Hike a section of the famous Appalachian National Scenic Trail (or A.T.) on top of Max Patch Mountain near Hot Springs. This 4, 600-foot mountain was cleared and used as pasture in the 1800s. Today, it's a 350-acre tract of open land on a high knob with 360-degree views. On a clear day, you can see from Mt. Mitchell on the east to the Great Smoky Mountains on the south. What a picnic spot! And great for star gazing and enjoying wildflowers. The summit is a short walk from the parking lot. Max Patch is part of the Pisgah National Forest.
Two easy loop trails lead you to, and around, the summit. The 1.4-mile short loop crosses the summit. The 2.4-mile loop circles the mountain for outstanding views from all the sides. From the parking lot, follow the marked trail to the left. You will ascend through a forest and then reach the top for amazing views. The rest of the hike is on the grassy bald. You can also hike north or south on the Appalachian Trail for as far as you want.
The Great Smoky Mountains, only 20 miles away, dominate the southwest horizon. To the west the terrain drops over 3600 feet into the flatlands of eastern Tennessee. To the west, 50 miles distant, rises the dark ridgeline of the Black Mountains. Endless ridges and peaks fill in the panorama everywhere else.
Take along a jacket, since it's usually at least 10 degrees cooler on Max Patch than in Asheville. And it's usually breezy. It can be a absolutely gorgeous winter hike after a snow!
Directions via Hot Springs from Asheville: From Asheville, take US 25/70 north to Hot Springs (36 miles). From downtown Hot Springs, follow Highway 209 (7.3 miles) to Meadow Fork Road (State Road 1175). Go 5.3 miles to State Road 1181. Follow 1181 for 2 miles (turns into gravel). At the top of the mountain, turn right onto State Road 1182 and Max Patch parking is 3 miles.
Directions via I-40 from Asheville: (4WD recommended for this route): Take I-40 West about 40 miles to exit 7 (Harmon's Den). Take a right on Cold Springs Road, and the road almost immediately becomes gravel. This usually well-graded road climbs steadily but never steeply 6.2 miles to SR-1182 (Max Patch Rd). 4WD recommended in winter and wet weather. Turn left and drive 1.5 miles to the Max Patch parking area on the right. Allow an hour to drive.
More Hot Springs Hikes
Lover's Leap Hike: Start from the center of downtown Hot Springs for this one. See our Lover's Leap Hike Guide.
Rich Mountain: Starting three miles from Hot Springs, hike on the Appalachian Trail to Rich Mountain and its Lookout Tower. See our Rich Mountain Guide.