September 7, 2015
Roads go ever ever on,
Over rock and under tree,
By caves where never sun has shone,
By streams that never find the sea;
Over snow by winter sown,
And through the merry flowers of June,
Over grass and over stone,
And under mountains in the moon.
-J.R.R. Tolkien, Lord of the Rings
The trails surrounding Mt. Mitchell stand in stark contrast to the summit trail. Gone are the denim-clad throngs with crying kids and gawkers. The strenuous descent and ascent are well worth it for the moss covered trees and epic vistas; the mushrooms and wonderful scent of fresh fir.
Starting from near the summit I took the Old Mitchell Trail south. The trail is very rocky and slick. I traveled along, hopping from rock to rock for 1.4 miles. I passed several people out day hiking as well. Everyone was in a great mood, for it is hard to be a curmudgeon under the canopy of this grandeur. Just past the Mitchell restaurant the trail goes up in elevation. Shortly after a clearing on the left I started a short, steep bush whack up Mt. Hallback. The summit is indicated with a plaque near the summit rock.
The trail descends to the Ranger Station, and I crossed the street to an unnamed service road. This is the road that leads to Mt. Gibbes. On the right was half a mile of bushes with the freshest, best tasting raspberries I have ever tasted. After ½ mile the trail bifurcates, right leading to the closed summit of Clingman’s Peak and left to Mt. Gibbes. I passed a house on the left and followed the beaten down man way to the summit of Gibbes.
I then descended and took Commissary Ridge to Buncombe Horse Ridge for two miles, and then climbed back up to Mt. Mitchell via the Mitchell Trail.
The loop from the summit to Mt. Hallback and Mt. Gibbes is an excellent day hike for families.
Total mileage is 6.6 miles.