Mount Mitchell is the highest peak of the Appalachian Mountains and the highest peak in mainland eastern North America. The Cherokee people, who long occupied this area as part of their homeland, called the mountain Attakulla.
European-American settlers first called the mountain Black Dome for its rounded shape. It was later named after professor Elisha Mitchell of the University of North Carolina, who first explored the Black Mountain region in 1835. Mitchell fell to his death at nearby Mitchell Falls in 1857, where he had returned to verify his earlier measurements.
The mountain is easily accessible from The Blue Ridge parkway, in between “Craggy Gardens” and “Little Switzerland”. It is little less than an hour drive from Asheville, North Carolina.
A 4.6-mile road (NC 128) connects the scenic Blue Ridge Parkway to a parking lot. This road has a scenic mystical beauty during foggy days when there is still a lot of snow atop the mountain. The weather can be quiet different at the summit compared to lower elevation locations nearby. In one late March morning, we were at sunny mid-50F in Asheville,NC (2700 ft elevation). By the time we reached Mount Mitchell summit it was covered in snow with blizzard like condition and temperature below 20F (-6C)!
In the parking lot, a plaque memorial for Elisha Mitchell greets the visitors along with essential facilities like restroom and a small store. A steep paved trail leads through a conifer forest to the summit.
The observation tower atop the summit is great for viewing the surrounding Appalachian mountains which are the highest in the entire east coast! This includes Klingman’s Dome (highest peak of Smokey Mountain range – 6600ft), Brasstown Bald (highest peak of Georgia – 4600ft), Mount Pisgah (5200ft) and highest point in Blue ridge parkway (6200ft)!
If you get a chance to drive the scenic Blue Ridge parkway, visiting Mount Mitchell is a must! Watch the video clip below for a visual tour. Enjoy!