Appalachian Trail: Davenport Gap to Hot Springs

Great Smoky Mountains National Park

The trek to Max Patch Mountain, a bald, grassy summit with 360° views of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Also in Tennessee, United States of America

Hiking Moderate

Distance
54 km
Ascent
2.8 km
Descent
2.9 km
Duration
1 day +
Low Point
398 m
High Point
1.4 km
Gradient
10˚
Appalachian Trail: Davenport Gap to Hot Springs Map

This portion of the Appalachian Trail is known for its summit of Max Patch Mountain, a key landmark that every thru-hiker places atop their list.

Description

According to an article in "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."

Now located deep within Pisgah National Forest, this 4,600-foot bald, grassy summit is a popular destination offering panoramic views in every direction. While you must camp at least 200' from the AT, this clearing offers countless opportunities to spend the night under the stars.

For those planning a multi-day trip, various trail reports list countless camping opportunities along both approaches. Fresh springs are also prevalent, but should always be filtered.

From the south, the AT ascends quickly from the Pigeon River before skirting around Harmon Den Mountain, the last landmark before Max Patch Mountain. The summit is nearly 14 miles from Davenport Gap (sometimes denoted by the adjacent Interstate 40 crossing). A slightly longer approach, roughly 20 miles, can also be made from Hot Springs, NC, making it a perfect shuttling opportunity.

Max Patch is extremely popular in the spring and summer months as it is typically 10 degrees cooler atop the peak. The changing colors of the fall and its beauty after a fresh snow also make it a year-round destination.

For those looking for a shorter hike, an unpaved access road leads to a parking area adjacent to the summit. If attempting this drive during the winter, it is recommended to have a high-clearance, 4-wheel-drive vehicle. The road can become treacherous and you will be a long way from help should you need it.

Sources: https://www.theoutbound.com/north-carolina/backpacking/hike-from-max-patch-to-hot-springs-n-c https://www.romanticasheville.com/max-patch https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MaxPatch

Difficulty

Moderate

Hiking along trails with some uneven terrain and small hills. Small rocks and roots may be present.

Medium Exposure

2 out of 4

The trail contains some obstacles such as outcroppings and rock which could cause injury.

Remoteness

2 out of 4

Away from help but easily accessed.

Best time to visit

January, February, March, April, May, June, July, August, September, October, November, December

Features

  • Wildlife
  • Historical
  • Picturesque
  • Summit Hike
  • Dog friendly
  • Wild flowers
  • Water features
  • Family friendly
  • Forestry or heavy vegetation

Similar routes nearby

Guidebooks in this area