Black Mountain Crest Trail 

Climb your way over a dozen 6000+ ft peaks on this challenging 11mi shuttle hike, ending at Mount Mitchell, the highest point east of the Mississippi River.

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Author: pashellabarger
Date: 18 Sep 2010 7:52:27 PM
Source: GPX file
Activity: Backpacking
State: North Carolina (NC)
Distance: 12 mi  (Change units)
Average Speed: 1.2 mph - 0:50:00/mi
Duration: Total: 10:00:00
GPS Elevation: Total Gain: 5032 ft
Total Loss: 2100 ft
Net Change: 2932 ft
Difficulty: 8 / 10
Tags: Asheville, North Carolina, Mount Mitchell State Park, North Carolina
Rating:   1 rating(s) Rate it

The trail starts at Bolens Creek in Burnsville, NC and ends at the Mount Mitchell Parking lot in Mount Mitchell State Park, just off of the Blue Ridge parkway near Asheville, NC. This trail recently got some much needed trail maintenance and is fairly easy to follow, however trail blazes are noticeably absent. It is renowned as the most rugged trail of the East. There are places where ropes have been attached to aid your climb up steep slabs of rock. This trail is both the hardest and the most scenic trail in this area, with stunning mountain top views along the entire ridgeline. 

The trail starts at the wonderfully cold Bolens Creek. Fill your water bottles here because there might not be another reliable water source till Deep Gap (though we passed at least 1 water source half way through this section). Follow Bolens Creek on an old forest service road up to Celo Knob. This is the first of over a dozen, 6,000+ feet peaks that will be traversed. Continue along the picturesque ridgeline over Horse Rock, Gibbs Mountain, and Winter Star to Deep Gap, the only legal place to camp along this trail. On our way to Deep Gap we thought we had the mountains to ourselves, but on the sunny summer weekend we hiked this trail it was hard to find a campsite at Deep Gap that wasn't already taken by late afternoon. Here intersects the Colbert Ridge Trail, which you can follow steeply down hill for half a mile to find water. This trail is overgrown but well blazed and easy to follow. The water source was reported to be quite a gusher, but we arrived to find only a 1-foot wide 3-inch deep pool. We had to siphon the water out of the pool, but appears to be fed by trickles behind the rocks, as we were able to purify 8L of water without making a dent in the water level. The trail continues along the ridgeline up to Potato Hill, Cattail Peak, Balsam Cone, Big Tom and finally Mt. Craig (The highest Peak on the trail technically because Mount Mitchell isn't actually a part of the trail). This stretch of the trail is heavily used and we encountered several hikers and backpackers along the way. You will also see advisory signs to stay on the trail to help preserve natural wildlife and vegetation. From the peak of Mt. Craig, you will see the Mt. Mitchell tower. Continue for .5 mile to the Mt. Mitchell parking lot. This trail is rated as "most strenuous" due to the constant traversing of all the 6,000+ feet peaks that involve very steep ascents and descents.



There is plenty of room to camp at the trail head at Bolens Creek. Cross over the creek using the decrepit footbridge (watch your step!) to the trailhead. If you can’t find a parking space at the 2-car pull off, drive on up NC 1109 to a cemetery on your right approx 150 feet beyond “Water Shed Rd”. This is private land, but if you get permission, you can park here. 

TO TRAILHEAD: Burnsville: Head E. on 19E, turn R on SR 197. Turn L on Bolens Creek Rd. Follow to the hairpin turn to the R. Turn L onto Water Shed Rd. Park at the 2-car pull off on the R just before the Pisgah NF sign.

Asheville: Head E. on Blue Ridge Parkway. Turn L on 128, continue to Mount MItchell St Pk.

Position Format: Datum:


Distance: 11.03 mi Points: 1874
Total Time: 1d 1:13:03 Speed: 0.4 mph Pace: 2:17:07 / mi
Active Time: none Speed: 0.4 mph Pace: 2:17:07 / mi


Distance: 0.34 mi Points: 72
Total Time: 0:12:47 Speed: 1.6 mph Pace: 37:13 / mi
Active Time: none Speed: 1.6 mph Pace: 37:13 / mi

Points of Interest


Location: 35.877228, -82.284709
Water Shed Road. This is a private road and easily missed. Turn L here to get to the trail head.


Location: 35.874017, -82.282221
Bowlens Creek Trailhead. This is the official start of the trail. There is a brown plastic trail maker just on the other side of the wooden foot bridge.


Location: 35.858250, -82.257352
Water Source along the trail. This one isn't reported in the guide books and might not be reliable.


Location: 35.852336, -82.248647
Celo Knob, at 6,585 ft, this is the first of many 6,000 ft summit in the ridge line you are about to cross. You can't actually get to the top of Celo Knob without bushwhacking.


Location: 35.847839, -82.247386
Horse Rock. Elevation 6,211ft above sea level. The trail passes just to the side of the summit.


Location: 35.840656, -82.248087
Gibbs Mountain. Elevation of 6,198ft. Again, the trail passes just to the side of this summit.


Location: 35.817465, -82.249274
Winter Star. Elevation 6,188ft. If you pay close attention, you will see a small trail to the right where you can find a USGS marker imbedded in a rock marking this summit.


Location: 35.816227, -82.254290
Deer Mountain. Elevation 6,076ft. This summit is visible from the trail but is off to the side as you cross over Winter Star.


Location: 35.812388, -82.252054
Deep Gap. This is the only legal place to camp along the trial. There are many campsites in this area for you to choose from. Also here is the trail junction for the Colbert Creek trail. Follow this trail to a water source.


Location: 35.813637, -82.247944
Water Source. It's a steep .5 mi decent down a unmaintained and infrequently used Colbert Ridge Trail (blazed yellow) to this water source, but it's the best one near Deep Gap.


Location: 35.801482, -82.253114
Potato Hill. Elevation 6,371ft. It's a long and grueling hike out of Deep Gap, but there are fantastic vistas near the top of this summit.


Location: 35.797339, -82.257067
Cattail Peak. Elevation 6,516ft. You are now entering into Mount Mitchell State Park. There are signs here to stay on the trail to limit human impact on the delicate flora.


Location: 35.789561, -82.255956
Balsom Cone. Elevation 6,585ft. You'll pass directly over this summit, your 7th major peak along your journey.


Location: 35.779839, -82.259845
Big Tom. Elevation 6,585ft. Big Tom is just a bump on your way to the top of Mount Craig.


Location: 35.777617, -82.261789
Mount Craig. Elevation 6,637ft. The last summit before Mount Mitchell. From here you have excellent views of the surrounding area and Mount Mitchell.


Location: 35.767607, -82.264537
Mount Mitchell Trailhead. The official end of the Black Mountain Crest Trail (Mount Mitchell isn't technically included in the trail)


Location: 35.764839, -82.265120
Mount MItchell. Elevation 6,686ft. The highest point east of the Mississippi River.

Water Shed Road

Location: 35.877454, -82.284915
Water Shed Road. Turn here for the trailhead

Water Source

Location: 35.858222, -82.257396
Water source along the trail. May not be reliable.

The Black Mountains

Location: 35.851509, -82.250347
The Black Mountains. This is the ridge line you are about to cross!

Mountain Top View

Location: 35.802813, -82.252064
A view of the valley below Deep Gap in the morning.

View of the Vertical Trail

Location: 35.783668, -82.258716
In parts this trail literally goes "straight up the side of a mountain"

View from Mount Mitchell

Location: 35.765458, -82.265024
From Mount Mitchell looking back over the trail

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