North Carolina shares borders with South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, and the Atlantic Ocean. Raleigh is the state capital, though Charlotte is the most populated city. Stretching 500 miles from east to west and just under 200 miles from north to south, North Carolina has wide ecological diversity. From the shores of the Atlantic Ocean to the far reaches of the Appalachian Mountains, North Carolina is a land of both mountain and plain. But just how high is the highest point in North Carolina?
Here, we’ll discover North Carolina’s tallest mountain. We’ll find out what there is to do there, whether or not you can drive to the top, and what to expect at the state high point. Further, we’ll explore how the highest point in North Carolina compares to the rest of the state. Finally, we’ll look at the top five highest points in the state.
Keep reading to learn more about North Carolina’s state high point!
Highest Point in North Carolina
Reaching 6,684 feet into the sky, Mount Mitchell is the highest point in North Carolina. It is the highest peak of the Appalachian Mountains and the tallest point to be found east of the Mississippi River. Preserved as Mount Mitchell State Park in 1915, the peak is located in the state’s western half, about 30 miles north and east of Asheville.
In 1835, Elisha Mitchell, a local scientist, was the first to estimate the peak’s height. Today, the tallest mountain in North Carolina bears his name. The peak is surrounded by the vast spruce-fir forests of the Appalachian Mountains, including the Pisgah National Forest and the Fraser fir forest.
How Does Mount Mitchell Compare to the Rest of North Carolina?
Topographically, North Carolina is characterized in the east by a vast coastal plain that extends more than halfway across the state. Much of this coastal plain lies at, or close to, sea level. In fact, the state low point is 0 feet elevation or sea level. This gentle upward trend is violently interrupted by the Appalachian Mountain range, which crosses the state from the southwest to the northeast. Mount Mitchell, the highest point in North Carolina, is the highest peak in this range.
Can You Drive to the Top of Mount Mitchell?
Yes, you can drive to the top of Mount Mitchell. Or nearly to the top. The road to the peak terminates in a parking area just north of the high point itself. From there, it’s about a quarter-mile’s walk along the Summit Trail Hike to the observation deck located at the top of the mountain. The good news is that this trail is both paved and ADA accessible. So everyone can stand on the tallest peak in North Carolina.
If you’re a little more adventurous, the three-quarter mile Balsam Nature Trail through the forest also leads to the observation deck. This trail is not paved and is considered more rugged than the Summit Trail Hike. For those who want even more of an experience, there’s the ever-popular Old Mitchell Trail. This trail begins at the State Park office far downslope. It leads just over two miles (one-way) to the observation deck.
Finally, if you want to stand on both the highest and second-highest points in North Carolina, check out the Deep Gap Trail. This two-mile trail leads from Mount Mitchell to nearby Mount Craig and back. If you’re looking for a good hike, Mount Mitchell State Park and the surrounding lands, offer plenty of options.
Things to Do Near Mount Mitchell
The highest point in North Carolina is the perfect place to go if you’re into hiking, backpacking, camping, or even just nature in general. Nearby attractions include Setrock Falls, Glassmine Falls, and the Black Mountain Crest Trail. If you’re more interested in a driving tour of the area, be sure to check out the Blue Ridge Parkway. This winding, forested road offers multiple overlook spots as well as hiking trailheads.
Five Highest Spots in North Carolina
Now you know that, at 6,684 feet elevation, Mount Mitchell is the highest point in North Carolina, but what about the other tall peaks? Let’s discover the five highest places in the state.
Second on the list is Mount Craig, which rises to 6,647 feet tall. This peak is in the Black Mountains region of the Appalachians and lies just north of Mount Mitchell on the same mountain ridge. At 6,643 feet elevation, Clingman’s Dome is the third highest peak in North Carolina, though it technically sits on the border between North Carolina and Tennessee. The fourth highest is Mount Guyot at 6,621 feet elevation. Finally, the fifth highest point in North Carolina is known as Balsam Cone, which rises to 6,600 feet.
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- , Available here: https://www.nps.gov/places/mount-mitchell.htm
- , Available here: https://www.ncparks.gov/state-parks/mount-mitchell-state-park