4,600+ Bald Mountain
Max Patch s a 4,629-foot tall bald mountain with an incredible 360-degree mountain vista just 20 miles from Hot Springs. The Appalachian Trail crosses right over the summit running north and south. On a clear day, you can see from Mt. Mitchell on the east to the Great Smoky Mountains on the south.
Once Home to Cows and Bi-Planes
The bald was created in the 1800’s when it was cleared for grazing of sheet and cattle. In the 1930’s, it was used as an air strip and was said to be the highest air strip in the East. Local folk talk about how Max Patch was often used as a place for air shows with bi-planes and how thousands of people would gather there to take in the spectacle. The bald was privately owned until 1982 when the U.S. Forest Service bought 350 acres to preempt a plan to turn it into a ski resort.
Hiking on Max Patch
The vast majority of the people who visit Max Patch hike the 2.6 mile loop trail that begins and ends at the Max Patch parking area. From the parking area you have a choice of going left or right (the trail straight ahead is a direct route to the summit). Heading left the trail follows an old logging road along the wooded west slope of Max Patch. As the trail makes its way around to the north side of the peak it breaks out into the open and soon joins the Appalachian Trail. From here follow the wood posts marked with white paint up the summit lawn. From the summit the trail heads off the east side of the summit and back into some high shrubs. The trail makes its way back around to the south side of the peak and the parking area.
It’s Cooler Up Top – Think About a Jacket
In just about any season, Max Patch is 10-15 degrees cooler than Hot Springs or Asheville so plan accordingly. In the spring, expect to see an abundance of wild flowers and in summer, there are large blueberry bushes as well as blackberries.
A word of caution – If the weather turns and you see a front coming in or any sign of lightening get off the bald quickly. Remember the 20/20 Lightning Rule: If the time between the lightning flash and the thunder is 20 seconds or less, then the lightning bolt was less than 5 miles from your location. It is time to seek shelter IMMEDIATELY!
Directions from Hot Springs to Max Patch
From downtown Hot Springs, go South on Bridge Street until it turns into Highway 209. Follow Highway 209 (7.3 miles) to Meadow Fork Road (State Road 1175) turning right at an old abandoned stone store. Go 5.3 miles and turn right on State Road 1181. Follow 1181 for 2 miles (turns into gravel). At the top of the mountain, turn right onto State Road 1182 and Max Patch parking is 3 miles.