A major decision awaits visitors to North Carolina’s original state park. Will you drive up Mount Mitchell, at 6684ft the highest peak east of the Mississippi, or will you hike to the top? Make your mind up at the park office, which sits beside a steep 2.2-mile summit trail that typically takes around 1½ hours, one way.
Once up there, you’ll see the grave of University of North Carolina professor Elisha Mitchell. He came here in 1857 to prove his previous estimate of the mountain’s height, only to fall from a waterfall and die. A circular ramp leads to dramatic views over and beyond the surrounding Black Mountains.