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The North Carolina mountains are impressive any time of year. However, for the last few years, I have missed the beautiful fall colored mountains before the trees are bare. Two weekends ago, I made it my mission to venture out to find the beginnings of the fall colors.
My husband, mom, two dogs and I piled in the car and we ended up at Mount Mitchell State Park. Driving from the Charlotte area, we took a scenic route that ended up on very windy, mountain roads. After the long road filled with hair-pinned turns and spectacular views, we finally ended up on the Blue Ridge Parkway where we could stop and admire the view.
I definitely advise avoiding these roads if at all possible if you are prone to motion sickness. I can get motion sickness in the blink of an eye but I cannot resist the incredible views from these roads. If you find yourself sick on one of these hairpin-turn, NC mountain roads, try to look straight ahead. Sit in the front seat if at all possible and avoid looking at your phone.
Arriving at Mount Mitchell State Park
As you enter the park, you can drive all the way to the upper parking lot to get close to the trails. If you want to avoid the wooded paths, hike the steep but short summit to Mount Mitchell.
Be prepared for loads of crowds but the view sure is spectacular. Plus, it would likely be regrettable to make it to the park without making the short hike to the highest point east of the Mississippi. After you check out the summit, read about the dreamy trail that transports you to a real-life fairy tale.
Balsam Nature Trail at Mount Mitchell State Park
We chose this shorter trail since no one in our group is an experienced hiker. As early as the very beginning of the hike, the trail is encaptured by gorgeous beds of moss. Throughout the trail, creepily beautiful trees are scattered along the sides of the path covered in moss.
Eventually, the trail turns into something like out of a Disney movie. Nature is all the senses take in. The forest completely surrounds the trial and the rest of the world seems to drown out.
Things to know before trekking down the Balsam Nature Trail at Mount Mitchell
- We did pass a few hikers in the beginning, but not many considering we went on a fall, Sunday afternoon. If you want a more private experience, try to arrive on a weekday.
- The trail starts with a gravel path, and leads to lots of large rocks to step over. You will also have to walk around several trees and logs.
- Please be aware – although this is one of the shorter trails, this is definitely a fairly difficult hike for inexperienced hikers. Hiking sticks or canes should be used if you have trouble balancing.
- The trail is quite chilly since the elevation is so high up. If you forget to bring a jacket, there is a gift shop before you get to the trail. A concession stand is outside of the shop that sells cappuccinos – a great way to warm up!