View – Max Patch is a highland bald with a 360 degree view of western NC, the Great Smoky Mountains, and eastern Tennessee. There are two other view spots on the meadow on Buckeye Ridge that afford a great view of Max Patch from the base of the knob.
Hike Profile – the hike is a loop that tracks along a number of trails but primarily follows the Appalachian Trail and the Buckeye Ridge Trail. The initial part of the hike is a short easy climb to the summit of Max Patch followed by a gentle descent to a field and meadow hike that returns to the summit of Max Patch via the AT which entails a moderate climb. The meadow part of the hike on the Buckeye Ridge Trail can be tailored to either a long or a short loop.
Trail Surface – the trail is dirt with few if any obstructions.
Environment – through controlled burns and mowing the Forest Service has maintained the bald as a grass covered meadow. The trail around the bald goes through meadow and open woodlands.
Navigation – the trail from the trailhead at the parking lot makes a loop around the base of the bald and then joins the AT near the summit of Max Patch. Turn right and walk a short way to see the view from the summit and then go back on the AT and continue on that trail while it descends from Max Patch summit into a wooded area. The AT will exit the wooded area at a low point on the hike near the edge of a meadow that has a great view of Max Patch.
A short distance from this view spot, the trail will come to a T intersection. Continue on the AT by taking a left. The Buckeye Ridge trail will branch off to the right a short distance from the T intersection. At this point you have a choice. You can turn right on the Buckeye Ridge trail back towards Max Patch for a shorter loop or turn left and follow the Buckeye Ridge trail to the high point on Buckeye Ridge where the meadow ends at a wooded area. The trail will swing to the right and then around to the left, forming a loop which will eventually intersect the AT. Follow the AT a short distance until you reach the point of the Buckeye Ridge trail where you started. Continue the hike on the Buckeye Ridge trail along the grassy ridge back towards Max Patch. As you approach the end of the grassy ridge, look for a trail that turns sharply to the right. Take this trail until you see the AT branch off to the right. The AT climbs back to the top of Max Patch at this point completing the loop.
Directions to Trailhead – take the Harmon Den exit (Exit 7) off I-40 west before reaching the NC/TN state line. Turn right onto Cold Springs Creek Road. This road becomes FR 148. Proceed on FR 148 for 6.7 mi. before turning left on SR 1182 (Max Patch Road), which reaches the Max Patch parking area on the right after 2 miles.