If you’re going to be anywhere near Asheville for the weekend or longer, a trip to Mount Mitchell State Park is definitely in order. Located less than an hour away from the city center, these stunning parklands promise to keep you enamored – and well entertained – for however long you want to stick around.
A day trip is a must at the very least, although it’s better if you can swing a whole camping trip. Either way, you can bet on this beautiful destination landing on your vacation itinerary again and again. Here’s a look at the top five reasons you’re going to want to visit Mount Mitchell State Park whenever you can.
Check Out the Views on the Observation Deck
If you just want to soak up the gorgeous views of mountains and tall trees set against bright blue skies, the Observation Deck is calling your name, for sure. Getting there is easy, too. You just have to travel up Highway 128 to the summit parking lot. Then, lock up your vehicle and walk along the fully paved trail to the elevated deck. Although it’s just a ¼ mile, it’s plenty steep, so take your time walking up to the top.
Once you’re standing right at the summit of Mt. Mitchell, you’ll get a breathtaking view of the tree-covered rolling hillsides and many other peaks in the Black Mountain range, like:
- Mountain Craig
- Balsam Cone
- Big Tom
- Mount Gibbes
If you visit during September through October, the leaf-peeping season will be in full swing. You’ll get to enjoy the bright reds, oranges, and yellows of the deciduous trees set against the vivid evergreens. Throughout the rest of the year, the hillsides light up with brilliant blooms, making it well worth coming back often.
Challenge Yourself on Over 40 Miles of Hiking Trails
Over 40 miles of hiking trails await your arrival, giving you plenty of chances to challenge yourself. If you want to take a short walk along a burbling stream, go on the ¾-mile Balsam Nature Trail. You just have to park at the summit to reach the trailhead to start your trek.
If you want to ramp up the difficulty, head on over to the state park office parking lot instead and hike up to the summit on the Old Mitchell Trail. At 4.4 miles round trip, this trail will definitely get your steps in for the day while letting you enjoy all the best sights in the park.
Prefer to really go all out on your hike? Just set your sights on the Deep Gap Trail. Although it’s just 2.1 miles, this strenuous hike will have you feeling tuckered out in no time flat. The path will take you from the peak of Mount Mitchell to Mount Craig and then back again.
Enjoy the Full Backpack-In Tent Camping Experience
If you simply cannot bear to leave the beauty of the mountainside, maybe it’s time for a fun tent camping experience. You’ll need to be ready to truly rough it, however, because it’s backpack access only with minimal facilities onsite.
Since there are only nine campsites open from May through October 31st, reserve your spot well ahead of time to avoid finding them all full when you arrive. Then, only load up the gear you can carry and hike it all in until you reach your reserved spot.
Upon arriving at your campsite, you’ll find a 10-foot by 10-foot tent pad plus a picnic table and grill. In addition, you will have access to potable water and restrooms. Hot water is not available, however, so plan to wash up around the fire.
Sit Down for a Delicious Meal at the Onsite Restaurant
If you visit from May 1st through October 31st, plan to stop by the restaurant for a bite to eat. Located near the summit, this eatery boasts an exquisite mountain lodge aesthetic that will have you feeling cozy as soon as you walk through the doors. They’re busy renovating it for the grand opening for the 2023 season, so it’ll be all new when you get there.
Their scratch-made fare adds to the magic, ensuring you feel right at home from start to finish. For the ultimate meal, start with a platter of Chili Cheese Fries and an icy cold drink of your choosing. After that, you can move on to the main course and get Grilled Mountain Trout, Mushroom and Swiss Burger, or whatever else you might be craving.
Grab Handmade Souvenirs Galore at the Gift Shop
If you’d like to take home more than amazing memories and the pictures to match, stop by the gift shop during your visit. Like the other main attractions, it’s only open from May through October 31st, so plan accordingly if you want to enjoy shopping fun.
While at the gift shop, you’ll want to grab a guide that tells you all about the park. Plus, take a moment to sit in the rocking chairs on the porch and fully appreciate the amazing views and fresh mountain air. Don’t forget to check out the museum exhibits as well to learn a little about the history of the area.
Then, check out all the Mount Mitchell swag, including sweatshirts, hats, and water bottles. There are plenty of stickers, too, just in case you want to jazz up your laptop, car, and everything in between. You cannot buy any of the items online, so fill up your arms with all the stuff that catches your eye. Otherwise, you’ll just have to wait for your return trip to buy more.
Since many of the main attractions are only open seasonally, plan your trip carefully to avoid missing out on the fun. Alternatively, you can just plan to visit all throughout the year and enjoy the ever-changing landscape to the fullest.