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Max Patch Hiking

Max Patch Hiking – Hot Springs, NC

Located about 40 minutes from Hot Springs, NC is Max Patch Mountain, located in Pisgah National Forest.  Max Patch Mountain is a 4,600 foot “bald” that provides 360 degree views of the surrounding Blue Ridge and Smoky Mountains.

Max Patch Hiking

Location:Max Path Area in Pisgah National Forest, near the NC/TN border
Roundtrip Distance: 1.4 – 2.4 miles depending on the hike you choose
Difficulty: Moderate
Dog’s Allowed?: Yes, on a leash.
Features:  Incredible high elevation 360 degree scenic views, Access to the Appalachian Trail
Directions: From Hot Springs, NC – Take Highway 209 to Meadow Fork Road (also called State Road 1175). Follow it for 5.3 miles to State Road 1181. Take 1181 for 2 miles and then turn right onto State Road 1182. The Max Patch parking is 3 miles.
From Waynesville/Maggie Valley – Take I-40 West towards Tennessee for about 14 miles to Exit 7 – Harmon’s Den. At the bottom of the off ramp, head right onto Cold Springs Rd (the road will become gravel). Follow Cold Springs Rd. for about 6 miles to State Road 1182. Turn left on SR 1182 and travel another 1.5 miles to the Max Patch parking lot. This road is a bit narrow in some places, and while not required, we recommend a 4 Wheel Drive vehicle.
Recommended Gear: Digital camera and other day hiking essentials.  Dress in layers, as the weather can change very rapidly, and the strong winds can often make it cold.  We also recommend a hat, some sunscreen, and lip balm.

Max Patch Hiking

Young couple at Max Patch
Hiking at Max Patch begins at the parking lot where a trail heads left and another trail heads right. There is a third trail up the middle, that you’ll see many people using, but the National Forest signs clearly indicate the trail is closed.

There are two main loop trails on the mountain: 1) A 1.4 mile loop trail that takes you across the summit of Max Patch Mountain, and provides outstanding views. 2) A longer 2.4 mile loop trail that goes around the mountain.

To start either loop, head up the trail to the left, where you begin a gradual incline through a forest up to the top of the mountain and the Appalachian Trail.  You’ll emerge from the forest onto the bald, and be treated with amazing views all the way to the summit.

Shortly after you emerge from the woods, the trail will run into the Appalachian Trail.  For the 1.4 mile loop hike, go right to the summit.  For the 2.4 mile loop trail, go left on the Appalachian Trail.   The trails are all clearly marked and easy to follow.

In the 1800s, this area was cleared and used as pasture, creating the bald, and fortunately for us today, the amazing view.

Max Patch Summit

Appalachian Trail Max Patch

The Summit and surrounding area on Max Patch is the highlight of this hike.  The summit elevation is just a little over 4,600 hundred feet, and the Appalachian Trail crosses right over it.  While not the tallest peak in the area, it’s position combined with clear top provide some of the best views available in the Blue Ridge.  Fan of the Appalachian Trail often refer to Max Patch as one of the Crown Jewels of the trail.

The view to the southwest is dominated by the Smoky Mountains, and Mount LeConte is clearly visible.

Mount LeConte from Max Patch

Mount LeConte

We took a break here, and had a small picnic lunch while our kids ran around and played with our dog.  The day we visited, it was very windy.  Fortunately, we brought along some extra clothes to wear, but due to the wind, we didn’t stay near as long as we would have liked.

We hiked back down to the parking, and decided to hit some spots along the creek on Cold Springs Rd.  Don’t miss this part of your visit, the creek is gorgeous, and easy to get to.

Cold Springs Road and Creek

Cold Springs Creek

Taking the I-40 route to Max Patch, will have you coming up Cold Springs Road from Exit 7.  Running along side Cold Springs Road is Cold Springs Creek, a really beautiful creek full of some fairly good sized waterfalls and accessible from a number of pull over locations along the road.

An exceptionally pretty area, that is easily accessible is about a quarter of a mile past the “Pisgah National Forest” sign.  There is a pull over with information about the Cold Springs area.  Just behind this, multiple creeks flow into Cold Springs Creek, and there are a number of small waterfalls.   Great place to sit and enjoy the sounds of the rushing water, and to take some photos.

There are also a number of creekside campsites along this road as well.  While driving through, you’ll notice lots of people fishing and fly fishing as well.  Just be careful when walking around, the rocks are slick!

Max Patch Map and Directions

Wrapping Up

Max Patch is a fantastic hike, and made our list of top family hikes and 25 best places to see fall foliage.  The short roundtrip trail of 1.4 miles makes the summit easily accessible, even for kids, and provides some of the most gorgeous views in the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Max Patch is a great day hike destination, romantic getaway for a couple, and a great place for a family picnic (bring your frisbee and/or kites as well).   This should be on everyone’s list to visit and enjoy.

More photos of Max Patch

Leave a Comment:

1 comment
mish ravan says April 11, 2016

An awesome article! Beautiful pics –now I wanna GO! ~Mish

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