Hike Cole Mountain
Virginia › Cole Mountain Parking Area
Added by Sarah Giek
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.
- Comfortable shoes
Please respect the places you find on The Outbound.
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
Spring, Summer, Autumn
Are we missing something?Suggest an edit
ReviewsLeave a Review
Amazing Panoramic Views
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
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.
More Adventures Nearby
Hike to Historical Rapidan Camp in Shenandoah National Park
Virginia / Milam Gap Parking
For this hike park at the Milam Gap parking lot located at mile 52.8 on Skyline Drive. Once parked you will cross Skyline Drive to reach the trail.
Snowshoe the Blue Ridge Parkway
Virginia / Blue Ridge Parkway at Blue Ridge Virginia
We don't get a ton of snow here in Virginia, but when we do, the Blue Ridge Parkway can be a great place to get out and enjoy a day of snowshoeing or cross country skiing.