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  • Writer's pictureDan Wagner

Hike to the Black Mountain Crest 182H Skylane N2350X Crash Site

Enjoy panoramic ridgeline views, discover remnants of a 1970s plane crash, and ascend to the summit of the second tallest peak in the Appalachian Mountains on a short day hike in North Carolina's Mount Mitchell State Park. This route follows a small portion of the Black Mountain Crest Trail, also known as the Deep Gap Trail, providing the most direct route to both the crash site and summit of Mount Craig.

Black Mountain Crest plane crash

Trailhead elevation 6,575'

Water at trailhead

Don't miss the views from the summit of Mount Craig

Hike to the Black Mountain Crest Cessna 182 Skylane N2350X Crash Site

The hike begins from the Deep Gap Trailhead, clearly marked and located just beneath the parking area of the Mount Mitchell Museum. At the trailhead, hikers will find a water spigot and a large picnic area offering excellent views of the neighboring mountains.

Deep Gap Trailhead

From the trailhead, hikers navigate through a densely wooded area teeming with balsam fir, pine trees, and moss covered logs, eventually reaching a moderately steep descent through a series of winding stone steps.

Black Mountain Crest Trail

Following the descent, the landscape unfolds, unveiling a view of Mount Craig through an area damaged by fire in years past.

Black Mountain Crest Trail

On a clear day, it's worth taking a moment to pause and take in the panoramic view to the west, offering glimpses of Big Pine Mountain, Big Butt, Little Butt, Point Misery, and Mount Mitchell, among other prominent peaks. Upon reaching Mount Craig's summit, hikers will encounter two large rock outcroppings offering stunning ridgeline views, which are often even better during sunset.

After the summit, the trail descends into the saddle between Mount Craig and Big Tom. Roughly 0.13 miles from Mount Craig's summit, or precisely the 1 mile-mark, hikers should watch for a faint spur trail along the left side of the path. A distinguishable landmark indicating the spur trail's location is the large boulder located along the right side of the trail in the photo below.

Black Mountain Crest Trail

The spur trail lies immediately to the left of it. At the top of the spur, before descending 30 feet down the mountain's western slope, hikers should be able to view the crash site below.

Unlike the Cessna 182Q Skylane N735MB crash site on Calloway Peak, this site cannot be viewed directly from the main trail.

Black Mountain Crest plane crash

Following the short yet steep descent, hikers will encounter the remnants of a single-engine Cessna 182H Skylane, which collided with the mountain on July 16, 1974. The aircraft, piloted by James "Monk" Montgomery, a 54-year-old resident of Newburgh, Indiana, had departed from Charleston, West Virginia, bound for Asheville, North Carolina, as part of a business trip.

Black Mountain Crest plane crash

After refueling at Tri-Cities Airport in Kingsport, Tennessee, Montgomery resumed his journey. However, approximately 40 miles into the flight, he encountered dense fog and thunderstorms. In an attempt to alter his course and avoid the mountains, Montgomery's Cessna struck the mountainside around 3 PM, killing him instantly.

Black Mountain Crest plane crash newspaper article

A pair of hikers in close proximity witnessed Montgomery's attempts to change direction and steer clear of the mountain. Not long after, they heard the sound of impact. The hikers then retraced their steps to Mount Mitchell and contacted the Civil Air Patrol in Burnsville regarding the crash, prompting a search plane to be dispatched.

Black Mountain Crest plane crash

Montgomery's Cessna, registered under N2350X, was spotted by the Civil Air Patrol around 4:30 PM between Mount Craig and Big Tom. Upon verifying the crash site location, sheriff deputies and rescue workers hiked to the site and transported Montgomery's body off the mountain.

Black Mountain Crest plane crash

NTSB records indicate that Montgomery had logged 1,242 hours of flight time, though he had not filed a flight plan for this particular flight. Visibility at the time and location of the crash was reported to be less than a quarter mile. Montgomery was the sole occupant of the aircraft.

James Harold Montgomery, born on February 28, 1920, in Indiana, was remembered as a standout athlete during his high school and college years in Evansville, Indiana. Following college, Montgomery served 26 months in the Navy during WWII in the Aleutian Islands. At the time of the accident, he was employed as a salesman for Dri-Print Foils Company, headquartered in Evansville, Indiana. Montgomery was survived by his wife, two daughters, and one son. The Evansville Press circulated his obituary on July 17, 1974.

Mount Craig Deep Gap plane crash newspaper article

Montgomery's ill-fated Cessna is one of several to have tragically crashed in the mountains near Mount Mitchell. On October 5, 1949, an Air Force C-47, carrying ten servicemen crashed into Mount Mitchell near Commissary Ridge killing all aboard.

Black Mountain Crest plane crash

On April 26, 1992, a single-engine Bellanca Viking carrying two men from Chattanooga crashed into Mount Mitchell, killing both. On the very same day, a twin-engine Cessna 310 crashed into Clingmans Dome 70 miles away killing the pilot.

Black Mountain Crest plane crash

Today, the remains of Montgomery's Cessna are strewn across the mountainside. While a significant portion of the aircraft has been scavenged, a sizable section of the hollowed-out fuselage and tail remain.

Black Mountain Crest plane crash

After visiting the crash site, hikers have the option to either resume their hike along the Black Mountain Crest Trail or backtrack to the trailhead. Please respect the site and refrain from removing any of the plane wreckage from it.

To explore more hikes related to plane crashes, check out Plane Crash Hikes.


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