Pets allowed
Allowed
Elevation Gain
1,984.00 ft (604.72 m)
Trail type
Shuttle
Distance
11.00 mi (17.70 km)
Please respect the outdoors by practicing Leave No Trace. Learn more about how to apply the principles of Leave No Trace on your next outdoor adventure here.

The Black Mountain Crest Trail is, in a word, legendary. It crosses over or near ten 6,000 foot peaks as it works its way across the crest of the rugged Black Mountains. It is most commonly hiked north to south, but by starting at Mount Mitchell you’ll be able to avoid the steep climb from Bowlens Creek and instead enjoy it as a four mile downhill stretch to end your hike.

The trail begins at the parking area near the summit of Mount Mitchell. While you are here, be sure to walk the short paved path to the observation platform at the summit of Mitchell - the views from here are outstanding, and you’ll be able to see many of the peaks that you are about to hike over.

The Black Mountain Crest Trail is signed as the Deep Gap Trail and begins by meandering through the picnic area at Mount Mitchell. It then descends steeply before leveling out, then ascending to the summit of Mount Craig (the second tallest peak east of the Mississippi). Fantastic views unfold from the rocky summit. There is also a plaque here commemorating Locke Craig, the former governor for whom the peak is named.

The trail then crosses Big Tom before descending steeply to a junction. A short stretch of this descent is so steep that ropes are provided to help hikers. From the junction continue following the “Deep Gap Trail” as it crosses over Balsam Cone, Cattail Peak (true summit is just off trail) and Potato Hill. The trail then descends steeply until it arrives at Deep Gap.

Deep Gap is the only area where camping is allowed on the Black Mountain Crest Trail, (although you will find many other sites where people have stayed throughout the trail). Deep Gap is also the only water source along the crest. To find this water you’ll need to walk a short distance down the Colbert Ridge Trail until you see a small spring on your left. It will likely just be a trickle so be patient while filling up.

The trail then climbs steeply out of Deep Gap and up to Winter Star Mountain (the USGS benchmark and summit is just to the left of trail). The stretch of trail between Winter Star and Mount Gibbs is quite special. Although difficult, this stretch is packed with fantastic views as it follows an exposed ridgeline. Once past Gibbs, the trail mellows out substantially as it enters a meadow area near Horse Rock. Next is Celo Knob - the last 6,000 foot peak of this trail (the summit is a bit off trail and accessible by a steep, unmaintained path).

The trail then turns to the left and begins the 3,000 foot descent to the Bowlens Creek Trailhead. Thankfully the trail here isn’t nearly as rocky and rugged as before, but the steep descent will still test your knees. There are a few seasonal streams along this stretch, and you’ll soon hear Bowlens Creek, a great water source, as it runs just out of sight parallel to the trail.

As the trail nears the end you’ll cross Bowlens Creek via a sketchy bridge, then follow a gravel road as it turns to pavement and leads past a few homes. Finally you’ll reach the small trailhead (with room for only a few vehicles). Be sure to arrange a shuttle beforehand unless you plan on walking the trail back to Mount Mitchell (a daunting task if attempting this trail in a day). Walking to Highway 197 is also an option for those looking to hitch a ride into town or back to Mount Mitchell.

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Logistics + Planning

Preferable season(s)

Summer
Fall

Congestion

Moderate

Parking Pass

None

Open Year-round

Yes

Pros

Spectacular views. 6,000 foot peaks galore.

Cons

Incredibly rugged and difficult trail.

Trailhead Elevation

6,549.00 ft (1,996.14 m)

Highest point

6,632.00 ft (2,021.43 m)

Features

Backcountry camping
Wildlife
Big vistas
Big Game Watching
Bird watching

Typically multi-day

No

Permit required

No

Location

Nearby Adventures

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