Mount Craig (altitude 6,647') is the second highest peak in the eastern United States, only 37 feet lower than neighboring Mount Mitchell, the highest peak. Mt. Craig is part of the Mt. Mitchell State Park, surrounded by the Pisgah National Forest. Located on the crest of the Black Mountains, the peak has a lot of exposed rock and is home to some very rare and endangered species of plants and animals which exist nowhere else but the lofty elevations of the Black Mountains.
View of Mt. Craig from atop Mt. Mitchell
To reach the Mt. Craig summit, take a two-mile roundtrip hike on the Deep Gap Trail from the picnic area on the summit of Mt. Mitchell. The hike includes a good bit of climbing, but it is not overly strenuous. From atop Mount Craig, you can view much of the southern portion of the Black Mountain Range along with a look back at Mount Mitchell. Look for the Mt. Craig marker on the summit. Since you are on the highest peaks in eastern North America, weather conditions can change rapidly. It is usually at least 15 degrees cooler than the city of Asheville, and the peaks are covered in clouds and fog eight out of ten days.
The hike takes you through a Canadian-type, lush forest, with great aromas of the spruce and balsam fir trees. If you want to go farther, Deep Gap Trail continues for another 3.5 miles and crosses three more peaks above 6,000 feet to Deep Gap. There are some great camping sites at Deep Gap. The Deep Gap Trail proceeds beyond Mount Craig to other North Carolina high peaks including Big Tom and Balsam Cone.
Atop Mt. Craig
Mount Craig was named in honor of Locke Craig, who was governor of North Carolina from 1913 to 1917. He was responsible for establishing Mount Mitchell as North Carolina's first state park, thus protecting the area from any excessive logging.