Mount Mitchell: hiking the Old Mitchell Trail, Camp Alice Trail and Commissary Trail Loop

Hike the Mount Mitchell High Loop, catching stunning summit views at the highest peak east of the Mississippi River. Explore a rocky, high-elevation forest and sun-drenched fields of wildflowers and wild berries, and a visit small waterfall on a four mile loop.

 
 

Towering above the surrounding landscape, Mount Mitchell rises high from the crest of the Black Mountains. The highest summit east of the Mississippi, Mt Mitchell’s soaring 6,684 foot height is home to harsh elements, unique ecosystems and, on clear days, some of the most spectacular views in western North Carolina.

Hike the Old Mitchell Trail and Commissary Trail loop at Mt Mitchell State Park to spectacular views, through fragrant balsam forest and fields of wildflowers

Sure – you can drive to the near-peak of this towering mountain, following a quarter-mile, paved path to the summit’s observation platform on the Mount Mitchell Summit Trail. This hike takes the longer, more scenic route, exploring a four mile stretch of beautiful high-elevation forest, wildflower-filled meadows, and fragrant stands of fir in the mountain’s shadow. The hike follows the Old Mitchell Trail from the park’s visitor center, climbing to the mountain’s summit, and then looping back to the trailhead on the Camp Alice and Old Commissary Trails, visiting a small, tumbling waterfall.

Explore a beautiful high-elevation forest filled with wildflowers and wildlife at North Carolina's Mount Mitchell State Park

Also called the ‘Mount Mitchell High Loop’, this trio of trails is follows a lesser-traveled route, though crowds at the Mitchell summit are frequent. Our favorite time to hike this loop is in early morning, when the sun’s rays are golden and the summit’s crowds are sparse.

With incredible sunrise views, drifting fog banks and exceptionally beautiful forest, this loop is well worth the mileage.

Mount Mitchell High Loop: the hike

The hike departs from the Old Mitchell trailhead at the Mount Mitchell State Park visitor center off the Blue Ridge Parkway (view maps and driving directions), meandering northeast through a forest of fragrant balsam fir. The trail’s surface is rocky and rooty, running through alternate stands of fir and open, grassy expanses of wildflowers and wild berries.

Hike the Mount Mitchell High Loop through a beautiful high-elevation forest to Mitchell's summit, the highest peak east of the Mississippi

The Old Mitchell Trail rolls elevation over Hallback Mountain, following yellow trail blazes and descending to the park’s restaurant. After crossing the parking area, the trail dives back into the high-elevation forest, descending through switchbacks through a rocky, boulder-studded forest and fields of wildflowers.

Hike to the summit of Mount Mitchell through meadows of abundant wildflowers and wild berries, and fragrant balsam forest, just off the Blue Ridge Parkway north of Asheville, NC

The hike dips through a power line clearing at 1.1 miles after crossing a wooden bridge, catching limited views from the clearing. The trailbed becomes increasingly rockier as the hike begins its Mount Mitchell ascent, climbing wooden stairs and boulders in a lush, shady forest.

The trail meets an intersection with the Camp Alice Trail at 1.4 miles, veering left to make the final climb to the summit. Reaching the paved Mount Mitchell Summit Trail at 1.7 miles, the hike hangs a right, spiraling toward the summit and catching exceptional, 360-degree panoramas from the observation platform.

Hike to stunning Mt Mitchell summit views on the Old Mitchell Trail, catching 360-degree panoramas from the highest summit on the East Coast

Departing the summit, the hike retraces the Summit Trail and Old Mitchell Trail to return to the Camp Alice trailhead. The hike turns left on the Camp Alice Trail at 2.3 miles, descending through switchbacks and carving through stands of young pine and mossy, fragrant balsam forest. The sound of tumbling water fills the forest as the trail parallels Lower Creek. A small waterfall cascades near the trail at 2.7 miles, just as the Camp Alice Trail intersects the wide, gravel roadbed of the Commissary Trail.

Hike Mount Mitchell's Old Mitchell Trail and Commissary Trail loop to gorgeous summit views and a small, tumbling waterfall on the mountain's lower elevations

The hike turns right, following the Commissary Trail southbound in a gentle climb. Wildflowers stretch skyward along the old gravel roadbed, basking in the abundant sunshine. In warmer summertime months, wild berry bushes line the trail with abundant fruit.

Hike the Mount Mitchell Commissary Trail through fields of wildflowers near the Blue Ridge Parkway in western North Carolina

The trail catches views at 3.3 miles and 3.6 miles, arcing around bends in the roadbed and veering southwest. The hike reaches the trailhead at 4 miles, completing the hike.

More Mount Mitchell hiking adventures

Up for more mileage at this ultra-scenic park? Explore the ridge line of the Black Mountains on Mount Mitchell’s Deep Gap Trail, rolling elevation to Mount Craig and Big Tom, Mt Mitchell’s closest neighbors. Or hike the Balsam Nature Trail through a lush, high-elevation forest near the Mitchell summit.

 
 
 

Old Mitchell Trail and Commissary Trail Loop: Directions & Details

Parking

Free parking is available at Mount Mitchell State Park, located north of Asheville on the Blue Ridge Parkway at MP 355. (Before you go, check for trail updates and parkway closures on the official Blue Ridge Parkway website.)

Please Remember

Always leave no trace and follow these trail etiquette tips.

GPS Coordinates

35.745681, -82.277440     //     N35 44.740, W82 16.646

Driving Directions


Elevation Profile

Mount Mitchell: Old Mitchell Trail and Commissary Trail Loop Elevation Profile

Old Mitchell Trail and Commissary Trail Loop Map

Trail data and photos © Summit19 Studio LLC. This map is not a substitute for official trail maps or topographic maps.
 
Eric Champlin is a writer and photographer who loves to hike, run, backpack, kayak and cycle the southeast. He’s the editor and founder of Atlanta Trails and Asheville Trails, online magazines that cover the South’s best outdoor adventures. His mission? To inspire others to get fit outdoors and explore the South’s incredible scenic beauty.

Eric is also a freelance writer, photographer and creative director.