Join High Peaks and Mt. Mitchell State Park Celebrating National Trails Day June 3


PHOTO INFO: Join the fun on June 3 celebrating National Trails Day at Mt. Mitchell State Park, where there will be three guided hikes and a Junior Ranger Program, or by joining High Peaks for one of two Appalachian Trail hikes.

Step into some outdoor fun and adventure June 3 when the NC High Peaks Trail Association and Mt. Mitchell State Park celebrate National Trails Day by offering five different hikes and a program for kids that will let your young hikers earn a “Junior Ranger” patch.

Two of the hikes will tackle a spectacular section of the Appalachian Trail, while the other hikes and kids’ program will take place atop Mt. Mitchell, the highest peak east of the Mississippi River.

“National Trails Day was started by the American Hiking Society 25 years ago as a way to encourage the public to get outdoors and enjoy our gorgeous American landscape,” said High Peaks President John Whitehouse. “Here in Yancey we are blessed with some of the finest hiking trails anywhere, so we hope folks will join us for the fun.”

Vans for the Appalachian Trail hikes will depart the Burnsville Town Square at 8:30 a.m., with van reservations required by Thursday June 1. Activities at Mt. Mitchell will begin at 11 a.m. and run through the afternoon.

The longest and most challenging hike will start at Iron Mountain Gap on the Appalachian Trail and proceed over Unaka Mountain, descending to “Beauty Spot,” an aptly-named peak that offers tremendous views of the surrounding area. This hike is for seasoned walkers only, covering 9.5 miles and rated as strenuous because it includes an ascent of 1,450 feet.

A separate, more moderate hike will start at Iron Mountain Gap and climb Iron Mountain, then return to the starting point. This hike is about 5 miles long and climbs approximately 700 feet. It also is rated as strenuous, but hikers have the option of turning around at any point and returning to the starting place.

Bring sturdy hiking boots, warm clothes in layers, rain gear, hiking poles, lunch and plenty of water.

To reserve your spot on the longer hike, contact Hike Leader Dennis Smith at or 828.284.4000. For the moderate hike, contact Hike Leader Alan Larkins at or 828.284.6901.

National Trails Day activities begin on Mt. Mitchell with an 11 a.m. hike to Mt. Craig, led by Ranger Daniel Jackson. This hike is about 2 miles out and back with several hundred feet of elevation change and some rocky terrain. Bring a jacket in case of rain or cool, windy weather, which is common at this elevation in the summer.

Ranger Skyler Hill will lead a shorter, easier hike on the Balsam Nature Trail near the Mt. Mitchell summit starting at 1 p.m. This hike will be less than a mile, with a chance to learn about Mt. Mitchell’s unique eco-system, which is similar in many ways to that found in Canada.

Hikers should assemble at the summit parking lot near the snack bar for each of these hikes.

Kids can enjoy a Junior Ranger Program at 2 p.m. led by Park Naturalist Alyssa Coburn, who will talk about the unique plants and animals and the unusual weather on Mt. Mitchell. Kids can earn a Junior Ranger patch and search for cool prizes in a scavenger hunt. This program will be held at the park Education Building, about 100 yards up the trail toward the summit from the gift shop.

Finally, at 3 p.m., High Peaks Hike Leaders Jake and Cynthia Blood will lead a 4-mile hike from Park Headquarters (the first building you come to on the right after you drive up from the Blue Ridge Parkway) to Commissary Ridge and back. This hike is on an historic railroad grade, with some rocky footing. It will include a talk about the history of Mt. Mitchell and a glimpse at the trail rebuilding project High Peaks is currently leading with the help of workers from the American Conservation Experience.

As always, hikers should check the High Peaks website,, or Facebook page, or the Mt. Mitchell State Park website,, for last-second changes due to weather.

“If you’ve never been on a hike before or if you’re a seasoned trekker, we should have something you’ll enjoy for National Trails Day,” Whitehouse said.