Can't make it to Scotland or Switzerland anytime soon to hike those spectacular high mountain meadows? Well right here in the Old Dominion we have the next best thing! Every hiker in the mid-Atlantic should hike Cold Mountain at least once. The 360° meadow views from the saddle are are some of the best on the east coast.
Cold Mountain is the sister circuit to the Mount Pleasant hike on the next ridge. If you are looking for a slightly longer hike, or a backpack, consider combining this hike with the Mount Pleasant route for a combined 11.3 mile figure eight circuit.
From the parking area continue down FS48 for 0.2 miles. Just before the road splits the Hotel Trail will be on the right marked by two posts with blue blazes. Head up the blue blazed trail for 0.1 miles arriving at a wooden horse gate (the trail on the left leads down to the Mount Pleasant parking area). Stay straight on the Hotel Trail passing through the horse gate. Descend slightly, then in 0.6 miles head back uphill climbing a spur of Cold Mountain.
On the southwest side of the campsite, or on its right corner as you approached, the blue blazed trail descends the spur. Continue to follow the blue blazed trail, cross a small stream, then arrive at the crest of a second spur in 1.5 miles (there is an overgrown abandoned trail on the left here).
Continue downhill on the blue blazed trail into Cowcamp Gap, cross Little Cove Creek, then in 200 yards Cowcamp Gap Shelter is on your right. 100 yards to the right/southeast of the shelter in is a large campsite suitable for 4-6 tents, and 75 yards to the left/northwest of the shelter is a spring and the source of Little Cove Creek.
Continue up the blue blazed trail, on the opposite side of the creek than the shelter, and in 75 yards turn left on the Hotel Trail at the sign towards the Appalachian Trail (AT). (turning right and crossing Little Cove Creek at this point leads back to the spring and shelter. note: this side trail is also blue blazed)
Continue up the Hotel Trail for 0.5 miles to the intersection of the AT. Turn right/north on the white blazed AT and make two switchbacks, pass two view points, then arrive at the first open meadow and 4033ft summit of Cold Mountain in 1.2 miles. Continue, passing through a small stand of trees before reaching the the main Cold Mountain saddle, and largest of the high mountain meadows. The saddle provides a 360° panoramas with views of Pompey Mountain and Mount Pleasant.
After re-entering the forest at the end of the meadow, follow the white blazed AT as it winds its way downhill for the remaining 0.6 miles back to FS48 and hike parking area on the right.
Interactive Hike Map BelowPrintable
Topo Hike Map (PDF)
Hike route in Drag the map with your mouse using the icon Zoom with the controls on the left Mouse-over the icons in the map below for location shots
Calculate roughly how many calories you could burn on the Cold Mountain hike:
Reviews For The Cold Mountain Hike (5 Most Recent)
Some of the best views in Virginia! This is a great short hike or trail run and can even be shortened to a 1.2 miles out and back by heading out on the AT instead of the blue blaze and turning around at the meadows. If trail running, you can combine this with the start of the Mt Pleasant hike for a few extra flat miles. The road up is a bit rough at times but can be easily made with a 2 wheel drive low clearance car. The trail was overgrown in areas, so I would recommend long pants or expect some irritation from the grass/plants. It would make one of the best picnic spots too. Enjoy! Highly recommended if you're in the area
Date of Hike: Saturday, April 16, 2016
Love this hike, this area is beautiful! My friend and I hiked this in mid April, it was a bit chilly in the mornings and nights but was gorgeous weather during the day. Some of the uphills can get a little strenuous if you have a lot of gear, but all in all this is a beautiful hike. The open meadows and views you get from the saddle are worth the effort! There were a lot of day hikers that skipped the loop and just walked in to the meadows, but the overall experience of camping in the first clearing was well worth the effort. Not a lot of water to be found so bring lots/a filter for the stream you will pass before the shelter.
Date of Hike: Friday, April 08, 2016
This hike was OUTSTANDING!! We've completed over 50 hikes in our local area and this is easily one of our top 5. It had everything....tall pine forests, stream crossings, rock outcroppings, open meadows, 360 degree views, and for all of our fellow lady hikers, an outhouse at the shelter location (guys will never understand how happy it makes a girl feel to find an outhouse in the middle of the woods). I think it should be noted that for people who'd like to see the spectacular summit but don't quite feel up to the challenge of a 6 mile loop (my gps read 6.3 miles total), there's always the option of starting the trail from the trailhead right across the road from where you park (next to the metal gate) and hiking approximately half a mile up the trail to the summit and back to your car for an easy ~1 mile out and back with a HUGE reward. Happy trails :)
Date of Hike: Wednesday, March 30, 2016
My wife and I did this hike as a mid week overnight get away during her Spring Break from teaching. We started out in the late afternoon and camped in the meadow with the noted great camping spots. This was indeed the case. Another group of three (man and his two sons) also camped in the meadow and used one of the other areas. We woke up to fog, wind and drizzle which stayed with us all of the way back out to our car. We are going to return and repeat the hike in order to see the large meadow and the views from the overlooks. The fog was thick enough that we could only see about 25-50 yards all of the way out. This is a very enjoyable hike which we plan to visit again.
Date of Hike: Saturday, September 05, 2015
We did this hike as a combination with Mount Pleasant. Parked at the AT parking lot, then walked down the road to the Mount Pleasant trailhead and the Cold Mountain start is just off of the parking lot. It's a nice easy start, with a short steep uphill, but nothing overtaxing. We did the entire route with our daypacks and then went back to the parking lot, got our overnight packs and walked back 1 mile to the meadows camp ground. It was Labor Day weekend and very crowded, at least 4 other parties in the meadow, not all of whom were camp savvy. The hike itself is relatively easy, a nice starter hike for inexperienced. For experienced backpackers, it would be a touch boring. Pretty, with nice views, but not awe-inspiring (of course, I just got back from Canyonlands, so I might be biased :) Although the meadow site is described as one of the most beautiful camp sites, we belatedly found out that the three camp sites at the top of Mount Pleasant are cozy and even more charming. If you don't mind the wind, they are ideal for a more private camping experience. We ran into two people coming down from Mount Pleasant as we were getting back from Cold Mountain and they said they had the top to themselves. Jealous!