Asheville TrailsbyTrailful Outdoor Co
Mount Mitchell State Park

Mount Mitchell Summit & Balsam Nature Trail

Hike to Mount Mitchell’s stunning summit views, and follow the connecting Balsam Nature Trail through a gorgeous, lush, high-elevation forest.

georgia hiking trails: 0-2 miles 1 miles
(round trip)
? Your mileage may vary! Accuracy of your GPS device, weather conditions, and stops along your route will affect your own recorded distance.
georgia hiking trails: moderaterelatively
?Our difficulty estimate, based on distance, terrain, elevation change, & ease of wayfinding. May vary daily due to weather, trail reroutes, downed trees, etc.
georgia hiking trails: dog-friendly Dog-
?Leashed dogs are allowed on this trail. We’ve loved hiking this route with our trail-loving Labrador Retrievers! Check out more of our favorite dog-friendly trails near Asheville for a great hike with your pup.

LOCATION:on the Blue Ridge Parkway at Mount Mitchell State Park

PACK:our Osprey day pack and our hiking gear list

OFFICIAL MAP: Nat Geo 779 Trails Illustrated Map (find it at Trailful Outdoor Co.)

It’s a mile-high hike that’s unlike any other in North Carolina. At 6684 ft, Mount Mitchell stands as the highest peak east of the Mississippi River, and the highest mountain in the Appalachian Mountains. The clear-day views from the summit are just outstanding, offering sweeping panoramic vistas in every direction. And the high-elevation forest surrounding the summit’s bald is exceptional, too, filled with sweet-scented, aromatic balsam, moss and fern set in a dense spruce-fir forest.

Mount Mitchell Summit & Balsam Nature Trail

This hike climbs to the mountain’s summit by way of a paved trail, catching incredible views from Mt Mitchell’s tallest elevations. Departing the summit, the hike loops through the summit’s high-elevation spruce-fir forest, exploring the forest’s rocky, gorgeous terrain on the Balsam Nature Trail. At one mile, total, it’s a family-friendly hike that’s filled with a whole lot of exceptional natural beauty. And thanks to easy access off the Blue Ridge Parkway, it’s a hike that’s easily accessible from Asheville via a gorgeous Parkway drive.

Hike to Mount Mitchell's stunning summit views, and follow the connecting Balsam Nature Trail through a gorgeous, lush, high-elevation forest. #hiking #asheville #nc #northcarolina #travel #outdoors #adventure

Mount Mitchell Summit & Balsam Nature Trail: the hike

The adventure departs from the summit parking area (view maps and driving directions), trailing south and climbing elevation on a wide paved trail. The trail meanders to the southeast, then due south, as it approaches the summit. The trail is bordered by tall grasses and evergreen fir as it gently, but steadily, climbs elevation.

The hike arcs to the northwest, climbing to a modern observation platform at the summit. Views extend in every direction, and the vistas are simply breathtaking. Sunrise and early morning are especially beautiful on the summit as the sun rises over the rolling mountain terrain to the east, painting the sky in warm hues of yellow and orange.

Mount Mitchell Summit & Balsam Nature Trail

After taking some time to soak up the views, the hike backtracks from the summit on the paved trail. At .3 mile, the hike hangs a right at the signed trailhead of the Balsam Nature Trail, veering onto the unpaved trail and diving into the balsam fir forest.

The trail descends, hiking through a landscape of extraordinary, high-elevation varieties of plants. The elements near the summit are raw, dominated by wind, ice, snow and fog, and usually-cold temperatures (often 10-20 degrees lower than in nearby Asheville). Many plant varieties that thrive here near the summit are only found in northern states and Canada; informational signs along the trail educate on the forest’s unique plants and ecosystems.

The hike loops to the northeast at .55 mile, continuing to follow the Balsam Nature Trail. The hike arcs to the northwest, beginning a short, moderate climb back toward the mountain’s summit. Wildflowers and fern stretch to reach sunlight under the dense evergreen tree canopy.

Mount Mitchell Summit & Balsam Nature Trail

The hike reaches a trail intersection at .85 mile, veering right to explore a trickling spring near the summit. Backtracking from the spring, the hike turns right on the Balsam Nature Trail, making the final climb to the summit parking area and completing the adventure at 1 mile.

More Mount Mitchell hiking adventures

If you’ve got some time and energy to spare, hike a moderate 2 miler on the Deep Gap Trail to Mount Craig and Big Tom Mountain, visiting two neighboring mountain summits (and the second highest mountain on the East Coast). Or hike a scenic 4 mile loop on the Mount Mitchell High Loop, climbing to the mountain’s summit on the Old Mitchell Trail before looping to a small, tumbling waterfall and through abundant wildflowers and wild berries on the Camp Alice and Commissary Trails.

When to hike?

Thanks to the mountain’s exceptionally high elevation, wind, ice, snow and fog are common at the summit. While summit views may be limited, hiking the Balsam Nature Trail in the fog is a surreal, beautiful experience: fog rolls over the mountain quickly, dramatically changing the landscape.

And in winter, while park generally remains open (check the park’s website for winter information), the Blue Ridge Parkway closes south of the park during snowy winter months, so you’ll need to access the park via NC 80 to the north.

Leave No Trace: Atlanta Trails, Asheville Trails and Trailful are official Leave No Trace partners

Please Remember

Always leave no trace, pack out everything you pack in, and if you see trash, pick it up and pack it out.

Stay on the marked trail, tell someone where you're going, pack safety and wayfinding essentials, and don't rely on a mobile phone to find your way. Please always practice good trail etiquette. And before you go, always check the trailhead kiosk, official maps, and the park or ranger office for notices of changed routes, trail closures, safety information, and restrictions.

Mount Mitchell Summit & Balsam Nature Trail Map, Directions & Details

This map shows our approximate route while exploring this trail, but does not replace an official trail map. Please refer to the official trail map for the most current and accurate route.

Love the trail?

This trail is maintained thanks to the hard work of countless volunteers and donations from supporters of the NC High Peaks Trail Association. Please support them by making a donation or joining a volunteer day. Let's work together to keep these fantastic trails maintained and open for use!

Driving Directions


Free parking is available at the 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.)

GPS Coordinates

35.766600, -82.265233     //     N35 45.996 W82 15.914

Elevation Profile

Mount Mitchell Summit & Balsam Nature Trail: Elevation Profile

Eric Champlin is a creative director and photographer who loves to explore southeast. He's the co-owner of Trailful Outdoor Co, a locally-owned hiking outfitter shop in Hiawassee in the Georgia mountains near the Appalachian Trail. He’s also the co-founder of Atlanta Trails and Asheville Trails, digital magazines that highlight the South’s best outdoor adventures. His mission? To inspire others to get fit outdoors and explore the South’s incredible scenic beauty.