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Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Black Mountain Crest Trail: Bolens Creek to Mt. Mitchell, Burnsville NC

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Black Mountain Crest Trail

May 4, 2014

This hike, though painful, was one of my favorites. After we summited Cold Mountain, we picked up the rental car and drove along Blue Ridge Parkway to Mount Mitchell. Our hike the next day would be a one way hike from Bolens Creek to Mount Mitchell, going over 8 mountains over 6,000 ft. This would be our first peak bagging trip. We slept for 6 hours, resting our blistered feet as much as we could. In the morning, we drove to the trailhead and started hiking at 7 AM.

We didn't have a high clearance vehicle so we had to hike the washed out rocky road up to the trailhead. At the trailhead, we crossed the wooden bridge over Bolens Creek and started the 3.5 mile 3000+ ft ascent to the Black Mountain Crest. This part of the hike was through varied forests on a well maintained but steep trail. After a few switchbacks and stream crossings, we rounded a bend and were treated to the most spectacular sight: the entire mountain range laid out before us. With sun shining high in the cloudless sky, we forgot about the gruesome hike up and were now re-energized and excited for the next 8 miles of ascent and descent over 8 mountains.

The mountain climbs were a big blur. The hike was more about how far we could push our already blistered feet and how far we could persuade ourselves to keep going. Trails were maintained even if there were areas that had plenty of fallen trees and loose footing. Though it seemed like a blur going up and down eight mountains, the views from each summit, the search for GIS markers, and the exhilaration of reaching the summits made this hike memorable. Many people climb up from Bolens Creek and camp overnight at Deep Gap. M and I would have done that if we had more time but we did this hike as a long day hike. In total, it took us 10.5 hours to do the 11.5 mile hike. We were tired but elated to summit Mount Mitchell, the tallest peak east of the Mississippi. From this hike alone, we bagged 8 peaks out of the 53 Southern Sixers. I highly recommend doing the hike this way and it is worth the effort to climb up from Bolens Creek.

Total elevation gain for the hike: 6,235 ft.
Mileage from Bolens Creek to Mt. Mitchell: 12 miles
Time of hike: 10.5 hours

Old trail map from National Geographic.

At the trailhead off Water Shed Rd

Start of our hike on the rocky washed out road to trailhead

The better part of the road

Start of the hike at Bolens Creek

3.5 miles up 3000+ ft on Black Mountain Crest Trail (BMCT)

Less muddy the higher we went


Still 2 more miles to go

We passed what looked like a campsite on the old logging road/trail

Forest changed to conifers, still steep ascent

Creek crossing on BMCT

Straight up

Closer to the top and getting rockier

Rounded this bend to the left, at the end of the 3.5 mile ascent

Greeted with the spectacular view of the Black Mountain Crest. We traversed these mountains up to  Mt. Mitchell

Hiking onwards. We passed by Celo Knob

Trail less maintained but still easy to follow

BMCT going straight up to Horse Rock

BMCT on the way to Gibbs Mt

BMCT on the way to Gibbs Mt

BMCT on the way to Gibbs Mt

View from Gibbs Mt

Bad picture of the knife's edge on BMCT

Descent to Winter Star to BMCT

Going up to Winter Star. Trail was recently worked on.

Double checking where we might be along BMCT to Winter Star

BMCT to Winter Star

Summit of Winter Star. We found the GIS marker too

Descended Winter Star and arrived at Deep Gap. Didn't find any campers

Leaving Deep Gap

Hiking the long ascent out of Deep Gap

Hiking out of Deep Gap and up to Potato Hill

BMCT from Deep Gap to Potato Hill

On top of Potato Hill looking back at the BMCT

Descended Potato Hill and hiked along BMCT to Cattail Peak

Going down from Potato Hill to Cattail Peak

Ascending to Cattail Peak

Summit of Cattail Peak

Heading on to Balasm Cone from Cattail Peak

View of Big Tom and Mt Craig from Balsam Cone

Going from Balsam Cone to Big Tom

Scrambling up ropes section going up to Big Tom

Another ropes section going up to Big Tom

BMCT going to Big Tom

Big Tom summit!

Descent from Big Tom towards Mt. Craig

Looking back at the BMCT. Mountains from R to L: Big Tom, Balsam Cone, Cattail Peak

Nearing Mt. Craig, there's a sign warning to stay off the cliff edge in order to protect the plant/wildlife

Mount Craig!

Mount Craig on BMCT, stay behind the logs in order to protect the area

Tired with knee and feet pain but so close to Mt. Mitchell!

On BMCT from Mt. Craig to Mt. Mitchell

The trail climbs up again!

BMCT Mt Craig to Mt Mitchell

Mt. Mitchell picnic area

Mt. Mitchell picnic area

Looking at the Black Mountain Crest on top of Mt. Mitchell

We made it on top of Mt. Mitchell!
Mount Mitchell

View from Mt. Mitchell

One last photo of the BMCT