Mount Mitchell is the highest peak in the Appalachian Mountains, and on the mainland of eastern North America. No land is higher than Mount Mitchell in the vast area between the Black Hills of South Dakota, the Arctic peaks of Greenland, and the Dominican Republic in the Caribbean. The closest higher peak is over 1,200 miles away, in New Mexico's Rocky Mountain foothills. Of all the peaks in the contiguous United States, only Mount Whitney in California is further away from higher ground than Mount Mitchell.
Mount Mitchell was named for Dr. Elisa Mitchell, who became involved in a controversy with Senator Thomas Clingman over who first recognized this peak as the highest in the Appalachians. In 1857, while making further measuremnts, Mitchell fell to his death near the summit now named for him. Clingman had to make due with getting his name on the highest point in the Great Smokies, as well as on Clingmans Peak (6520') just to the south of Mount Mitchell.
Most people get to Mount Mitchell on the 3.5 mile spur road from the Blue Ridge Parkway, which leads to a large parking lot, a concession stand, the grave of Dr. Mitchell, and an observation tower that allows far-ranging views over the trees. For hikers who don't mind a steep 5.4-mile, 3600 foot gain walk through thick forest to get to this overly civilized mountaintop, the Mount Mitchell trail begins in the valley to the east, at Black Mountain Campground off of NC Route 80.