The Cole Mountain Loop

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Wait—or is it Cold Mountain? Apparently both names are acceptable for this hike in the George Washington National Forest. (But Cole is the “official” one.)

Hikers of all skill levels are welcome on this loop that’s a part of the Appalachian Trail. You can make it a workout… or take it slow and observe nature along the way.

The best part about this hike—the Cole Mountain apex is a nod to The Sound of Music (you know, the part at the very beginning where Julie Andrews is running through the field surrounded by gorgeous mountains). After making the trip up to the top, Cole Mountain hikers reach a wide-open pasture with panoramic views on all sides. It’s the perfect backdrop for selfies, professional shoots, or even a song from your favorite musical. Once you see the view, you may be moved to do pretty much anything.

Our advice? Put this hike on your bucket list, immediately, if it isn’t already.

How to Get There:
Take Route 60 west out of Amherst. Turn right on Coffeytown Road and then another right on Wiggins Spring Road. (Note: Wiggins Spring Road is a forest service road. The drive can get bumpy.)

Where to Enter:

The parking area is at the end of the trail but you enter about .2 miles north, on the blue-blazed Hotel Trail. Follow those blue blazes to stay on track.

Take It a Step Further:

Make the hike longer by combining the Cole Mountain loop with the nearby Mount Pleasant hike on the next ridge. Together, they make an 11.3-mile circuit. Be sure to pack a backpack and plan accordingly for this longer journey.

Photos by Cody Ross:

“My wife and I have hiked Cold Mountain three times this past year and love the uniqueness of its summit. Instead of the rocky peaks you find atop other Virginia trails, when you get to the top of Cold Mountain you step into a vast pasture with 360-degree panoramic views all around you. It doesn’t feel like it belongs in Virginia. We also love Cold Mountain because if you take the short way to the top you can be there in 30 minutes, making it a great place to take friends and family who can’t handle longer treks but want to experience the amazing views of the Blue Ridge Mountains.”

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