Buncombe Horse Range Trail

At A Glance

Most Difficult

18.5 mi one-way

Difficulty Rating: 18.5 (Most Difficult)
Steepness: Climbs Moderately
Tread Condition: Moderately Rough
Blaze Color: Blue
Trail Number: 191
Hikes That Use This Trail: Mount Mitchell


This is the third-longest trail in the Appalachian District, after the Appalachian Trail and Mountains to Sea Trail. It also has one of the highest average elevations of any trail in the region, with a long stretch above 5000 ft topping out at about 5800 ft on Commissary Ridge.

Starting on the south end at FS 472, S. Toe River Road, the trail climbs 1800 ft up its namesake ridge through Salt Rock Gap to the junction with the old railroad grade/Mountains to Sea Trail near the headwaters of Right Prong.

The trail then turns north onto the old railroad grade and, in addition to open areas with grasses, mountain laurel, rhododedron, and blueberry shrubs, runs through stands of red spruce and Fraser fir, with views of above-6,000 ft peaks. Camping is possible near Commissary Hill and Maple Camp Bald, just outside Mount Mitchell State Park, where there are a few (signed) junctions.

It continues north of the point where the Mount Mitchell/Mountains to Sea trail leaves the shared path (to descend to Black Mountains Campground), on a lesser-used portion of the old railroad grade, before beginning its long descent of Maple Camp Ridge to Colbert Creek. Note that the trail switchbacks heavily below Maple Camp Bald and pay close attention to the trail signs and blazes because the trail crosses open fields and many intersections.

Intersecting Trails

  • Big Tom Gap
  • Mount Mitchell
  • Commissary
  • Mountains to Sea Section 3
  • This trail is located in the Black Mountains & Toe River area. For a list of all the trails in that area, see the Black Mountains & Toe River trails list page.

    This trail also crosses into these trailhead areas:

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    Trail Segments

    Trails are often made up of several connecting paths which may have different characteristics, allowed uses, and seasons. This trail is divided into multiple segments as follows:

    FS 472 to Mountains to Sea Trail at NC 128

    • Allowed Uses: Hiking, Horseback Riding
    • Length: 4.58 mi

    Mountains to Sea Trail at NC 128 to Camp Alice

    • Allowed Uses: Hiking, Horseback Riding
    • Length: 3.27 mi

    Camp Alice to Commissary Campsite & Mount Mitchell Trail

    • Allowed Uses: Hiking, Horseback Riding
    • Length: 0.54 mi

    Commissary Campsite to Mountains to Sea and Mount Mitchell Trail

    • Allowed Uses: Hiking, Horseback Riding
    • Length: 320 ft

    Mountains to Sea and Mount Mitchell Trail to Maple Camp Bald

    • Allowed Uses: Hiking, Horseback Riding
    • Length: 8.54 mi

    Total Calculated Length: 16.98 mi

    This value is derived from our underlying map data, and it may not match officially published information.



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