A few weeks ago, I set out to hike the Black Mountain Crest Trail. This would be my last big shakedown hike before I start the AT. My insanely busy spring means it’s been day hikes ever since.
I had never heard of the Black Mountain Crest Trail until I was looking over my maps and it just popped out at me. (Side note: I LOVE LOVE LOVE maps. I seriously can’t say that enough times. I mean I can spend hours tracing roads, contour lines and wondering what life in the little towns might be like.) I looked it up and discovered it’s renown for being one of the most rugged trails in the East. Boom! Challenge accepted!
It traverses the Black Mountain ridgeline for just over 11 miles, up and over ten 6,000 foot peaks before finally summiting Mt. Mitchell. Starting near Burnsville at 3,000 feet, the trail quickly and very steeply ascends to over 6,000. And that’s the easy part! If knees dream, they have nightmares about the next 7 miles.
After climbing out of the valley, the trail briefly flattens out a bit in a grassy meadow. This spot is absolutely gorgeous. My favorite part of the trail. On my return trip, I spent about 3 hours here. If you need a break, take it now! Don’t be fooled by this relative easiness.
Remember those nightmares your knees have? They’re about to sweat out the sheets. By the time you cross the grassy meadow, you have about 6 more miles and roughly 6,000 feet of elevation change. Translation: you’ve never walked anything that steep for that long in your life. I’m talking 900 foot ascents in less than half a mile, followed immediately by 700 foot descents in the same distance. For six. Exhausting. Miles. Up. Down. Up. False Summit. Up! And oh yeah, the freaking rocks. It’s really more of a scramble than a hike. My PT is probably shaking her head at me for this.
Exhausting but, I loved every minute of it.
Finally, you limp your way out of the woods, into a parking lot, and walk the next quarter mile to the summit of Mt. Mitchell. Normally this is where your sense of wilderness is shocked by all the people, cars, and babies on leashes. Somehow I got lucky and the parking lot was empty. I was the only one there! What!?! Un-freaking-believable.
I then hiked two miles and another 1,000 feet in elevation down the backside of Mitchell to a camp spot on Commissary Ridge. The next day I woke up early to see the sun rise, and repeated everything I did the previous day, but this time in reverse.
So does the Black Mountain Crest Trail live up to it’s reputation? From my experience with what I’ve hiked, yes! I’ve yet to do the White Mountains or Katahdin (got my sights on you!), but outside of climbing 14ers in Colorado, this trail is the roughest and steepest for the longest anywhere I’ve been in NC, Georgia or Virginia.
As challenging as this hike was, it’s one of the most fun hikes I’ve done. Since this post is already getting longer than I expected, I’ll get introspective and write about what I learned in this follow up post.
See photos of my hike below.
I am a filmmaker. I am an adventurer. I believe in children. My friends are obsessed with my beard. I am obsessed with beer. I want to embrace and fully live this life I’m blessed with. I want to be known as someone who loves deeply.
On May 16, 2017 I set out on my dream, the adventure of a lifetime: a 2,189.8 mile trek of the Appalachian Trail. I want to push people to live their dreams and pursue their passions.