In recent years, its slopes were all but denuded of its namesake balsam trees by the ravages of acid rain and the depredations of the introduced wooly aphid. However, the forest seems to be recovering and it is once again an enormous balsam nursery.
Getting ThereAccess to Mount Mitchell State Park is from the Blue Ridge Parkway. As of this writing (11-11-2004), the Blue Ridge Parkway to the north of Mitchell is closed due to severe damage from heavy rains. From Asheville, take the Blue Ridge Parkway to mile marker 355 and turn left onto NC 128 which leads up to Mount Mitchell State Park.
The trailhead to Balsam Cone (and most of the other high Black Mountain peaks) is via Deep Gap Trail (aka Black Mountain Crest Trail, aka Forest Service Trail #179.
However, no camping is allowed along the Deep Gap Trail inside the Mount Mitchell State Park. You have to drop out of the park down to Deep Gap to camp. Overnight campers along the trail need only register their vehicles if leaving them inside Mount Mitchell State Park.
The park is often closed during winter due to inclement weather.
When To ClimbAll year. The winter weather is often severe on the highest peaks of the South, so come prepared for extreme snow and icing conditions if hiking in the colder months. The trails are extremely rugged and this area is very isolated. Don't underestimate the Black Mountains.
CampingYes. There is a developed campground inside Mount Mitchell State Park on Commissary Ridge. Camping is also allowed along the Black Mountain Crest Trail outside the park boundaries, most notably in Deep Gap. The Forest Service requests that no one camp on the ridges and peaks.
Mountain ConditionsThe online weather station for Mount Mitchell can be seen here
Trail Profile.A profile of the trail from Mitchell to Winter Star can be found here
External LinksOfficial Mount Mitchell State Park Website.
Official NC site concerning the history of the Black Mountains.