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.

New Max Patch Retrictions

July 2021 Update - Max Patch is currently closed to camping for the next two years, and is closed from 1-hour after sunset to 1-hour before sunrise.  Additional Restrictions include:

  1. No camping.
  2. No fires.
  3. Area closes 1 hour after sundown. Reopens 1 hour before sunrise. Visitors prohibited during closed hours.
  4. Group size limited to 10.
  5. Dogs and other animals must be on a leash no longer than 6 feet, or in a crate or cage.
  6. Stay on designated trails.
  7. Aircraft may not land nor drop off or pick up anything in this area. Drones are prohibited on Appalachian Trail.
  8. No fireworks.
  9. Bikes must stay on roads only.
  10. Horses and other saddle and pack animals may not be ridden, hitched, tethered, or hobbled in this area.

Hike Information

Location: Pisgah National Forest, near Hot Springs NC

Roundtrip Distance: 1.5 Miles

Difficulty: Moderate/Strenuous

Handicap Accessible: No

Dog Friendly: Yes

Features: Incredible scenic views and Appalachian Trail access


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 NC - 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: Standard Day Hiking gear - It's a great place for a picnic as well.

Hiking to Max Patch Video

Hiking to Max Patch 

Hiking Max Patch NC

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:

  • A 1.4 mile loop trail that takes you across the summit of Max Patch Mountain, and provides outstanding views.
  • 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

Max Patch Summit

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, its 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 Great Smoky Mountains:

Sunset at Max Patch

Sunset at Max Patch NC

Max Patch is one of the best spots in the area to witness a stunning sunrise or sunset, since you have a nearly 360 degree view.   Try top plan your visit, so you can stay and watch the sunset.  Bring a picnic dinner, eat, and enjoy the amazing colors, as the sun sets below the peaks.   

Remember, some of the most amazing colors occur AFTER the sun drops below the horizon.

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!

Let us know what you think in the comments below!

About the author

Larry Deane is co-owner of Blue Ridge Mountain Life. He has spent more than 20 years exploring the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains and has a deep passion for nature, history, storytelling, and adventure. Along with his wife Jenn, they combined these passions to create Blue Ridge Mountain Life, a travel guide to these stunning mountains they are fortunate to call home.

Larry has more than 20 years of experience as a writer and journalist, and has established himself as a leading voice and expert for Blue Ridge Mountains. He is also an avid hiker, photographer, and videographer. He loves sharing his mountain adventures and knowledge with more than 500,000 people per month on Blue Ridge Mountain Life.


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