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Raymond McCoy, 81, passed away peacefully at home on Friday, October 8, He was a veteran, having served in the United States Army. Raymond was retired from TVA and enjoyed hunting, fishing and gardening. Raymond is survived by his wife, Naomi; son, Doug McCoy; daughter, Charlie "Muscles" Hogan, 70, passed away at his home on Sunday, October 10, He was a member of the South Pittsburg Church of Christ.
You'll enjoy a varied forest that changes with the elevation. Much of the forest is old-growth, changing from cove hardwoods at the lower end, to mixed hardwoods on the middle ridges, to Red Spruce and Fraser Fir stands near the summit.
And, of course, there are spectacular views from high up. Difficulty Rating: Take exit 72 for US Hwy. Turn left on NC Hwy. Toe River Road. Continued below. A little over 3 miles past NC Hwy. Turn right on S. Continued from above From NC 80 and S. Toe River Road, it is about 2. Bear right after 1.
The day hiking parking area is just before the bridge to the campground, on the left. If the campground is closed, the parking area will still be open - you can walk through the campground to the trail. Mount Mitchell is the highest peak east of the Mississippi river at 6,' in elevation.
While there are much easier ways to reach the top, part of the appeal of this hike is the experience of "summiting" this superior peak. This hike qualifies as an accepted route for the South Beyond Program by the Carolina Mountain Club, which recognizes members who climb all 40 peaks above ' in the Southern Appalachians. This hike has developed somewhat of a legend around its difficulty, partly because Mt. Mitchell is the highest peak in the region. Although that's the case, the campground sits at a respectable elevation of ft.
The trail does have one of the highest elevation changes of any single-name trail in the region at ft. But there are harder trails or hikes combining multiple trails in the region as well. Ultimately, how difficult you find it to hike, and how long it will take you, will depend greatly on your fitness and level of experience just read the comments on this ! It's very doable as a day hike, although some people choose to do the trail over 2 days, spending the night near the top. Allow a full day with plenty of time to spare if it's your first trip.
You could also start at the top and hike down, but if you don't have a vehicle shuttle you'll have to hike back up anyway.
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One good option to lessen the strain, but still make for quite an achievement, would be to leave a vehicle shuttle at the summit parking area and hike up, then avoid the impact on the knees by driving back down. This hike's description assumes you're starting at the bottom going up. Although several other named trails share the path you'll be taking, you can just follow the blue-blazed Mount Mitchell trail the entire route. Begin the hike by crossing the bridge leading into the campground. Bear left at the first intersection onto a campground loop road; from here, follow the s for the Mount Mitchell trail all the way to the top.
Toe River. Follow it for a few yards to the intersection on the right with the Mount Mitchell trail, going back across the gravel road. Now on the Mt. Mitchell trail proper, the climbing immediately begins in earnest. At this elevation, the forest is mostly cove hardwoods with a few hemlocks thrown in for good measure, though they are dead or dying. You will ascend through a small cove, whose stream is gradually eating its way into Long Arm Ridge. Toward the back of the cove you'll bear right through the first of many switchbacks encountered along the way. The trail at the start here he generally north, though at any given moment you my be facing any of the cardinal directions due to the way it switches back upon itself.
The trail climbs up the side of Long Arm Ridge.
Some very large trees grow in the forest here, and as you gain elevation on the ridgeline you enter a mixed oak hardwood forest. A few small Red Spruce trees grow here, although they're out-of-place at this low of an elevation and will likely be shaded out before reaching maturity.
The footing on this section of the trail is mostly good, with only a few rocky or rooty sections. After achieving the top of Long Arm Ridge, the trail turns west and ascends its spine, swinging back and forth across it in places. You'll break past the ft.
The trees along the ridgeline - predominantly oaks and maples - are now shorter. They're stunted compared to the ones lower down by this area's exposure; the shallow, rocky soil; and lack of water as these steep slopes drain quickly. Some rougher sections of trail start to appear, although it's still the climb more than the surface that makes it challenging.
You'll reach a trail junction shortly and you can take either fork. Both trails come back together eventually; the left fork is called the Higgins Bald trail while straight ahead is the Mount Mitchell trail. You could also save the Higgins Bald trail and take it on the way back down, or skip it altogether.
At a glance
East of the junction, the ridge sort of melts into a high, steep slope of "Little Mountain", which you'll traverse. The mountain won't seem very little as you climb it, though! Climbing rapidly, the trail generally passes into the northern hardwood forest zone in this area. You'll cross the upper reaches of Setrock Creek, an easy rock-hop with as little flow as there is this high up the mountain.
There are some cascades downhill from the trail, but they're not really worth expending effort to try and see. Then you enter Higgins Bald itself.
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Roughly halfway to the top, this forest opening - which sits on a gentler slope above Flynn Ridge - lets you look down and see how far up you've come, and also look up to see how far you have left to go! At least it used to have these views - it's apparently become too overgrown to see much in recent years, unfortunately. I'm holding out hope for a wintertime view remaining. Commissary Ridge looms above, which you'll soon begin to climb, and which culminates at the summit of Mount Mitchell itself. Lots of dead hemlocks stand in the forest encircling Higgins Bald.
You'll re-enter the forest on the other side of Higgins Bald, and then back with the Mount Mitchell trail after a short distance; bear left if you took Higgins Bald; continue straight if not. The trail curves to a more northwesterly direction in general, just after crossing the ft.
You're now well into the spruce-fir forest zone. You'll walk through a spectacular virgin forest of tall, straight Red Spruce.
Seeing them growing here gives you a glimpse of what forests all over the Black Mountain range used to look like, and a glimpse at why the forest was so valuable to loggers. The straight, resilient spruce wood was seemingly plentiful, so these trees were prize timber.
Luckly, some patches such as this one survived, and other areas of spruce are starting to re-grow. Sections of the trail in this area are very rocky and steep, and require some hand-holding to traverse. As you continue to climb through a series of switchbacks - and some of the steepest sections of trail on the hike - you'll cross under the power line right-of-way a few times, where there are some limited views.
Then you'll pop out of the forest onto the old railroad grade that encircles much of Mount Mitchell and provided a way for the loggers to get the fruits of their labor off the mountain. Turn left at this intersection, in a wet area during periods of rain. The path for the next few yards is shared with the Buncombe Horse Range Trail as it follows the railroad grade on a nearly level course, just shy of ft. You'll need to turn right off the railroad grade to stay on the Mt. Mitchell trail and begin the final ft. The trail is well-ed and blazed so it shouldn't be hard to follow, unless perhaps if it's very foggy.
Just beyond that junction, the old railroad grade swings around toward the south side of the ridge.
A great campsite is on the left at Commissary Hill in case you're looking for a place to spend the night. It is on Pisgah National Forest property, so backcountry and dispersed camping is allowed. It is not allowed higher up, on NC State Park property, outside of the deated campground.