The Appalachian National Scenic Trail (AT) is a 2,174-mile footpath along the ridgecrests and across the major valleys of the Appalachian Mountains. The trail traverses Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, West Virginia, Virginia, Tennessee, North Carolina & Georgia. The Appalachian Trail is used by day, weekend and other short-term hikers, section-hikers and thru-hikers.
MAX PATCH HIKE
Hike a section of the famous AT on top of Max Patch Mountain near Hot Springs. This 4,600 ft. mountain was cleared and used as pasture in the 1800s. Today, it's a 350-acre tract of open land on a high knob with 360-degree views. On a clear day, you can see from Mt. Mitchell on the east to the Great Smoky Mountains on the south. What a picnic spot! And great for star gazing and enjoying wildflowers. The summit is a short walk from the parking lot. Max Patch is part of the Pisgah National Forest.
Two easy loop trails lead you to, and around, the summit. The 1.4-mile short loop crosses the summit. The 2.4-mile loop circles the mountain for outstanding views from all the sides. From the parking lot, follow the marked trail to the left. You will ascend through a forest and then reach the top for amazing views. The rest of the hike is on the grassy bald. You can also hike north or south on the Appalachian Trail for as far as you want.
**Please use caution and stay on your chosen trail**
**Hiking boots or a good pair of walking/running shoes are a must**
**Remember to take along plenty of water, snacks, warm clothing, ponchos, & hats appropriate to the season**
**In winter, be prepared for sudden changes in temperature and weather conditions**
**Summertime thunder storms develop quickly in the afternoons**
Not only does the Appalachian Trail run right through town, there are a number of hikes you can do right from downtown. Lover’s Leap Trail is the most popular with the walk along the French Broad River and then the turn up the mountains edge with switchbacks taking you to great views of the river and valley below. start from the center of downtown for this fun 1.6-mile loop hike to Lover's Leap. It only takes 45 minutes to 1.5 hours depending on how much time you take to enjoy the views and scenery.
RICH MOUNTAIN HIKE
Near Hot Springs is fire lookout tower on Rich Mountain (3,643 ft.), located in Madison County, in the Pisgah National Forest. From the top of the tower, enjoy stunning panoramic mountain views.
The lookout tower was erected by the U.S. Forest Service in 1932. The tower is 30 feet high and capped by a 14-by-14-ft. live-in cab. The tower was actively staffed until the 1990s, however, it ceased to be a live-in lookout in the 1970s.
You can access the tower by car or by hiking the Appalachian Trail.
TO ACCESS THE TRAIL BY FOOT OR CAR:
Take US 25/70 east for 2.8 miles from Hot Springs.
Look for the Appalachian bridge that crosses the highway at Tanyard Gap. Just past the bridge, turn left on a paved side road. Immediately, you have a choice to turn right or left.
Hike to Rich Mountain:
Turn left for a small parking area just before road turns left over the highway. Take the Appalachian Trail north for 2.4 miles to Rich Mountain (don't cross the bridge over the highway - hike the opposite directions - look for white blazes). White blazes n the pavement lead you a few feet to the trailhead. The AT enters the forest at a small sign just beyond on the right. From Tanyard Gap, Hot Springs is a 5.9-mile hike downhill and Allen Gap is 8.8 miles (6.4 miles past Rich Mountain). You can also hike from the town of Hot Springs - it's 5.9 miles to Tanyard Gap with a 2,200+ foot in elevation gain. This is a strenuous hike!
Drive All the Way:
To drive to the top of Rich Mountain, turn right on and drive 6 miles up a gravel road (usually in good shape). There is very little traffic on this curvy, mountain road. Go slow! (After traveling 5 miles on this road, you will reach the Tennessee state line at Hurricane Gap. Turn left here to drive the last mile to Rich Mountain.)