Best In Tent Camping: Southern Appalachian & Smoky Mountains

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Book Excerpt Below

The Best In Tent Camping
Southern Appalachians
and Smoky Mountains, 4th edition

ISBN: 0-89732-403-X

The only guide to the Smokies and Southern Appalachian’s best tent camping just got better! Completely updated, re-organized for ease of use, and containing five new campgrounds, The Best in Tent Camping: The Smokies and The Southern Appalachian Mountains, 4th continues to lead tent campers to the best of the area’s best. The newly designed campground layout maps, UTM and Latitude/Longitude coordinates for each campground entrance, descriptive text, and ratings for security, quiet, and beauty makes this new edition a must-have for every tent camper’s library.



Mount Mitchell State Park

Campsite Name

Mount Mitchell State Park

Campsite City:

Asheville, North Carolina

Beauty Rating


Privacy Rating


Spaciousness Rating


Quiet Rating


Security Rating


Cleanliness Rating



Route 5, Box 700

Operated by

North Carolina State Parks Information: (704) 675-4611


May 1 through October 31

Individual sites


Each site has

Tent pad, grill, picnic table

Site assignment

First come, first served; no reservation


Ranger will come by and register you


Piped water, flush toilets, pay phone


At tent camper parking area only


$9 per night


6,320 feet

Restrictions – Pets

On leash only

Restrictions – Fires

In fire grates only

Restrictions – Alcoholic beverages

Prohibited Restrictions – Vehicles


Restrictions – Other

No gathering wood in park

Summary Quote

Mount Mitchell is the highest point in the eastern United States and also has the highest tent only campground at 6,320 feet

To get there

From Asheville take the Blue Ridge Parkway north for 34 miles to milepost 355. Turn left into Mount Mitchell State park. The campground is 4 miles up the road on your right.


Bring warm clothes on your trip to Mount Mitchell. The rarefied air up there more resembles Canada than the South. The flora and fauna follow suit. Luckily, in 1915, then North Carolina Governor Locke Craig recognized the special character of this mountaintop and made it North Carolinaís first state park. Now, with a tent-only campground and some superlative highland scenery, Mount Mitchell is a Southern Appalachian highlight.

As the last Ice Age retreated north, cold weather plants and animals retreated with it–except those on the highest peaks down in Dixie. These mountaintops formed, in effect, cool-climate islands where the northern species continue to survive. That is what makes Mount Mitchell special. Unfortunately, the mountaintop is under severe siege by acid rain, insect pests, and a severe climate. As a result, some trees and plants are dying. As you explore Mount Mitchell, try to think of ways we can all help these highland forests.

Mount Mitchell’s campground is for tents only, unless you can carry an RV from the parking area up the stone steps to the campground. The short walk immediately enters a dense forest once dominated by Fraser fir. Today, stunted and weather beaten mountain ash and a few other hardwoods mingle with the firs. Dead trees remind you of the troubles these forests face.

The nine campsites splinter off the gravel path that rises with the mountainside. They are set into the land amid dense woods. The sites are small and fairly close together, but are private due to heavy plant growth. There is little canopy overhead, as the trees become gnarled the higher they grow. There are two water spigots along the short path. A bathroom with flush toilets for each sex is midway along the path. Firewood is for sale in the parking area.

Sites 1 and 9 are the most private, but feel lucky to get a site at all during summer weekends. With only 9 sites, this tiny campground exudes an intimate secluded feel. The only noise youíll hear is wind whipping over your head. By the way Mount Mitchell is covered in rain, fog or snow eight out of ten days per year. Snow has been recorded every month of the year. Annually it receives 104 inches of snow. Donít let those fact deter you; weather is part of the phenomenon that is Mount Mitchell.

The fog rolled in and out of the campground during our mid-summer trip. Now and then the sun would shine, warming us. Wooded ridges came in and out of view with the fog; the whole scene seemed like some other world.

Carry a jacket along when you tramp the park. First drive up to the summit parking area and make the short jaunt to the observation tower atop Mount Mitchell. There lies the remains of Elisa Mitchell, who fell to his death from a cliff after measuring the mountain. From the tower you can see the Black Mountain Range and beyond. Back near the parking area, check out the museum that details the natural history of the Mount Mitchell area.

Many hiking trails thread the park. From the campground you can walk to the observation tower and connect to the Deep Gap Trail; its a rugged 6 mile hike along the Black Mountain Range to several peakls that stand over 6,000 feet in elevation. Or you can leave the campground on the Old Mount Mitchell trail past the park restaurant and loop around Mount Halfback to return to the campground.

Mount Mitchell State park is surrounded by Pisgah National Forest and the Blue Ridge Parkway. This, in essence, increases the forest area of the 1,677-acre park. Many national forest trails connect to the state park trails, allowing nearly unlimited hiking opportunities. Procure a trail map from the park office for the best hiking experience.

Get your supplies in Asheville before you leave. The Blue Ridge Parkway make for scenic drive, but one in the highlands of the Black Mountains, you wonít want to leave this wonderful mountaintop campground.