Now is as good a time as ever to have a date in the highlands of Appalachia. There’s no shortage of hiking near Asheville, but for those looking to soak in 360-degree views, a visit to a mountain bald is a must.
If you haven’t heard of a bald, it’s a naturally occurring goldmine for gorgeous views. On balds, mountaintops flourish in native grasses instead of trees. This means balds often have sweeping panoramic views unlike any other place in the Appalachian mountains. These magical spots aren’t very common but, there are a handful within reach of Asheville that are more than worth a visit.
As far as balds go, it doesn’t get much nicer than Max Patch. Located on the border of NC and TN, this bald is dreamy with tall, flowing grass and blooming wildflowers. If you’re looking for a picnic spot or a place to pitch a tent for the night, Max Patch is about as good as it gets.
During the day, layers of green and blue ridgelines surround this grassy meadow in every direction. At around 4,600 ft in elevation, the air is cool and breezy. It’s the perfect place to spread a blanket and soak up the views with a picnic. The top of the bald is just up the hill from the parking lot below, which means it isn’t difficult to carry up a small cooler full of local goodies!
The magic of Max Patch really comes to life as the sun sinks into the horizon. The ridgelines shift to shades of pink and purple, and the wildflowers glow as they catch the light. The photo opportunities are to die for so don’t forget a camera!
If you decide to spend the night, you’ll be treated to one of the most spectacular stargazing locations on the east coast. Because the bald is high above the light pollution of towns and streetlights, it is one of the best places to stargaze. In the right conditions, you can watch the Milky Way roll across the sky over your tent. It is a real treat that is only interrupted by the cotton candy colors of the sunrise in the East.
If you’re feeling the need to stretch your legs with a hike, the Roan Highlands has the most balds than any other area in the Appalachian Mountains. The Roan Highlands have miles of mountain top hiking trails across three separate peaks; Round Bald, Jane Bald, and Grassy Ridge Bald. Parking at Carvers Gap, a hike eastward along the Appalachian Trail is a barrage of panoramic viewpoints.
One of the most special aspects of the Roan Highlands are the blooming gardens of wildflowers. Wild blueberry bushes are scattered across the bald, and in June the area lights up in pink as the rhododendron flowers bloom. It’s a wonderful combination of colorful foliage and long-range views into both North Carolina and Tennessee.
These Highlands are just that, high. At over 6,000 ft in elevation, it’s easy to be caught off guard by the different climate up here. If you’re hoping to escape the heat below, it can be a perfect getaway to some cool mountain air.
Sometimes it’s nice to have some four-legged company. At Bearwallow Mountain, you share the bald with herds of cattle who call this mountain-top pasture home. This place really has it all- panoramic scenery, sunset views to the west, and a wonderful short hike to the bald from the parking area. Unlike the other two balds mentioned, Bearwallow shares a summit with some man-made structures. There are communication towers and historic remains of an old fire lookout tower.
In close proximity to Asheville, Bearwallow mountain is a great option to get panoramic scenery. Watching families of grazing cattle is simply the cherry on top of this unique destination. Just be sure to watch your step here as the cows produce ample amounts of fresh fertilizer around the meadow.
However you decide to spend your dates, share it with us by tagging us @Ashevilledatenight and #AVLdatenight
Written By Cole Cutter. Cole is a local outdoor enthusiast, photographer and drone expert. Find more about him on his website.