Our first stop was the Black Mountain Campground, adjacent to the South Toe River and sitting at the base of 6,684 foot Mount Mitchell. At 3,000 feet elevation, the US Forest Service campground is cooler than central and coastal parts of the state. There are 40 campsites each with picnic tables, tent pads, lantern posts and campfire rings with grills. There are hot showers, clean restrooms with flush toilets and an office selling firewood, ice, and a small selection of souvenirs.
We woke early Friday morning, broke camp ànd started the 6.4 mile ascent up Mount Mitchell from the parking lot across from the campground.
This was an awesome hike under a forested canopy almost the entire time. The first several miles were through a forest of flowering rhododendrons. At three miles we refilled our water bottles with filtered water from Setrock Creek. There were only occasional views on the way to the summit, mostly from a clearcut section where power lines climb the mountain. Once we neared the summit we began to encounter visitors to Mount Mitchell State Park that had driven the road up to the summit.
The summit features a viewing platform, porta potties, a snack bar and a gift shop. The snack bar offered sandwiches, chips, sweets and most importantly water.
This was a challenging hike due to it's length and vertical ascent, although we both felt it was easier than Katahdin or Mount Washington. Our total round-trip distance was 12.8 miles.
We spent Friday night at Crabtree Falls Campground, a National Park Service campground on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Unlike many campgrounds, it allows one night weekend stays during the summer, likely due to the linear nature of the Blue Ridge Parkway. The campground has flush toilets and drinking water, and each site has a picnic table and fire ring. Our campsite was surrounded by flowering rhododendrons, which hummed from pollinating bees. This was a nice campground but lacked showers and the restrooms were not well maintained.
We spent Saturday exploring the Blue Ridge Parkway before heading to Charlotte to visit family.