Appalachian Trail

Max Patch on the Appalachian Trail

Hike the Appalachian Trail at Max Patch, one of North Carolina’s most popular AT hikes, on a grassy, bald mountain that’s covered in wildflowers. Catch a gorgeous sunrise, sunset or afternoon picnic on this moderate two mile loop with stunning 360-degree views and seemingly endless sunshine.

trail info

1.5 miles
(round trip)
moderate
Dog-
friendly

LOCATION:on the Appalachian Trail in the Pisgah National Forest (maps & directions)

GEAR: Osprey Stratos 24 Backpack w/ our favorite hiking gear list and Canon 6D Camera

OFFICIAL MAP: Nat Geo 782 Trails Illustrated Map

Bring a frisbee, blanket, camera, or picnic. Soak up an incredible sunrise or stunning sunset. Lay on the expansive, grassy summit and cloud gaze during the day or stargaze at night. Hike through miles of wildflowers, wild blueberries, and blackberries, and wispy, tall grass. Catch incredible 360-degree panoramas of surrounding mountain summits in North Carolina and Tennessee. This is Max Patch, a popular, iconic, almost idyllic bald summit on the Appalachian Trail that’s beloved by hardcore AT thru-hikers, casual day hikers and frisbee-flingers alike.

Hike the Appalachian Trail to Max Patch, a rolling, grassy, wildflower-covered bald mountain with gorgeous viewsHike the Appalachian Trail to Max Patch, a rolling, grassy, wildflower-covered bald mountain with gorgeous views

Rising 4629 feet, Max Patch is a rolling, sprawling stretch of mountain meadow that offers plentiful sunshine, incredible views, and an on-top-of-the-world feeling. It’s set under expansive skies and framed in seemingly endless mountains. In a single word, it’s incredible.

The mountain is likely THE single most popular and well-loved Appalachian Trail hike in North Carolina. Departing its southernmost blaze at Springer Mountain in Georgia, the Appalachian Trail (“AT”) meanders across the crest of the Appalachian Mountains and traverses more than 2,000 epic miles from Georgia to Maine. There are few mountaintops summited by the AT, though, that are as strikingly beautiful, and beautifully unique, as this one.

Top fall hikes in North Carolina: hike the Appalachian Trail to Max Patch, a rolling, grassy, wildflower-covered bald mountain with gorgeous views

This adventure hikes a spur trail from the mountain’s parking area, west of Hot Springs, NC, catching views of the iconic bald after trailing through a shady forest. The hike meets the Appalachian Trail at a half mile, making a narrow loop across the summit before looping back to the trailhead. It’s a mile and a half, round trip, and solidly full of scenic beauty. (If the trailhead is full, or you’re up for a longer, scenic route, hike the Appalachian Trail from Lemon Gap to Max Patch, exploring a creek-filled valley and visiting the Roaring Fork Shelter along the way.)

Max Patch on the Appalachian Trail: the hike

The hike departs from the trailhead on the graveled Max Patch Road, roughly an hour and a quarter northwest of Asheville (view maps and driving directions). The bald, wide, rolling expanses of the mountain rise to the east. The hike trails to the northeast, skirting the mountain and beginning a continuous, moderate climb. Wild blueberries, blackberries, and wildflowers grow in abundance along the trail in warm-weather months.

Hike the Appalachian Trail in NC to Max Patch, a bald mountain summit covered in abundant wildflowers

The spur trail dives into a young forest at .25 mile, catching a brief dose of shade. Ferns line the sides of the trail, and a spring trickles beneath the spindly hardwoods. The hike exits the forest canopy, the sky opening widely as the trail treks through a grassy meadow, meeting the Appalachian Trail at .5 mile.

The route turns right, traveling southbound and climbing to the green summit. In the absence of trees on this sun-drenched bald, wooden posts with the AT’s iconic white rectangular blaze mark the trail. Wildflowers and grasses blanket the mountain’s rolling expanses and end abruptly at the base in a dense forest of trees. Nearby mountains of the Pisgah National Forest roll in the distance and stretch far onto the horizon. (And, on a clear day, Mount Mitchell, Mount Craig and the Black Mountains’ other prominent peaks can be seen in the distance.)

 

The Appalachian Trail summits Max Patch at .7 miles. Vast panoramas open in all directions, with views stretching 360 degrees around the grassy mountain. Insects chirp loudly in the grass-filled wonderland. Birds chase, dive and soar in the nearly constant breezes. Wildflowers bask in the sunlight.

Hike to stunning sunsets on Max Patch, a view-packed mountain bald on the Appalachian Trail in North Carolina

The hike continues following the white blazes of the AT across the summit, and then begins a descent along its southern slope. Southerly views open up as the trail descends a series of rustic wooden stairs as the trail switches back to the southeast. At 1.1 miles, this short loop veers right at an intersection, departing the Appalachian Trail and following the Max Patch spur trail back to the trailhead and parking area. The hike reaches the trailhead at 1.5 miles, completing the view-packed adventure.

Max Patch camping

While camping is usually prohibited at the summit, several large backpacking campsites lie in a shady grove of trees just northeast of the summit. (And the forest provides a great picnic spot on warm-weather summertime days.) To get there, follow this route on the spur trail, but instead of turning right on the AT to climb the Max Patch summit, turn left on the AT to descend to the forest campsites.

Note: Lightning is a serious danger on an open mountain summit. This is not a safe trail if there’s even a small chance of an electrical storm.

Appalachian Trail at Max Patch video: watch on YouTube

Nearby adventures on the AT

Northeast of Max Patch, the Appalachian Trail hikes through Hot Springs, a small mountain town that’s nestled on the banks of the scenic French Broad River. Hike a short two-mile adventure through town and along the river’s banks, and to the summit of Lovers Leap, a rocky precipice that offers beautiful views of the French Broad and the town of Hot Springs. Or hike the scenic route to Max Patch, following the Appalachian Trail from Lemon Gap on a ten-mile adventure through a stream and wilflower-filled forest.

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Appalachian Trail at Max Patch Map, Directions & Details

Appalachian Trail at Max Patch Map
Appalachian Trail at Max Patch Map
This map is not a substitute for official trail maps or topographic maps.

Driving Directions


Parking

Free parking is available off FS 1182 / Max Patch Road. Check the Forest Service website for updates / closures.

GPS Coordinates

35.796467, -82.962517     //     N35 47.788 W82 57.751

Elevation Profile

Max Patch Mountain on the Appalachian Trail: Trail Elevation
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Eric Champlin is a writer and photographer who loves to hike, run, backpack, kayak and cycle the southeast. He’s the editor and founder of Atlanta Trails and Asheville Trails, online magazines that cover the South’s best outdoor adventures. His mission? To inspire others to get fit outdoors and explore the South’s incredible scenic beauty.
 
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