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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RT Distance 5.8 Miles
Elevation Gain 1500 Feet
Activities Hiking
Skill Level Intermediate
Season Spring, Summer, Autumn
Trail Type Loop
Features
Scenic

Reviews

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Quick Easy Hike

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

Gorgeous hike

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!

Quick Hike, Great Views

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!


Please respect the places you find on The Outbound Collective.

Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph. Learn More

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