Max Patch Guide

Located on the Appalachian trail outside of Asheville, NC, Max Patch is one place that once you have visited, you will never forget. We find ourselves always drawn back to this grassy mountain bald surround by old-growth forest. This is one of the best day hikes around Asheville, bring a picnic, and stay for sunset and the 360-degree vistas. Using the connector trail, this is a short hike to the top and the Appalachian Trail and is a great place to view fall foliage.

Look to the east and find Mount Mitchell in the distance. To the west, you will see the Great Smoky Mountain, National Park.

How long is the hike to the top of Max Patch?

It is under 1 mile to the summit, if you hike the full loop, it is 1.5 files round trip. Even at a slow pace, you can make the summit in 20 minutes. Being a loop trail, you can go left or right from the parking lot. The hike to the left is shorter and in the shade. The path to the right is exposed and a bit longer. If you want a short day hike with views, this would be our choice!

Is this the Appalachian trail?

The loop trail is a connector to the Appalachian Trail, and you will actually be on the AT once you are on top.

Another view from Max Patch

Is there a longer trail to Max Patch?

Yes, the Lemon Gap to Max Patch is a great out and back remote hike. Lemon Gap is an Appalachian Trail access, so you will be hiking the AT to Max Patch. Start here and hike the Appalachian Trail to Max Patch . We really suggest you pick up a map for this hike.

Can you drive up to Max Patch?

No, you cannot drive to the summit. You can drive to the trailhead parking lot and hike the short trail to the summit.

Are there bathrooms at Max Patch?

No, this is a remote trail, there are public bathrooms on the way in if you enter through Harmon’s den. If you are camping or visiting Max Patch, this will be the closet bathroom about 5 miles from the trailhead. Directions

Bull Elk in frost covered field

Will there be bears?

Unlikely, however, you are in a national forest, so it is their home. You are way more likely to run into a bear in downtown Asheville.

Are there elk?

Yes, you can see them on the wildlife food plots around dusk in Harmon’s Den. However, I would advise you to head to Cataloochee Valley in Great Smoky Mountain National Park if you want to see elk.

 

Can I camp at Max Patch?

Yes, camping is allowed at Max Patch on the Appalachian Trail. There are also campgrounds on the way, which have facilities. Check out Harmon’s Den Campgrounds, which has a few different camping spots, including a Horse Camp. Or Round Mountain Campground, which is very close and in the Cherokee National Forest.

Camera on a tripod setup at Max Patch

Is Max Patch a good area for Photography?

Yes, sunrise and sunset are a landscape photographers dream. Wildlife photographers will not be disappointed either, there is some excellent bird habitat.

Is this an excellent birding area?

Max Patch is considered an important Bird Area by the Audubon society. It provides habitat to Golden-winged Warblers, Ruffed Grouse, Least Flycatcher, and Chestnut-sided Warbler.

Do I need a map?

If you are just doing the summit and back, you don’t need a trail map. If you want to explore or hike a section of the AT, I would pick up a map.

Wedding photo from Max Patch Summit

Is Max Patch the right place for a wedding or elopement?

Yes, the views will be hard to bet, and the price is right, it is free for under 75 people. The forest service requests that you do not use the Appalachian Trail in this area, but Max Patch is enormous and some of the best views are off the AT.

There are a couple of rules:
No birdseed
No rosepetal
No rice
Pack out what you pack in

After your wedding or elopement, it should not look like there was a wedding. Practice leave no trace.

What is the elevation at Max Patch summit?

4629 feet

Can I bring my dog?

Yes, dogs are allowed on Max Patch, and this makes an excellent hike for dogs.

Is Max Patch a right place for stargazing?

Max Patch is excellent for stargazing, there is some distance light pollution as you are on top of a mountain and can see for miles around, but it is better than most places around Asheville for stargazing outside of areas along the Blue Ridge Parkway. If you are into astronomy, it is worth a stop at PARI, a former NASA/NSA facility called the Rosman Research Station.

Is Max Patch open?

Yes, there is no fee, and Max Patch is open year-round. Various roads are leading to the trailhead, all have at least some portion as a dirt road. Always check conditions in the winter.

Is there fishing spots at Max Patch?

Yes, .25 miles from the trailhead parking is a stocked stream feed pond. The pond is in the national forest and has a little dock. This is the headwaters to the Roaring Fork River, which is also hatchery supported. Make sure you have an NC fishing license and a trout stamp. You can buy one online here. You can find stocking dates here.