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Hike Max Patch Near Asheville, NC

Cynthia is a digital marketer, writer, and artist. She writes about a variety of topics, especially digital marketing, languages & culture.

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 article, I actually hiked this in winter, but it's equally beautiful in summer and spectacular in autumn.

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.

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

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.

On This Particular Day

Max Patch is a year-round destination. All the pictures in this article 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.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2012 Cynthia Calhoun


Cynthia Calhoun (author) from Western NC on May 10, 2013:

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 from Arkansas, USA on May 07, 2013:

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

Natasha from Hawaii on May 06, 2013:

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!

Subhas from New Delhi, India on May 06, 2013:

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.

Cynthia Calhoun (author) from Western NC on August 23, 2012:

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!

Brenda Barnes from America-Broken But Still Beautiful on August 22, 2012:

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..

Cynthia Calhoun (author) from Western NC on August 22, 2012:

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

kelleyward on August 22, 2012:

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

Cynthia Calhoun (author) from Western NC on June 17, 2012:

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!

Nithya Venkat from Dubai on June 16, 2012:

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

Cynthia Calhoun (author) from Western NC on February 12, 2012:

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

Jessica Rangel from Lancaster, CA on February 12, 2012:

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

Cynthia Calhoun (author) from Western NC on February 02, 2012:

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. :)

Cynthia Calhoun (author) from Western NC on February 02, 2012:

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

Tammy from North Carolina on February 01, 2012:

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!

Aurelio Locsin from Orange County, CA on February 01, 2012:

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.

Cynthia Calhoun (author) from Western NC on February 01, 2012:

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

Cynthia Calhoun (author) from Western NC on February 01, 2012:

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

Brett C from Asia on January 31, 2012:

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

Thanks for SHARING. Voted up and interesting.

Cynthia Calhoun (author) from Western NC on January 31, 2012:

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 from Nepal on January 30, 2012:

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.

Cynthia Calhoun (author) from Western NC on January 30, 2012:

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

Brian Leekley from Bainbridge Island, Washington, USA on January 30, 2012:

I hope to visit NC one of these years.

Cynthia Calhoun (author) from Western NC on January 30, 2012:

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 on January 30, 2012:

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.

Cynthia Calhoun (author) from Western NC on January 30, 2012:

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

Dan Human from Niagara Falls, NY on January 30, 2012:

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.