Mt. Craig is the second highest mountain east of the Mississippi. Second only to its immediate neighbor, Mt. Mitchell. It is from the parking lot of the Mt. Mitchell summit, that this picture is taken. From this location, on a clear day you can see the trail to the Mt. Craig summit....only a mile from the Mt. Mitchell picnic area....yeah we can do this!
The trail begins as a very pedestrian walk through one of the most idyllic picnic areas in the nation. Many folks joined us on the trail this pleasant Sunday afternoon. I thought the trail would not be challenging but I was wrong. It is one mile to the Mt. Craig summit cliffs half of which is downhill on well constructed steps
The other half is a steep climb over and through rocks. And since we had completed another mile climb at Green Knob...I was not ready for surprise the ascent to Mt. Craig gave me....but we soon saw a sign which I soon learned signifying that we made it. Just beyond the sign are the cliffs of Mt. Craig. There we rested our dogs and ate our power bar lunch and took in the amazing scenery.
A series of cliffs provide a southwesterly view. A sea of mountains rose endlessly in the distance, spotted with the emerging color of autumn.
The trail is very popular. Many friendly hikers of all shapes and sizes shared the trail with us and each found their own comfortable place on the cliffs that seem to stretch over 200 yards.
Each glimpse of the distant peaks was a post card view. One mountain was of special interest. On the westward slope, the mountain was covered with colorful hardwoods in peak color. But on the other sides were high mountain evergreens. It was a like a patch in a quilt. As if someone had planted a colorful flower garden on one side of the mountain.
Looking back toward Mt. Mitchell, not only could we see the distance we had hiked but we could also see clouds moving from the north nearly enveloping the peak.
The white line on the side of the summit is the reflection off the roof of the vehicles in the parking lot. It sure looks like it is more than a mile trail....it sure felt like it too!
A view from the upper cliffs must provide a view all the way to Tennessee.
Hiking out was a tricky downhill scramble along a rocky trail to the bottom of the gap separating the slope of Mt. Craig with the slope of Mt. Mitchell. The trek up to the Mt. Mitchell parking lot consisted of hundreds of steps!
The trail is one of the best trails I have hiked. It is a tough two miler as you have two steep half mile climbs. Still the view is outstanding. But standing on the peak of the second tallest mountain east of the Mississippi is a special treat. The trail access is a 10...great access off the lower Mt Mitchell Summit Parking Lot...it is well managed but well used trail but is steep and rocky and has stairs...9....the scenery is a solid 9 as well...the effort to view ratio is perfect...overall a solid 9 hike.
On the way down the mountain, we stopped to take in some breathtaking scenery of the Grande Dame of the Black Mountains.
A great Christmas Tree is ready for decorations against a backdrop of distant colorful mountains. I named this photograph "Evergreen". We ate a wonderful fresh rainbow trout supper at the Mt. Mitchell Sky View Restaurant. As we left, clouds hovered low over the peak of Mt. Mitchell
But the best picture of the day was at the Ridge Junction Overlook on the Blue Ridge Parkway beside the entrance to the park. I jumped out of my vehicle and hurriedly snapped two pictures of a great display of sun and shadows. The result is a painting quality photograph..."Ridge Junction Color"
You have to make a visit to Mt. Mitchell a bucket list item....this old mountain is alive...I think it has a soul....or at least the active presence of ghost of Elias Mitchell who is interned at the summit of his mountain.
Mt. Mitchell State Park was the state's first park....and it remains its most majestic. Visit there soon!