Last Updated on December 20, 2022
Last Updated on December 20, 2022
The Max Patch Trail in Western North Carolina (near Asheville) leads to a beloved 4,600-foot bald mountain along the famed Appalachian Trail. With a summit that’s just under a mile from the trailhead, this trail is relatively easy for nearly all levels of hikers.
Beautiful 360-degree panoramas of the surrounding mountains (including Mount Mitchell!) await with plenty of space to enjoy them. You’ll see why this is one of the most popular hikes near Asheville, if not the entire Appalachian Trail.
Our guide features more about this beautiful hike and everything you’ll need to know before packing your picnic basket. The Max Patch Trail has undergone some changes over the years, especially recently, so we’ve included info about how to enjoy this trail as we have responsibly.
To keep you as prepared as possible, here’s how we’ve organized the guide:
- Where is the Max Patch Parking Lot?
- Driving Directions (from Asheville and from Hot Springs)
- Tips for Visiting Max Patch (Parking, New Camping Restrictions Info, and Leave No Trace Reminder)
- The Max Patch Trail Hike (From Start to Finish)
- Max Patch Trail Safety Tips (Plus Bear Info)
- Bonus Hike (Harmon Den)
- Nearby Places (Bald Mountain, Hot Springs, Marshall, and More!)
You can skip ahead to sections like “The Max Patch Trail Hike” or continue reading for driving directions and more.
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Where is the Max Patch Trail Parking Lot?
Max Patch Trail is in the Harmon Den Area of Pisgah National Forest. It meets the Appalachian Trail about a half-mile from the trailhead.
The Appalachian Trail (AT) runs from Georgia to Maine and 95.7 miles through North Carolina. An additional 224.7 miles traverses the North Carolina and Tennessee border.
The Max Patch Trail parking lot is in Madison County, about 18 miles from Hot Springs (45 minutes) and 47 miles from Asheville (1 hour 13 minutes).
Whether you’re seeking a day trip from Asheville or other towns in Madison County or hiking through via the Appalachian Trail, we think Max Patch Trail is worth the journey.
Read More: 12 Wonderful National Parks Sites in North Carolina
Max Patch North Carolina Driving Directions
You’ll likely lose service on your way, so you should set your GPS to “Max Patch” before leaving.
Driving from Asheville to Max Patch (I-40)
- Typically, the fastest route from Asheville to Max Patch is about an hour and fifteen minutes along I-40 W and NC-209 (Exit 24). This stretch of NC-209 is also known as the Appalachian Medley, a winding and scenic road through the mountains.
- After about 8 miles on NC-209, continue onto Max Patch Road and make a slight left about 4 miles later to stay on the latter road.
- 3 miles later, you’ll turn left onto State Road 1175.
- After a right turn, State Road 1175 will become State Route 1182.
- You’ll pass the Tennessee state line while driving on this road for about 5 miles.
- There’s a parking lot below the mountain bald. The trailhead parking lot has a decent amount of spaces. However, we recommend you try to arrive as early as possible to find a good spot!
Read More: 50+ Great Things to Do in Asheville (Downtown, Biltmore, and More!)
Driving from Hot Springs to Max Patch
- If you’re driving from Hot Springs to the north, you’ll take NC-209 S/Lance Ave to reach Max Patch.
- Stay on NC-209 S for 7 miles and turn right on Meadow Ford Road.
- Follow Meadow Fork Road for 5 miles and turn right onto State Road 1181/Littlecreek Rd.
- After 3-1/2 miles, turn right onto State Route 1182.
- The Match Patch Trail parking lot will appear in about 1-1/2 miles.
Read More: The Best North Carolina Road Trips (Scenic Byways and Highways)
Tips for Visiting Max Patch (When to Visit and Where to Park)
- Please keep an eye out for weather-related road closures, due to heavy rain, snow, or ice that can impact the area.
- Because the Max Patch Trail from the parking lot to the peak is not very long, it’s extremely popular, especially on weekends and during fall. If you can, we recommend visiting on weekdays and arriving as early as possible on weekends.
- The trailhead has quite a lot of parking spots, but it does get full quickly—yet another reason to arrive early! We visited on a Saturday and found a good spot, but when we finished the hike, people were finding space wherever they could.
- Before you visit, be aware of operating hours. Max Patch officially opens one hour before sunrise and closes one hour after sunset.
Read More: 25 Amazing Winter Hikes in North Carolina
Is Camping Allowed at Max Patch?
While you can still picnic here (while leaving no trace), Max Patch was a popular camping spot until recently.
In July 2021, Pisgah National Forest announced a two-year closure of the camping grounds due to environmental damage and overcrowding.
Additional measures include the following:
- Strict operating hours.
- Group sizes limited to 10 people.
- Leashes are required for dogs and all other pet animals.
- No horses or other saddle and pack animals allowed.
- No fireworks or fires are allowed.
Read More: Hiking Roan Mountain for Beautiful Appalachian Trail Views
Leave No Trace Reminder
When hiking the Max Patch Trail, we urge you to leave no trace.
The U.S. Forest Service, Carolina Mountain Club, and the Appalachian Trail Conservancy manage and maintain this trail through a joint effort. Please help this collection of public lands officials and volunteers by respecting the trail.
That means we should stay on the designated trail, avoid any social “user-created” trails, and respect any signage that urges you to hike or sit elsewhere.
The Max Patch Trail Hike (From Start to Finish)
The Max Patch Trail is a relatively easy 1.5-mile loop that takes you up to the peak of the mountain bald.
You can also make the journey longer. Just hike around the peak before going up to the top of the mountain.
Here’s a breakdown of the Max Patch hike:
- The trail starts at the parking lot and heads north.
- About half a mile into the hike, there will be a fork with the AT to the left and Max Patch to the right.
- Take the right path for the final trek up the mountain.
- At the top, you’ll be met with expansive open areas perfect for picnicking and epic views of nearby mountains that stretch into Tennessee! On the North Carolina side, you can see Mount Mitchell to the east and the Great Smoky Mountains to the southwest.
- From the top, you can follow the trail down the other side of the mountain to complete the loop.
Read More: 10 of the Best Black Mountains Hikes near Burnsville (Mount Mitchell, Crabtree Falls, and More!)
Max Patch Hike Safety Tips
Please stay safe while hiking the Max Patch Trail.
Here are some tips to help keep you and the environment that surrounds the trail as safe as possible:
- As always, we encourage you to stay on the trail and follow any signs you may see along the way. I’ve seen more signs urging visitors to stay on the trail at Max Patch than anywhere else in NC.
- Also, pay attention to signs that show which spots to stay away from. This is important as there are efforts to revive the plant life and grass around the mountain.
Read More: Interesting Facts about North Carolina
Will You See Bears at Max Patch?
- Max Patch Mountain is also a wildlife habitat, which means you may encounter animals such as snakes and bears.
- There have been multiple reports of bears wandering close to campers and visitors, and parts of the AT have occasionally been closed for camping as a result.
- Bear spray is largely agreed to be effective, but you need to know how to effectively use it.
- If you encounter a bear, making loud noises, clapping, and talking are great ways to encourage it to leave.
The National Parks Service has more tips for bear encounters here.
Ready to Hike Max Patch, too?
As long as we can all responsibly enjoy the Max Patch Trail, hiking here will remain one of the best things to do in North Carolina. We’re incredibly grateful for the hard work to preserve the trail and the expansive peak that awaits.
If you’re familiar with Max Patch Mountain and have visited before, we’d love to know what you think of it. You can share your thoughts in the comments or directly by email.
Also, please feel free to share your experiences in our North Carolina Travel Facebook Group.
Before you do that, here are some things to do near Max Patch, including Hot Springs and other spots within an hour’s drive.
Bonus Hike (Harmon Den)
Harmon Den Horse Camp is about 4-1/2 miles away from Max Patch and is popular for horseback riding and hiking. Unlike Max Patch, it is not open year-round and is typically open from May 1 through October 31.
Camp sites are available by reservation only and include horse stalls and mangers for up to 4 horses and 8 people.
Within the Harmon Den area, there are more than 50 miles of trails, with 14 designated for horses and 40 for hikers.
Appalachian Trail Hikes Nearby
- Sams Gap to Big Bald Mountain: If you’re an experienced hiker, you’ll want to know about the Appalachian Trail hike that leads to Big Bald Mountain. It is the tallest of the Bald Mountains and is 6.5 miles from the Sams Gap Parking Lot near Mars Hill (Exit 3 on I-26). Inexperienced hikers need not apply.
- Lovers Leap Loop Trail: Lovers Leap is a rock outcropping and a 2-mile loop trail that starts in Hot Springs. It isn’t too far from Max Patch, making it a good hike to before or after you explore our favorite mountain bald! The path up the mountain is fairly narrow at times, with some steep drop-offs, so keep this in mind before you start.
More Things to Do Near Max Patch
Asheville is about an hour south of Max Patch and is an excellent base for your visit. However, you may have more time to explore these nearby small towns before or after your visit.
Read More: The Best North Carolina Mountain Towns to Visit Now!
Hot Springs is a beautiful mountain town surrounded by Pisgah National Forest. It’s best known for its hot mineral springs with rich minerals and healing properties.
The center of the town is the 100-acre Resort and Spa, complete with hot tubs supplied by mineral water. Popular things to do in Hot Springs are whitewater rafting, zip-lining, and hiking the Lover’s Leap Trail.
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The Madison County seat is Marshall, another wonderful NC town nestled in our mountains. Downtown Marshall features unique studios and galleries, restaurants like Zuma Coffee, and adorable shops.
While in Marshall, take an afternoon fishing or relax along the French Broad River.
About an hour away from Max Patch, Maggie Valley would be a great place to spend a night or two. This wonderful town is close to Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the Blue Ridge Parkway.
You’ll find a fun, homey atmosphere, impressive waterfalls and hikes nearby, and fantastic dining options. One example is Joey’s Pancake House, where you should wake up as early as possible to beat the crowds!
Read More: 20+ Amazing Things to Do in Maggie Valley