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Mount Mitchell/Wilson Creek

posted Apr 30, 2012, 12:29 PM by Justin P
This weekend, we headed up to Mount Mitchell to hike up to the highest point in North Carolina and the Eastern United States.  Sure, you can drive to the top, but that's no fun!  We left the Triangle early Saturday morning and drove to the campground at the base of Mount Mitchell.  We stayed at the Poplar group site at Briar Bottom Campground, adjacent to Black Mountain Campground.  After checking in, we started our hike up the Mount Mitchell Trail/Mountains-to-Sea Trail.  This trail is pretty steep, gaining more than 3500 vertical feet in less than six miles.  Although there are few exceptionally steep parts of the trail, there are also few flat sections - the trail is a relentless uphill climb.  After about a mile or so, the Mount Mitchell and MST split for a short bit.  We thought we had made it to this point, with a smaller trail to the right and followed this.  There was an outlook here with decent views of the Black Mountains and Blue Ridge Mountains and the trail continued down.  After a short bit, we realized this was not the right trail and went back.  The Mount Mitchell/MST split was just ahead and we followed the Mount Mitchell Trail.  Due to recent rains, there were many wet spots along the trail, which could be treacherous in places as the entire trail was very rocky and slippery.  After another mile or so, the trails merged again.  Continuing up, we reached the intersection with the Commisary Trail, shortly before entering the state park.  At about this point, the forest noticeably changed from mixed pine and hardwood forests below to more spruce and fir trees above.  We continued on until finally reaching the top and had lunch at the tower.  After all the effort to climb up from the base of the mountain, I had to laugh when I heard someone complaining about the very short climb from the parking lot.  We took some pictures and then headed back down.  The climb back down in some ways was more difficult than the climb up.  Maybe it was because my legs were already tired, but in general I don't like going down - its hard on my knees.  When we reached the bottom, we stopped to see Setrock Creek Falls before heading back to camp.

In the morning, we woke up, broke camp, and headed to the Wilson Creek area of Pisgah National Forest.  We parked along a Forest Road 464 at the trailhead for North Harper Creek Falls Trail (239) and Little Lost Cove Cliffs Trail (271A).  We first headed down 239 down a gentle slope through the forest for about a mile before turning left and going down a steep section to the top of Chestnut Cove Branch Falls.  This waterfall is very rocky with most of the water going down the right side of the rock (looking down the falls).  We climbed down to the bottom for some pictures then headed back up to the trail and continued on along North Harper Creek.  Just before the falls, there is an easy stream crossing a backcountry campsite.  North Harper Creek Falls is a very beautiful waterfall with some nice pools at the base.  Having worked up a sweat on the hike to the falls, we took a refreshing but very chilly dip in the water.  We then bushwacked up to the middle of the falls and then up to the top where we stopped for lunch.  After lunch, we turned back and hiked back to the forest road and took the other trail - 271A.  It was steady uphill for less than a mile before a turn to go out on the cliffs.  Here we saw exceptional views of Grandfather Mountain and spent some time relaxing and enjoying the views.  When we had finished, we headed back to the car and started our drive back home, stopping for Mexican food and beer for dinner on the way.