“A popular route for runners and stargazers alike - at 4600', this bald spot offers excellent views.
— Max Willner
Birding · Fall Colors · Views · Wildflowers · Wildlife
Max Patch is open year-round. Please be sure to stay on the marked path. Erosion is an issue with folks cutting off the path. Making your own fire ring is not permitted.
Max Patch Mountain (part of the Pisgah National Forest) is a bald mountain roughly equidistant from Knoxville, TN and Asheville, NC (about a 1.5 hour drive). This particular loop branches just off of the Appalachian Trail (AT).
Max Patch is part of the Bald Mountains Range. At the summit (roughly 4600') visitors can see the Unakas to the north and the Great Smoky Mountains to the south, with the Great Balsam and Black Mountains to the southeast.
This is also an ideal location for stargazing. There are multiple campsites in the nearby forest, and it's a short journey to get back to the summit.
Need to Know
It's always roughly 10-15 degrees cooler at the top, so it's a good idea to bring a jacket.
From the parking area, visitors have the choice of going directly up the trail to the summit. This may prove difficult for some runners. Fortunately, there is an easy loop trail that goes from the parking lot to the mountain summit and back. If you wish to prolong your journey, there is the option of taking the Buckeye Ridge Trail back to the parking lot instead of continuing on the Max Patch Mountain Loop Trail.
From Hot Springs follow Hwy 209 South. Turn right onto Meadow Fork Road at the Max Patch sign. Turn right onto SR 1181 and follow the signs to the parking lot.
Directions via I-40 from Asheville: Take I-40 West about 40 miles to exit 7 (Harmon's Den). Take a right on Cold Springs Road. This gravel road leads to SR-1182 (Max Patch Rd). It's recommended that drivers take a 4WD vehicle in inclement weather, as handling may prove difficult. Turn left and drive 1.5 miles to the Max Patch parking area on the right.
Latitude: 35 46' 49.44" / Longitude: -82 57' 12.6"
Flora & Fauna
There are blackberry bushes, rhododendrons and coniferous trees, including a variety of wildflowers that cover the mountain in the spring.
This is also a great location for birding enthusiasts; such species include but are certainly not limited to: Black-throated Blue Warblers, Black-throated Green Warblers, Blackburnian Warblers, Blue-headed Vireos, Brewster's Warbler, Canada Warblers, Chestnut-sided Warblers, Dark-eyed Juncos, Golden-winged Warblers, Goldfinches, Red-Winged Blackbirds, Rose-breasted Grosbeaks, Scarlet Tanagers, and Yellow-breasted Chat.
History & Background
Max Patch is a man-made bald - farmers in the 1800s would often clear the trees at the top to provide their cattle with a grazing area.
The bald was once used as an airstrip in the 1930s, where biplanes provided scenic rides for tourists.