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.
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Reviews For The Cold Mountain Hike (5 Most Recent)
We were able to find parking at Hog Camp Gap. There were several cars parked further down on the road but there appeared to be enough room for cars to get past. The Road up to the Gap (Wiggins Spring Gap from route 60) was passable, but definitely meant for slow driving. I imagine this road is horrible when the weather is bad.
Hiked up Hotel Trail and found a massive clearing full of mature oaks. My hiking partners were staying overnight so planned to camp in this spot. We continued on the blue blaze for awhile longer and took a detour up to Bald Knob. This detour added another two miles or so to the trip but the walk was pleasant. The views on top of Bald Knob were not real clear, but maybe it's good in February.
Continued back to Cold Mountain and had a spectacular view on top. One of our hiking partners (the elder statesman of the group) sang songs from Sound of Music.
Overall we enjoyed this hike immensely. The views were great, the trails were well marked and the terrain was not that difficult. We also did not see many people on the trail. I look forward to coming back to hike Mount Pleasant.
Hiked a total of eight miles, saw one bunny and heard something slithering in the brush.
Date of Hike: Sunday, June 01, 2014
This is a Blue Ridge favorite. Parking was easy. You will want car/truck with some clearance. We overnighted in that beautiful clearing on the Hotel trail. Good water as you start the trail and at Cow Gap Shelter. Once we hit the AT, we went South to bag Bald Knob. It added 2 miles but no good views. Backtracked north on AT to Cold Mt on a clear day and enjoyed the high meadow. We finished the loop, dropped off some day hikers, then headed back up Hotel a Trail to the camp. 7 miles that way total and 9 miles when you add Old Bald. Trail is well marked with some ups and downs. Enjoy!
Date of Hike: Monday, May 26, 2014
My husband and I did this as the second day/night of a three day backpacking loop with Mount Pleasant this weekend. Our car couldn't make it up the gravel road, the ruts in the road were very deep and our car has a low clearance. We ended up parking about 0.5 miles from the AT crossing/ first parking area and walking. We started this loop at the Hotel Trail, which was lovely and not too difficult. The meadow on the hotel trail is beautiful and would be a great campsite for multiple campers. We continued up the shelter and camped at the tent sites there. The hike on the third day was strenuous but not too bad, worth the views! The Cold Mountain meadow was beautiful and we saw several thru hikers and day hikers. Overall a great hike, clear blazes, nice trails, cool shelter to stay at and great views.
Date of Hike: Friday, May 23, 2014
We made this into a 2.5 day hike and I am glad we did. I'm out of shape - so it was a little tough for me...but it was definitely worth it! The sights are amazing.
We camped about a half mile in on Friday night then walked about another mile and a half on Saturday and camped in a beautiful clearing with a lot of shade.
We got up around 8 am on Sunday with the intention of camping on the summit of the mountain. However, we got to the summit just after noon and were only about a mile or so from our cars so we hiked on.
Overall great trip!
Date of Hike: Saturday, April 05, 2014
What a wonderful hike, and we will definitely be back.
Re: Solitude. This was one of the first beautiful weekends, so we did see a group of hikers right at the start and some packs from a pair of hikers camping, but other than that, did not see anyone else until we got into the parking lot.
Re: Views. The views were spectacular! We will definitely be back for a sunset in the meadow after the end of a summer work day (if you start backward where the Appalachian Trail crosses the street, it's only .6 miles to the meadow).
Re: Difficulty. While there were some areas that were moderate to difficult, other areas were like a leisurely stroll in the park.
Between the campground, the shelter, the stream, and the views, there is so much to see on this hike!