroller if you need it. There’s even a restaurant in the summer.
3) You can reach the highpoint relatively quickly and easily by car, but if you have the time hiking the Mt. Mitchell trail makes for a nice day.
4) Dress warm all year round…it has snowed on Mt. Mitchell in each of the 12 months of the year in the past.
Raina: April 2, 2015
Jill covered the logistics and beauty of Mitchell. I can’t speak to the views since there were none the day I went. We were completely enveloped in fog, with visibility of maybe one car length on the approach. Adding an element of adventure, wind raged on the observation deck. Despite the lack of views on my visit, I still enjoyed Mitchell probably because of its story and history.
Here’s what I find so riveting. Dr. Mitchell, for whom the mountain is named, is officially credited with having been the original surveyor of the mountain’s height in 1835, along with the first to reach its peak. Though, this title did not come without contention. Senator Clingman of North Carolina had also measured the mountain around the same time and claimed to have been the first to both measure and summit this peak. Understandably, he wanted the glory. The two men squabbled and ultimately escalated matters through local newspapers about who was the first to summit and correctly identify Mount Mitchell’s height – both men had arrived at different figures. Mitchell, determined to prove himself the victor, returned to take new measurements. While hiking nearby on what is now called Mitchell Falls, Dr. Mitchell plunged to his death in 1857. We know how this charade ends. After all, you’ve likely read the title of our post before diving in with me on this historical account. While the debate continued about who had rightfully earned the glory of this mountain’s measurement, public opinion swung firmly in Mitchell’s favor, leaving Clingman too much opposition to overcome.
Initially, Mitchell was buried in Asheville (about 33 miles away). One year after his death, Mitchell’s body was exhumed and re-buried on the summit of his mountain. Mitchell’s grave lies below the observation deck where Highpointers can pay homage and appreciate the bit of history with this mountain.
Clingman, meanwhile, got his own mountain at the highest point in TN, a three hour drive away. So, the two men can rest side by side, or perhaps continue their duel, depending on how you prefer to look at it.
When visiting this region, we highly recommend a stay in Asheville, NC. It’s a quaint town with a strong artistic community that places an emphasis on being green. You’ll find a lot of organic, locally grown food, along with large lettered signs screaming “LANDFILL” that shame you for throwing away your trash. Composting, recycling, or – better yet – reusing items are the way to get a nod of approval. For a nice dark roast organic coffee to kick off your day of highpointing, try Green Sage Café.