FATMAP by Strava

Lake Junaluska -> Max Patch Epic Gravel Grind

An epic ride from Waynesville to Max Patch with plenty of gravel roads, epic views, and camping opportunities.

Gravel Biking Difficult

117 km
2.8 km
2.8 km
1 day +
Low Point
566 m
High Point
1.3 km
Lake Junaluska -> Max Patch Epic Gravel Grind Map

To Appalachian Trail thru-hikers, the views from Max Patch are some of the best you will find anywhere on the 2,200-mile trail. Starting at Lake Junaluska near Waynesville, this ride explores a mixture of paved and gravel roads and is perfect as a day trip or overnight bikepacking trip. Thanks to low light pollution, the bald summit is one of the best places to stargaze anywhere in the Appalachians.


According to this article by The Mountaineer, "this amazing area was cleared and used historically as a pasture for cattle and sheep back in the 1800's. In the 1920's, there was even a landing strip for airplanes offering thrill rides."

For a shorter, still challenging ride to Max Patch, head up Interstate 40 to the Harmon Den exit and park along Cold Springs Creek Road. View the route here.

As mapped, this ride starts at a shopping center along the eastern side of Lake Junaluska. There are several other options to park around the lake, or you could look for somewhere at the junction of US-276 and I-40. There are a couple of gas stations and gravel pull-offs along the road that some locals prefer to start at.

The loop portion of this ride is most often ridden counter-clockwise. For simplicity, some riders opt for a simple out-and-back to Max Patch, keeping to the east side of I-40 instead of crossing it and looping back through Cataloochee. A quick look at the map will reveal plenty of other roads if you wanted to tweak this mapped route.

Other than the first leg of the ride, parts of this loop are extremely remote. There are no facilities, gas stations, restaurants, or anything for that matter once you leave town. You will find water along many of the roads, but be sure to filter or treat it first. Also, try to refill at the higher elevations rather than in the valleys, where upstream pollution is less likely.

Cell reception is also extremely unlikely, so be sure you have this route downloaded to your phone or GPS device beforehand. It would also be wise to carry a printed map of the area just in case.

Sources: https://www.themountaineer.com/life/outdoor/the-story-behind-max-patch/article6ea2542a-3fc5-11e7-88ed-7f93d85e9b51.html




4 out of 4

In the high mountains or remote conditions, all individuals must be completely autonomous in every situation.

Best time to visit

between March and November

Guidebooks in this area