Max Patch Bald, NC

Have a picnic on one of the Southeast's biggest balds.

With a 300-acre field of Masters Tournament-quality grass capping its rounded, 4,629-foot-high summit, Max Patch begs for loungers. AT thru-hikers often oblige, saying it’s one of the finest rest spots on the entire trail, and so do readers like Michael Wright, who hikes the 2.6-mile Loop Trail to catch sunrises and sunsets. “The sky there is so big that if feels like it’s twice the size as elsewhere,” he says. “Locals frequently come up for a picnic or to read a book. My favorite season up there is winter. You just about have the place to yourself, and all of the surrounding mountains are covered with snow. It’s very peaceful.”

Driving From exit 7 on I-40, take Cold Springs Rd. 6.2 miles to a sharp left onto Max Patch Rd. Parking is 1.7 miles ahead.

Map and Guide USGS quad: Lemon Gap ($9, store; Exploring the Appalachian Trail: Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee, by Doris Gove ($20,

Contact (828) 682-6146,