Hike the Mount Mitchell High Loop, catching stunning summit views at the highest peak east of the Mississippi River. Follow the Old Mitchell Trail through rocky forests, sun-drenched fields of wildflowers, thickets of wild berries and a small waterfall.

georgia hiking trails: 4-6 miles 4 miles
(round trip)
georgia hiking trails: moderate to difficultmore
georgia hiking trails: dog-friendly Dog-

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

GEAR: Osprey Stratos 24 Backpack, our hiking gear list and Canon 6D Camera

WEAR: Our ultra-soft Asheville Trails shirts and our favorite outdoor apparel

OFFICIAL MAP: Nat Geo 779 Trails Illustrated Map

Towering above the surrounding landscape, Mount Mitchell rises high from the crest of the Black Mountains. The highest summit east of the Mississippi, the mountain’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.

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 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 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.

Old Mitchell Trail & Mount Mitchell High Loop

Also called the ‘Mount Mitchell High Loop’, this trio of trails follows a lesser-traveled route, though crowds at the summit are frequent. Our favorite time to hike this loop is in the 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 (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.

Old Mitchell Trail & Mount Mitchell High Loop

The trail rolls elevation over Hallback Mountain, following yellow trail blazes and descending to the park’s restaurant. After crossing through 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.

The hike dips through a power line clearing at 1.1 miles after crossing a wooden bridge, catching limited views from the clearing. The trail bed becomes increasingly rockier as the hike begins its ascent to the summit, 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 begin 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.

The hike departs the summit, retracing the Summit Trail and Old Mitchell Trail to return to the Camp Alice trailhead. The route turns left on the Camp Alice Trail at 2.3 miles, descending through switchbacks and carving through stands of young pine and a mossy, fragrant balsam forest.

Old Mitchell Trail & Mount Mitchell High Loop

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.

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.

Old Mitchell Trail & Mount Mitchell High Loop

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 the 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 mountain’s summit.

Old Mitchell Trail Map, Directions & Details

This map is not a substitute for official trail maps or topographic maps.

Driving Directions


Free parking is available at the trailhead, 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

35.745681, -82.277440     //     N35 44.740, W82 16.646

Elevation Profile

Old Mitchell Trail & Mount Mitchell High Loop Elevation Profile
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Eric Champlin

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, Asheville Trails, and Trailful, digital magazines that highlight the South’s best outdoor adventures and top Southern-worthy outdoor gear. His mission? To inspire others to get fit outdoors and explore the South’s incredible scenic beauty.