Max Patch is an adventure. The picturesque mountain bald overs some of the best long range views in all of Western North Carolina. Max Patch straddles the North Carolina and Tennessee border, offering views that range from Mount Mitchel, Mount Pisgah and the Eastern Tennessee Valley. The “bald” mountain is a popular location due to the short hike and easy access to the views. The trip was highly recommended to us from multiple hiking families, and we waited through the winter to find a good day to visit.
Max Patch is an adventure!
As with most long range viewing locations, Max Patch is much higher elevation than Asheville. The higher elevation causes the temperature to drop and the wind pick up. We wanted to maximize the viewing distance while trying to avoid the worst of winter weather. Eventually a warmer day came along after a high pressure front and we decided to make the trip. The first thing you realize when driving out to Max Patch is the trip getting there is part of the adventure. Make sure you write down directions with mileage between turns as there are many valleys where cell reception and GPS drop. As you get further towards the mountain, the roads turn to gravel and all cell coverage drops. The last gas station or restaurant are in Hot Springs, about 20 to 30 minutes away down the mountain. As we drove out to Max Patch from Asheville, we enjoyed the sites along the way. Each turn takes you farther and farther from the highways and the city, letting you appreciate the change of pace. Rivers, creeks and farms line the road and the people passing by give you a wave.
We started worrying that we missed our turn as we crept along the gravel roads when we finally saw a small handmade sign pointing to Max Patch approximately two milesfrom the parking lot. The gravel road gets rough in places, but we made it up in a 2WD suv and found plenty of cars in the parking lot. We visited at lunchtime on a weekday for the warmer weather and the parking lot was nearly full. I imagine the parking extends down the road during pretty times of the year.
At the edge of the parking lot is a signboard with trail information and mileage. We decided to do the summit loop that edges around the mountain. We thought the loop would provide views from each side and we could enjoy the longer walk. The trail was extremely muddy and slick from the previous day’s light rain and I was sliding a bit carrying the baby carrier.
We took our time keeping our balance and letting the dog sniff everything. The trail was pretty and offered glimpses of the far ranges between the trees. We were anxious to see the best views while the weather was nice, and when we found a trail that headed back up to the summit on the south side of the peak, we changed plans and headed up. The change in trail helped with the slick mud, but those stairs kicked my butt carrying the carrier. Three days of running and hiking had tired me out, so I appreciated the stops to enjoy the view.
Max Patch is beautiful.
Once at the top, the views are spectacular. The clearing covers multiple acres with small ridges separating the space. All of the hikers spread out over the bald and enjoyed peaceful spots. Sitting down we enjoyed a small lunch picnic. The wind quickly picked up and we gathered our layers. The bald was much colder without the tree cover and the winds forced us to all put our heavy jackets back on. We played on the first patch until another couple came along and we decided to let them have some space for a picnic.
Packing up we decided to improvise, following the trail farther up the hill where we spotted a few more groups exploring the area. This second hill seemed to be the highest point on Max Patch, and every direction was a gorgeous long range view. On the clear day, you can see multiple ridgelines in each direction. It is hard to capture the moment with a camera, but we gave it our best shot. The views out here are worth coming to see for each season. We plan on making multiple trips to watch the landscape change with flowers and leaves growing in.
As we continued heading north across the summit, the trail headed downhill to connect to another trail that we assumed was the summit loop trail. We decided to explore this route and it seemed to head back to the parking lot and offered a wind break among the trees. The trail was wider and more gravel than mud on the north side, and we followed the trail arriving back at our car in about twenty minutes. Overall we covered around two miles with a good amount of elevation change. Most of the trip was in the open with jaw dropping views in all directions. We highly recommend the trip for families. If you want to go out and enjoy pretty views without a hike, the original climb from the parking lot to the top is only a half mile. While the trail is steep, it is open and in grass. We saw many families with small children walking up to the top for picnics.
A few things to remember for the trip-
Plan ahead for a half day or more of adventuring.
Make sure you have written instructions in your car and a full tank of gas before heading out.
Always bring an extra layer or two, the wind coming across the summit adds a chill even on warm days.
Charge the camera!