Hike Max Patch in NC - Hiking Near Asheville
My Video at the Top of Max Patch
Max Patch Is an Ideal Trail In Winter or In Summer
The mountains of Western North Carolina offer breathtaking views and pristine forests. For the outdoor adventurer, these mountains are great to visit at just about any time of the year.
Max Patch offers views, a number of trails, and a beautiful setting to spend the day or just a few hours.
These trails offer breathtaking vistas and scenery all during the year. For this hub, I actually hiked this in winter, but it's equally beautiful in summer and spectacular in autumn.
Max Patch, NC
Max Patch in Western NC - Getting There
It's great that we're having a warmer winter. Instead of being cooped up in the house, I'm able to get out and enjoy the sunshine.
On a Sunday afternoon, a group of us headed out to Max Patch.
Max Patch is in Madison County, NC, right along the Tennessee border. It's not too far from Asheville, NC. Mileage-wise it's about 40 miles away at its shortest distance, but the curvy mountain roads keep you from going too fast. It takes about an hour and twenty minutes to get there from Asheville, NC.
Getting to the Trailhead -
From Asheville - From US 19/23, head west. Turn west onto NC 63 (New Leicester Highway) until it intersects with NC 209. Follow 209 until you get to Caldwell Mountain Road and turn left. Then go right onto Meadow Fork Road and take another left onto Little Creek Road. Go until you see the parking lot on the right for Max Patch.
From Knoxville, TN - Take I-40 E into North Carolina and take Exit 7. Turn left off of the exit onto a gravel road. Continue for about 6 miles and then turn right onto Max Patch road. Continue for 2.5 miles; the parking lot will be on the right.
Max Patch - A Little History
Max Patch runs along the Appalachian Trail. This trail, which many a local refers to it as the "AT", stretches from Georgia to Maine.
Max Patch itself is a mountain bald - no trees grow there. However, at slightly lower elevations, trees and rhododendrons grow plentifully.
The mountain summit is 4,616 ft above sea level. It is quite high for the surrounding area, though Mount Mitchell, farther to the northeast in Yancey County, is higher. It sits at 6,684 feet above sea level - the highest mountain peak in the Eastern US.
More On Hiking
For the views - There is a trail that heads straight up to the summit - it's short and sweet, but quite steep. It's the quickest route to the 360º views.
Some shorter trails - You can take a 1 mile loop starting out of the parking lot. Basically you skirt the mountain and can get to the top later on. This trail does intersect with other trails, so you can choose to make your hike longer if you like.
Hike to Lemon Gap - This is a great hike with a 2422 ft elevation gain from start to finish. You can do this trail in one of two ways:
- Treat it as an out and back. It will be 9.5 miles round trip.
- Get a friend and two cars. Park one at one end of the trail and shuttle to the other end. That way, you have a car at the end of the trail and can do a little over 4.7 miles and shuttle back.
If you really want a workout, start at Lemon Gap and hike up. If you have relatives visiting from lower elevations, it might be good to go from the summit down.
When you're hiking to Lemon Gap, you're actually on the Appalachian Trail. Theoretically, you really could make this a very long hike if you wanted to.
On This Particular Day
Max Patch is a year-round destination. All the pictures in this hub are from the winter hike we took. Though the skies were clear, it was chilly and windy. The frigid temperatures dipped into the lower 30s earlier in the day.
We bundled up, herded the dogs, and headed out. Usually when we do this trail, we start at Lemon Gap and head up. However, erring on the side of caution, we decided a long trail hike in cold temperatures might not be a great idea. Though we had plenty of food and water, we elected to hike the trails that skirted the awe-inspiring summit and culminate our mini-trek with views at the top.
The trees were still asleep with no sign of green. It was beautiful to see rhododendron plants with their leaves all curled up. They curl up when it's cold and stretch out to their full size when the weather warms up. A few pine trees dotted the landscape.
What's most breathtaking about Max Patch is the fact that it is so bald. The mountains in western NC usually are lush with plants and animals. But, it's almost like someone drew a line where the trees end and the bald begins.
As we walked, we encountered bales of hay and interesting brush along the route. I wondered who in the world would come to such a remote place just to roll bales of hay. But, I suppose the forest service has to clip the grass in the fall so that it's not an overwhelming mat of decomposition in the winter months going into spring.
One of the highlights was encountering ice. It's actually more interesting than you think. It formed into little noodle-like formations. I'm sure there's some scientific explanation as to why that happened, but I'm content to wonder. I can't recall another time I've seen ice look like spaghetti squash and actually form that way on its own.
We enjoyed our winter hike and look forward to a summer hike at Max Patch.
© 2012 Cynthia Calhoun