Hike Max Patch near Asheville, NC

Updated on August 31, 2017

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.

My Video at the Top of Max Patch

Getting to Max Patch

One of the Max Patch trailheads.  This particular marker is on one of the trails that skirt the mountain.
One of the Max Patch trailheads. This particular marker is on one of the trails that skirt the mountain. | Source

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, NC

A markerMax Patch, NC -
Max Patch, Pisgah National Forest, 8, Spring Creek, NC 28743, USA
get directions

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.

The Trails

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:

  1. Treat it as an out and back. It will be 9.5 miles round trip.
  2. 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.

Winter Views From Max Patch

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Beginning our hike.  We had just left the parking lot and were skirting the mountain.One of the beautiful views at the beginning of the trail.Though the trees are dormant, there is still a little green decorating the landscape.Some of the sleeping winter foliage along the trail.Looking up, but it hardly looks steep.Some of the crazy ice formations.  I call it spaghetti squash ice.Water is abundant in western NC.  Though humans can't drink it, the dogs love it!Hay bales dot the back of the mountain...along with a few furry friends.A view from the backside.  You can see where the trees begin.This was the last set of trees before they stopped growing.  They're intricate and complex.A rhododendron tunnel along the AT.The trees do not grow past this point.  Ascending the backside of Max Patch.  The trails far below show how far we had come.The triangulation marker proves you have visited the summit of Max Patch.The view from the top.
Beginning our hike.  We had just left the parking lot and were skirting the mountain.
Beginning our hike. We had just left the parking lot and were skirting the mountain. | Source
One of the beautiful views at the beginning of the trail.
One of the beautiful views at the beginning of the trail. | Source
Though the trees are dormant, there is still a little green decorating the landscape.
Though the trees are dormant, there is still a little green decorating the landscape. | Source
Some of the sleeping winter foliage along the trail.
Some of the sleeping winter foliage along the trail. | Source
Looking up, but it hardly looks steep.
Looking up, but it hardly looks steep. | Source
Some of the crazy ice formations.  I call it spaghetti squash ice.
Some of the crazy ice formations. I call it spaghetti squash ice. | Source
Water is abundant in western NC.  Though humans can't drink it, the dogs love it!
Water is abundant in western NC. Though humans can't drink it, the dogs love it! | Source
Hay bales dot the back of the mountain...along with a few furry friends.
Hay bales dot the back of the mountain...along with a few furry friends. | Source
A view from the backside.  You can see where the trees begin.
A view from the backside. You can see where the trees begin. | Source
This was the last set of trees before they stopped growing.  They're intricate and complex.
This was the last set of trees before they stopped growing. They're intricate and complex. | Source
A rhododendron tunnel along the AT.
A rhododendron tunnel along the AT. | Source
The trees do not grow past this point.
The trees do not grow past this point. | Source
Ascending the backside of Max Patch.  The trails far below show how far we had come.
Ascending the backside of Max Patch. The trails far below show how far we had come. | Source
The triangulation marker proves you have visited the summit of Max Patch.
The triangulation marker proves you have visited the summit of Max Patch. | Source
The view from the top.
The view from the top. | Source

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 Sageleaf

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    • cclitgirl profile image
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      Cynthia Sageleaf 4 years ago from Western NC

      Pinto - I definitely love it here. :) Perhaps one day I will get to make it to New Delhi. :)

      Natasha - yes! Come on! Let me know when you get here. :D A friend of mine works for LEAF.

      Vicki- really? Awesome!

    • Victoria Lynn profile image

      Victoria Lynn 4 years ago from Arkansas, USA

      I've been through Asheville. Beautiful area. Great hub.

    • Natashalh profile image

      Natasha 4 years ago from Hawaii

      It is really pathetic how infrequently I make it to Asheville and the surrounding area. My family goes all the time, but I never do! I'm hoping to be a vendor at the fall LEAF, though, so hopefully I'll be up that way soon!

    • pinto2011 profile image

      Subhas 4 years ago from New Delhi, India

      It is nice to know that we have so many places to explore and learn things about them. Really you have written a very detailed and smooth account of this place.

    • cclitgirl profile image
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      Cynthia Sageleaf 5 years ago from Western NC

      Hyphenbird - hey there! Yeah, I imagine the ice formed like that, similar to how regular icicles formed, with an added twist of being low to the ground. Hehe. It is a beautiful place. I need to get over there still this summer! :D

      Thanks for stopping by!

    • Hyphenbird profile image

      Brenda Barnes 5 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful

      Max Patch is indeed one of North Carolina's treasures. My family loves to hike and we have this tail on our list. People who think North Carolina is uncivilized and ugly just are ignorant to its beauty and culture.

      The ice noodles may have shaped when frost formed on icicles or when the ice began to melt and quickly refroze. It sounds amazing. I love hiking n winter. One can see the most unusual things. Thanks for the great virtual visit to Max Patch..

    • cclitgirl profile image
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      Cynthia Sageleaf 5 years ago from Western NC

      Kelley - Thank you so much! That ice is really neat, isn't it? I swear it looks like "winter spaghetti squash." Hehehe.

    • profile image

      kelleyward 5 years ago

      Ice? Wow! I would have never thought that. I love your style of writing. I feel like I'm right there. Voted up and useful. Take care, kelley

    • cclitgirl profile image
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      Cynthia Sageleaf 5 years ago from Western NC

      Vellur - thank you so much for stopping by!! I appreciate your wonderful feedback and it's always great to see you. If you ever make it to North Carolina, this is a WONDERFUL trail! It seems like everyone in North Carolina has been there at least once because the views are so spectacular! Hubhugs!

    • Vellur profile image

      Nithya Venkat 5 years ago from Dubai

      Great hub and wonderful trail. Encountering ice must have been a great experience. Love this hub. Voted up.

    • cclitgirl profile image
      Author

      Cynthia Sageleaf 5 years ago from Western NC

      Jessi10 - I appreciate the votes. I'm so glad you liked this hub. Max Patch is one of my favorite places to visit.

    • Jessi10 profile image

      Jessica Rangel 5 years ago from Lancaster, CA

      This hub is great! A lot of useful information for those of us that are a bit of adventurers. Voted up!

    • cclitgirl profile image
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      Cynthia Sageleaf 5 years ago from Western NC

      Let's see...from where you are, it would probably take about three hours to get to Max Patch. :) You could start really early, get a quick hike in, enjoy a restaurant in Asheville and get back home before dark. But then there's always the "Mountains to Sea" trail that might be closer to you. Thanks for stopping by, tammyswallow. :)

    • cclitgirl profile image
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      Cynthia Sageleaf 5 years ago from Western NC

      Thanks, alocsin. I really enjoy all your comments and insights. Always good to hear from you.

    • tammyswallow profile image

      Tammy 5 years ago from North Carolina

      I love those mountains my neighbor. When I moved here I was shocked to learn they are higher and more treacherous than the mountains in Pennylsvania. It has been a long time since I have hiked. Need to get back in gear. This is an inspiring way to start!

    • alocsin profile image

      alocsin 5 years ago from Orange County, CA

      Excellent hub here. I especially like your use of the the picture thumbnail to squeeze all the pictures in. Voting this Up and Beautiful and thanks for SHARING.

    • cclitgirl profile image
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      Cynthia Sageleaf 5 years ago from Western NC

      alinamassy - thank you so much for stopping by! I'm so glad you found this hub interesting and useful. Thanks for sharing. :)

    • cclitgirl profile image
      Author

      Cynthia Sageleaf 5 years ago from Western NC

      Brett - thanks for stopping by and commenting. :) Max Patch is beautiful. South Korea looks beautiful, too. Perhaps I'll be able to go someday.

    • alinamassy profile image

      alinamassy 5 years ago from India

      This was a really great hub with good information @@ thanks for sharing...

      ####@@@###

      Interesting and useful

    • Brett.Tesol profile image

      Brett Caulton 5 years ago from Thailand

      Informative hub and I like the fact that you have actually done it.

      Thanks for SHARING. Voted up and interesting.

    • cclitgirl profile image
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      Cynthia Sageleaf 5 years ago from Western NC

      Thanks, Vinaya. I have always wanted to go to Nepal - perhaps I will someday. It's one of my dreams. I've heard the mountains are legendary.

    • Vinaya Ghimire profile image

      Vinaya Ghimire 5 years ago from Nepal

      Mountain hiking is one of my favorite pass time affair. I have not been to other countries, but I think Nepal is also a nice place for hiking, trekking, or even mountain expeditions. Thanks for sharing your story. I enjoyed reading your information laden content.

    • cclitgirl profile image
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      Cynthia Sageleaf 5 years ago from Western NC

      B. Leekley - You won't regret it. Western NC is incredible and the Outer Banks are equally majestic and breathtaking. :)

    • B. Leekley profile image

      Brian Leekley 5 years ago from Kalamazoo, Michigan, USA

      I hope to visit NC one of these years.

    • cclitgirl profile image
      Author

      Cynthia Sageleaf 5 years ago from Western NC

      mljdgulley354 - thanks for stopping by! I always enjoy seeing your posts and comments. :) It's sure nice to get outside, especially in winter when you're so often cooped up.

    • mljdgulley354 profile image

      mljdgulley354 5 years ago

      I love the mountains and being able to be out in nature. This was a great hub with good information for those who would be looking for a place to hike.

    • cclitgirl profile image
      Author

      Cynthia Sageleaf 5 years ago from Western NC

      Thanks, Outbound Dan. I had trouble with the video earlier, but I finally uploaded it. :) No problem with the linking - you write great hubs!!

    • Outbound Dan profile image

      Dan Human 5 years ago from Niagara Falls, NY

      Well illustrated and written hub! Max Patch is an awesome place indeed. It is one of those places that stuck out when I hiked the AT, as those Southern Balds are just as eerie as they are beautiful. It sounds like you had a fun hike. Oh, and thanks for linking to some of my hubs.

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