Pisgah NF Announces Max Patch Camping Ban and Other Restrictions

Pisgah National Forest announced a two-year camping ban and several other restrictions at Max Patch on Thursday morning, citing overcrowding and damage to the area. The rules go into effect immediately.

Max Patch, a scenic grassy bald in western North Carolina, is an iconic landmark on the Appalachian Trail known for its striking, 360-degree vistas. Until now, the 4,615-foot bald has been a popular camping destination among thru-hikers and others. Free, dispersed camping was previously allowed on and around the bald for up to 14 days.

However, Appalachian District Ranger Jen Barnhart cited “impacts due to a significant increase in visitors over the past decade” as the primary motivation for the ban.  A proliferation of garbage, unburied human waste, noise pollution, and unauthorized social trails has damaged the scenic area in recent years.

Camping on Max Patch is banned until July 2023.

Perhaps most famously, Max Patch made headlines last September when drone footage captured a large number of tents crowding the bald and garbage and toilet paper littering the grass. “Unfortunately, the level of use is causing a public safety hazard as well as serious damage to wildlife habitat,” said Ranger Barnhardt.

In a press release, the Forest Service said that past efforts of visitor education and engineering controls such as barriers and fencing have not been sufficient to address the challenges, prompting today’s move. Several other restrictions went into effect alongside the camping ban, including a campfire ban and limitations on group size.

The restrictions are set to expire on June 30, 2023. Per the Forest Service, “visitor use and impacts will continue to be monitored and addressed” during that time.

Full List of New Restrictions at Max Patch

  1. No camping.
  2. No fires.
  3. Area closes 1 hour after sundown. Reopens 1 hour before sunrise. Visitors prohibited during closed hours.
  4. Group size limited to 10.
  5. Dogs and other animals must be on a leash no longer than 6 feet, or in a crate or cage.
  6. Stay on designated trails.
  7. Aircraft may not land nor drop off or pick up anything in this area. Drones are prohibited on Appalachian Trail.
  8. No fireworks.
  9. Bikes must stay on roads only.
  10. Horses and other saddle and pack animals may not be ridden, hitched, tethered, or hobbled in this area.

Click here for a map of the area in which restrictions apply. 

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