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Trail of the Week: Black Mountain Crest Trail, North Carolina

Challenging terrain in North Carolina's most prominent mountains.

Our Trail of the Week feature is made possible through a partnership with Trail Run Project, a crowd-sourced collaboration by and for the running community. Thanks to Eric Heistand for mapping and describing this route.

The Black Mountain Range has a small footprint but packs a mighty big punch. If tallest-peak-in-the-east Mount Mitchell is the crowning jewel of the range, then the 11.5-mile Black Mountain Crest Trail is the strand of pearls. Five of the top ten highest peaks in the east adorn this lofty ridge.

Do a quick web search and one finds that the Black Mountain Crest Trail always comes with superlatives. Most describe pain and difficulty. Think critically about your water strategy and take lightning storms seriously. The trail is most aesthetically done as a one-way, starting at Bowlen’s Creek and ending at the summit of Mt. Mitchell.

For the full climbing experience, start at Bowlen’s Creek Trailhead. Your destination is the summit of Mt. Mitchell. Stash a car or arrange for a ride from the summit parking area of Mt Mitchell.

Expect 11 miles of spectacular wilderness running that require excellent stamina, self sufficiency, and backcountry smarts, especially in bad weather. It is a 5,000-foot gain if you do this from Bowlen’s Creek and it’s all runnable with a strong level of fitness. Carry plenty of water and make sure you don’t pass up the spring at Deep Gap to refill.

The Data

Miles: 12.1

Runnable: 76 percent

Average Grade: 10 percent

Max Grade: 50 percent

Total Ascent: 5,010 feet

Total Descent: -1,498 feet

Highest Elevation: 6,680 feet

For a closer look, check out the interactive map, data, photos courtesy of Trail Run Project: