"Hill" is a strange name for one of the highest peaks in the eastern United States. It's not even the smallest of the high peaks of the Black Mountain crest, so I can't imagine how it ended up with the monniker of "hill". Of the mountains along the Deep Gap Trail, Potato Hill stands out for several reasons, not least of which are the great number of stunning views from its flanks and the rugged terrain the trail negotiates over its shoulders. The Black Mountain Crest Trail does go over the summit. There are some stunning views from any number of points along the trail just below the true summit of Potato Hill, offering views back toward Mounts Craig and Mitchell, and toward Winter Star on the far side of Deep Gap.
Access 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 Mount Craig (and most of the other high Black Mountain peaks) is via Deep Gap Trail (aka Black Mountain Crest Trail, aka Forest Service Trail #179.
None. 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 Climb
All 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.
Yes. 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.
The online weather station for Mount Mitchell can be seen here
A profile of the trail from Mitchell to Winter Star can be found here
Family camping: The nine-site family campground is open throughout the year. Only tent camping is allowed. Each site is equipped with a grill and picnic table. Modern restrooms for use during warm seasons are located nearby. Showers and hot water are not provided. In the winter, campers have access to pit toilets, and no running water is available. Campsites are available on a first-come basis for a modest fee.
Pack-in camping: Campers may leave vehicles in the park overnight to backpack into the Pisgah National Forest. Visitors who leave their vehicles in the park must register on the forms provided at the trailheads near the parking area or at the park office. Mount Mitchell offers a choice of trails from which to enjoy the nearby alpine woodlands. "
Note: Deep Gap and Commissary Hill is outside Mt. Mitchell State Park boundaries so camping is allowed at these locations. Potato Hill is outside the boundary as well but camping on top is not that great. Deep Gap is close and has a reliable water source.
I may have missed something, but it seems the Deep Gap trail goes right over the summit. I verified this on my GPS which has Potato Hill summit on it and my elevation was 6440'. Did they re-route the trail to include this on the way from Mount Mitchell to Deep Gap?