“An awesome section covering the famous Max Patch with creek crossings and the deep hardwoods of Pisgah National Forest.”
— Chris Davis
Birding · Fall Colors · River/Creek · Spring · Views · Wildlife · Commonly Backpacked
This out-and-back hike takes you from Lemon Gap deep in the woods to the peak of Max Patch and back, making for an awesome long day hike or a great introduction to backpacking.
Need to Know
Roaring Creek has bridge coverage; creek water is sporadic after you leave the river bottom, so make sure to carry enough for your journey. Lemon Gap is easier to find parking (typically no matter what day of the week it is, you'll have issues parking at Max Patch unless you are there very early in the morning).
From Lemon Gap, you'll pretty much give the quads a workout from the word go; don't be discouraged though, it levels out pretty quickly, and you'll find yourself immersed in more of the deep hardwood that are pretty much the standard in these parts. Along the way, you'll cross several feeder creeks of the Roaring Fork. These are great for filling up on water in spring, but by late summer they are dry, so make sure you take every opportunity to fill up if you are headed south as after Roaring Fork you won't hit much until nearer Harmon Den.
About 4 miles into this hike, you'll see an opening; this is your first glance at Max Patch. Prepare your quads and climb on up to one of the most amazing views. Pull a Julie Andrews if you must on the peak—as popular as this is with locals, you'll likely have an audience.
If you are making this a day trip, it makes no difference which way you go, though I prefer to start at Lemon Gap as you won't be as tired at the end of the day hiking back up out of the woods. If you are going to backpack it, starting at Max Patch makes the most sense as there are good camping sites close to Lemon Gap including the shelter about 2 miles from the trailhead. Either way, this is one of the South's most scenic sections of the AT, and it is well worth your journey from wherever you are coming from.
Flora & Fauna
Pink Lady Slipper, Ferns, Rhododendron, Hardwoods galore, pileated woodpecker, squirrel, deer, and the ever-present mice!
History & Background
Max Patch was cleared for grazing in the 1800's and is now maintained by the USFS by prescribed burns as, if left to nature, this beautiful jewel would return to the forest in less than two generations. It also served for a time as a landing strip post for joyriders and eventually hosted some airshows in the 50's.