Mount Mitchell is the highest peak of the Appalachian Mountains and the highest peak in mainland eastern North America. It is located near Burnsville in Yancey County, North Carolina, in the Black Mountain subrange of the Appalachians, and about 19 miles northeast of Asheville. It is protected by Mount Mitchell State Park and surrounded by the Pisgah National Forest. Mount Mitchell's elevation is 6,684 feet above sea level.
The mountain was named after Elisha Mitchell, a professor at the University of North Carolina, who first explored the Black Mountain region in 1835, and determined that the height of the range exceeded by several hundred feet that of Mount Washington in New Hampshire, commonly thought at the time to be the highest point east of the Rocky Mountains. Mitchell fell to his death at nearby Mitchell Falls in 1857, having returned to verify his earlier measurements.
A 4.6-mile (7.4 km) road connects the scenic Blue Ridge Parkway to a parking lot where a steep paved 980-foot (300 m) trail leads through a conifer forest to the summit. The 40-foot (12 m) stone observation tower on the summit was torn down in late 2006. A new observation deck was constructed and opened to visitors in January 2009. Also on the summit is the tomb of Dr. Mitchell.
The summit area of Mount Mitchell is marked by a humid continental climate with mild summers and long, moderately cold winters, being more similar to southeastern Canada than the southeastern U.S. The monthly daily average temperature ranges from 25.2 °F (−3.8 °C) in January to 59.1 °F (15.1 °C) in July. The coldest temperature ever recorded in the state occurred there on January 21, 1985 when it fell to −34 °F (−37 °C), during a severe cold spell that brought freezing temperatures as far south as Miami.