This grassy bald in the Pisgah National Forest may be the ultimate hiking destination for dogs!Merlin at Max Patch

Roughly one hour and 15 minutes from Gatlinburg, Max Patch makes a great doggie day trip and is definitely worth the drive!

Why so great you ask? How about 350-acre fields on a high knob with 360-degree views! You can see the Smoky Mountains to the South and Mt. Mitchell to the east!

Hikes

This huge bald has lots of space to run and several great places to hike! One of America’s most famous hiking trails crosses this bald: The Appalachian Trail (the AT). This 2,179 mile trail stretches all the way from Georgia to Maine and is the nation’s longest marked footpath! If you don’t feel like going all the way to Maine, try hiking to Lemon Gap, 4 miles (one-way) from Max Patch on the AT. For a more casual stroll, try hiking the 1.4-mile short loop crossing the summit. For outstanding views from all sides, hike the 2.4 mile loop that encircles the mountain. I guarantee that your dog will love all of these hikes! Last time I was there, I even saw people pushing a doggy stroller so that they could bring their elderly dog to her favorite place!

History

These open grassy fields are not a natural occurrence. In the 1800s this mountain was cleared and used as pasture for sheep and cattle. In the 1920s it was even used as a landing strip! Today it is managed by the National Forest Service and kept open by harvesting hay (see Wesley on a giant hay bale above!).Max Patch in September

Going to Max Patch

One of the reasons Max Patch stays such a special place for dogs and their owners is that it is not easy to get to, so only the true dog and nature lovers visit! After getting off the highway, the only access is via nearly 8 miles of unpaved Forest Service roads.

I haven’t tried yet, but I would imagine that access is pretty tricky in the winter. Although if you can get there, I bet it would amazing: beautiful, private, and a great place to snowshoe or cross-country ski!

If you decide to go, be sure to pack a picnic, because there are no restaurants nearby! Don’t forget water for your dog!
Also, expect it to be windy and probably a little cooler than lower elevations.

Directions:

estimated time: 1 hr, 15 minutes

From Gatlinburg, take Rt 321 East headed toward Cosby. Stay on 321 until you reach I-40 East. From I-40, take exit 7 (Harmon’s Den) onto Cold Springs Road. Continue on this road for 6.2 miles to Max Patch Road (SR-1182) where you turn left. Drive 1.5 miles to the Max Patch parking area.

Resources

Although this popular destination is located in the Pisgah National Forest, the North Carolina National Forest website does not have much to say about Max Patch.

Local Hikes.com offers more detailed hiking information and reviews from visitors.

Romantic Asheville.com has some BEAUTIFUL pictures of Max Patch!

Check out this book: Best Hikes with Dogs in North Carolina.

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