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another great sunset at the summit area
Mount Mitchell State Park
Closest available address
2388 State Highway 128, Burnsville, NC 28714
Hours vary by season, generally 8-6, longer in summer. Gift shop open seasonally.
Best time to visit
Summer, Fall, Spring
Mount Mitchell State Park is a mountain park located on the Blue Ridge Parkway. The park is approximately 2,000 acres and has the distinction of containing the highest point in the US east of the Mississippi River and being the oldest state park in North Carolina. Facilities at this well-developed park include a restaurant, museum, campground and gift shop. A park road provides access to within 300 yards of the summit of Mt. Mitchell. There are also several hiking trails.
In the early 1800s there was a dispute as to whether Mount Mitchell or Grandfather Mountain was tallest. Dr. Elisha Mitchell, for whom Mt. Mitchell is named, confirmed that Mt. Mitchell at 6,684 feet was the tallest mountain but in so doing lost his life in a hiking accident. The park was later created in response to widespread logging in the early 1900s. The state moved to protect some of the land and created the park in 1915.
This park fits in well with a Blueridge Parkway tour. Both visits to the park in September 2011 took place in the late afternoon when the museum and gift shop were closed. However, Mount Mitchell is the main attraction here, and the views at the top were amazing. If you can get to the summit at sunset, it will enhance the experience. A park ranger advised that the museum can be seen in about 30 minutes and includes displays on the area’s history, biodiversity and geology. Note that the gift shop and museum are only open May-October. As for hiking, a quick option near the summit is the 3/4 mile Balsam Trail in a spruce and fir habitat. The Commissary Trail, a broad mostly gravel trail, connects to multiple other trails and offers views of nearby mountains. Commissary was a decent trail option to stretch one’s legs but was not especially interesting. A more difficult and steep trail is The Old Mitchell Trail, which parallels the main park road. Even if you are not inclined to hike, a visit here to see the summit on a clear day is time well spent.
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