• Activities:

    Hiking

  • Skill Level:

    Intermediate

  • Season:

    Spring, Summer, Autumn

  • Trail Type:

    Loop

  • RT Distance:

    5.8 Miles

  • Elevation Gain:

    1500 Feet

Scenic

A moderate hike that leads to spectacular views of large, open meadows at the summit.

The large open meadow at the summit of Cole Mountain is a unique and breathtaking experience that is worth the 5.8 mile hike. Cole Mountain is frequently referred to as Cold Mountain, but the official name listed by the United States Geological Survey is the former. This hike is in the George Washington National Forest and starts a few miles north of Route 60 in Central Virginia.

The parking area is near the end of the trail (there are signs marking the Appalachian Trail), but you should begin the hike about 0.2 miles north, on the blue-blazed Hotel Trail. The Hotel Trail will take you past a campsite (after 1.3 miles) and a shelter with a nearby campsite and stream (after 3 miles). The trail is easy to navigate, as long as you follow the signs and look for the blue blazes. When you reach the trail junction about a half mile after the passing the shelter, be sure to turn left towards the Appalachian Trail. Shortly thereafter, turn right upon reaching the intersection with the Appalachian Trail.

Follow the white blazes for the next mile, passing two viewpoints of the surrounding mountains. When the trees open up, you will be greeted with large open meadows on the saddle and the summit of Cole Mountain. This is a great area for a picnic; a favorite spot for hikers to stop and enjoy the view is a standalone tree near the end of the meadow. Continue along the bald summit until you reenter the trees, then follow the Appalachian Trail for 0.6 miles down to the parking area.

If you’re looking to extend your hike, you can combine this with the nearby Mount Pleasant hike, which provides equally stunning mountain views with comparable distance and level of difficulty. Also worth noting, the final 2 miles of the drive to the parking area is on a rocky, unmaintained road. Use caution and consider taking a high clearance vehicle if possible.

Pack List

  • Water
  • Snack
  • Comfortable shoes
  • Camera
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Reviews

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If you just do the trail straight up it only takes about 20 minutes to get to the open meadow. Perfect for sunrises, sunset and camping

4 months ago
4 months ago

The first and last portion of the hike are very plush, green and nicely shaded in the summer. When you reach the field at the top it's with golden hues and beautiful close to 360 views. I would definitely recommend checking this out!

6 months ago
6 months ago

This is a great spot to watch the sunset and is a really easy hike. You can quickly hike out to the summit or do the longer loop. If you do the longer loop you can find some campsites as well. Also you'll find apple trees above the bald!

9 months ago
9 months ago

If you're looking for a quick sunset hike then definitely cross the road and head uphill on the A.T. You'll be there in no time and it's a great place to watch the sunset. Easy enough for kids too.

over 1 year ago
over 1 year ago

Really great if you're looking for a slightly longer (loop) or shorter (out and back) hike. The Cole mountain bald provides an excellent panoramic view of the neighbouring mountain range with little obstruction

over 1 year ago
over 1 year ago

This hike is great for a sunrise or sunset and feels similar to hiking the grassy balds of North Carolina. For a shorter route, you could simply park at the AT trailhead and hike south on the AT. You will enter the meadow at about 1 mile and hike along the meadows for 0.5 miles, making for an out and back hike of 3 miles. Also, Sarah's warning about the road shouldn't be ignored...the gravel road to the parking lot is pretty rough, but just drive slow to avoid scraping the bottom of your car.

over 1 year ago
over 1 year ago

Sarah Giek Explorer

Teacher by day. Explorer by weekend.

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