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Black Mountains, NC

Pisgah National Forest

Mt. Mitchell State Park

Deep Gap Trail (aka Black Mountain Crest Trail)

and Colberts Ridge Trail

by Jack Thyen (SCJack)

Water: None along the Deep Gap Trail.  Water fountains, Restaurant, and Snack Bar at Mt. Mitchell State Park.
Difficulty Rating:

Strenuous:   7.0/10  -  Starting from Mt. Mitchell

Very Strenuous:   9.0/10  -  Starting from the Carolina Hemlocks Campground

Trail Quality and

Enjoyment Rating:

Deep Gap Trail - 9.0/10

Colberts Ridge Trail - 7.0/10

Hike Distance:

4.0 Miles  -  Deep Gap Trail from Mt. Mitchell to Colberts Ridge Trail

4.0 Miles  -  Colberts Ridge Trail

8.0 Miles TOTAL  (one way)

Pros:   Excellent Views (when the weather cooperates), highest mountain peaks east of the Mississippi
Cons: Unpredictable weather

Camping is not allowed along these trails except for the area around the Deep Gap Junction.  Campsites are available at both trailheads:

Mt. Mitchell State Park:  (828) 675-4611

Carolina Hemlocks Campground:  (828) 682-6146


This hike as described requires parking a car at each trailhead.  It can hiked in either direction depending on whether you prefer a long, strenuous climb or a long descent.

The weather along the Black Mountain peaks is very unpredictable.  Be prepared for temperaturs 20-30 degrees cooler than surrounding areas.


Hike Description:

The Deep Gap Trail (also know as the Black Moutain Crest Trail) begins at the Mt. Mitchell summit parking area.  Before beginning the hike, I would reccommend climbing to the top of the Mt. Mitchell Tower where you can see all the peaks that you will be hitting on your hike.  Make sure you have an adequate water supply before beginning your hike as there are no reliable water sources along the Deep Gap Trail.

The Deep Gap Trail takes you from Mt. Mitchell to Deep Gap, hitting many of the Black Mountain peaks along the way.  On a clear day, the views from this trail are breathtaking!  But, even with the frequent fog, it is still an excellent trail.  One of the more interesting features along the trail are the thousands of ghostly tree skeletons that inhabit the area.  The forest of The Black Mountain Peaks has been hit hard in recent years by a combination of acid rain, and an insect called the Balsam Wolly Adegid.

There is nothing flat about this trail as it takes you to the top of the following peaks:

Mt. Mitchell - 6684 feet

Mt. Craig - 6648 feet

Big Tom Peak - 6581 feet

Balsam Cone - 6596 feet

Cattail Peak - 6584 feet

Potato Hill - 6475 feet


The trail descends and climbs several hundred feet between each of these peaks.  There are no switchbacks used here, making for some very steep sections.

After Potato Hill, the trail descends about 700ft to Deep Gap where it comes to a junction with the Colberts Ridge Trail.  If you didn't park a shuttle car, this is good turn around point.  Another hike option is to continue to the North on the Black Mountain Crest Trail which heads uphill again to hit three more Black Mountain Peaks.  For this hike, you will turn right (West) onto the Colberts Ridge Trail. 


The Colberts Ridge Trail descends just about the whole way from 5700ft at Deep Gap to 2750ft at the South Toe River.  It is an interesting trail with lots of rocks to climb over and around for much of the way.  The trail appears lightly traveled with some sections being very much overgrown.

About half ways down there are two nice bald rock areas, which offer some excellent views.  The Black Mountain Peaks that you passed over earlier can be seen to the South West.

From the Bald Rock areas, the trail becomes wider and less interesting as it continues downhill to the Colberts Ridge Trailhead and small parking area (3-4 cars) on Colbert Creek Road (SR1158).  If your shuttle car is parked at the Carolina Hemlocks Campground, cross the Road and make your way down hill to the South Toe River.  The campground is on the other side of the river.

Gettin' There :

to Mt. Mitchell State Park  -  Blue Ridge Parkway to NC128 (Mile Marker 355).  Head north on NC128 for about 5 miles.  The road dead ends at the Mt. Mitchell Parking Area and Deep Gap Trailhead.

to Carolina Hemlocks Campground  -  Blue Ridge Parkway to NC80 (Mile Marker 345). Head north on NC80 for about 5 miles.  Campground will be on the left.

to Colberts Ridge Trailhead  -  From the Carolina Hemlocks Campground head North on NC80 for 1/2 mile,  turn left on Colbert Creek Road (SR1158), about 1/2 mile, the trailhead and a small parking area will be on your right.  Or, from the campground it's a short hike to the trailhead if you don't mind wading across the South Toe River to get there.


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