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Black Mountain (KY)

Black Mountain (KY)

Black Mountain (KY)

Page Type: Mountain/Rock

Location: Kentucky, United States, North America

Lat/Lon: 36.91420°N / 82.8939°W

Object Title: Black Mountain (KY)

County: Harlan

Elevation: 4139 ft / 1262 m


Page By: hgrapid

Created/Edited: Nov 27, 2004 / Jul 19, 2015

Object ID: 153383

Hits: 81150 

Page Score: 91.05%  - 34 Votes 

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Black Mountain (KY)  photo_id=121238

Situated within a couple hours of Mt. Rogers, Smoky Mountain National Park, and Mount Mitchell, is the highest point of Kentucky - Black Mountain.

Most of Kentucky does not reach high elevation, and the state is known much more for its caves than its mountains. However, Black Mountain is actually quite large, but underappreciated for its status as the highest mountain in Kentucky. So much so that coal mining is done on the upper reaches of the mountain, and a huge high voltage tower charges within 1/10 of a mile of its summit.

The summit itself is reached via an offshoot from a long and winding mountain road. The mountain is flanked by steep drop offs and rock walls. Since it is basically used for coal mining, the road (route 160) crosses some of the best scenery in the state, without so much as an overlook to take it all in. Recently, an overlook was built on the Virginia side, which will hopefully give visitors a good view of the mountain.

It is for reasons like this that public outrage has emerged, and efforts to preserve the mountain and open it up to hiking have been strong for many years. Despite public outcry, coal mining is very profitable in this region, and Black Mountain perhaps holds the most profitable energy resources of any state highpoint.

The summit of Black Mountain can be reached, even though it is not a tourist destination. At the summit area is a large energy tower, that makes it look more like a construction site than a mountain top. But before you despair, you should know that beyond Black Mountain you can find many hiking areas in the Cumberland Mountains, with a variety of trails.

This page is not in any way a political call to preserve Black Mountain, but just a reminder of what to expect when you visit the highpoint.

Getting There

Black Mountain is on the border between Kentucky and Virginia. It can easily be found via a standard road atlas, but the closest interstate is I-81. From the interstate, it can be approached from a variety of roads between Bristol, Tennessee and Marion, Virginia. Getting there isn't too difficult. Black Mountain is listed on most road-maps. The key is to get to Route 160, near Lynch, Kentucky. Route 160 is a winding mountain road that is fun to drive. In fact, it is a far prettier drive than it is a hike. The road to the top is actually easy to find because it sits directly in between the "Welcome to Virginia" and "Welcome to Kentucky" signs. Coming from Virginia, the road is on the left, and you can park at the base. When I visited in 2002, it was unmarked, but once on the road it is easy to find. To ensure it is the correct road, check to see if it goes up! There is a tower at the summit, so it is easy to find.

For most of the year you can take the road and drive near the summit, but in the winter, the road gets icy and it is better to walk the 1.5 miles, and 250' to the summit.

Red Tape

A waiver is required to hike to the Black Mountain summit. It can be downloaded HERE. Print this out, and have it on your person when you do the hike. Do not try and hike Black Mountain without it, because it is a "No Trespassing" area, that only gives special permission to hikers and highpointers. While the waiver is still valid, and allows visitors to the highpoint, there is still potential for further mining at and around the mountain.

When To Climb

It is far better to hike here in the winter, because less work is being done up at the summit. The scenery is better in December/January as the ice forms on the rock walls.


Prime Hiking and Camping is available at Kingdom Come State Park several miles away from the highpoint.

Kingdom Come State Park

Mountain Conditions

See Area Weather

Miscellaneous Info

Thank you to Jacqueline Coldiron for her photos. Please visit her site if you want more information on the area around Black Mountain at: http://www.mountain-breeze.com/mountains/.

External Links

  • Photos of Black Mountain
    Jacqueline Coldiron Mountain Breeze page, which includes photos of Black Mountain and other parts of Kentucky.
  • Peakbagger - factual info on Black Mountain
    Photo near the summit and factual info about the mountain
  • Additions and Corrections

    [ Post an Addition or Correction ]
    Viewing: 1-4 of 4    
    RedwicThe Summit Road...


    Voted 10/10

    The road leading to the summit has a sign on the rightside of the entrance. It says "FAA En Route Radar Lynch, KY".

    Also, the summit road is the PAVED road, not the dirt road next to it.
    Posted May 27, 2009 2:29 am
    RedwicThe USGS Benchmark...


    Voted 10/10

    The USGS Benchmark disk for Black Mountain is found on a large boulder, just beyond a small path/opening in thick brush located on the east side of the summit area.
    Posted May 27, 2009 2:34 am
    taggaj00No Sign at Summit Road !

    Hasn't voted

    I observed no sign at the entrance to the Summit Road from Rte. 160 coming from Kentucky side, on a recent visit. But a turn to the right, just before the 'Welcome to Virginia' sign, leads to the Summit Road (uphill). The handsome plaque, marking the summit height (4,139 ft.) and honoring local World War II Veteran, and Cable TV pioneer William Risen, was erected on a pedestal by 'Hands Across the Mountains'. Directly beyond the plaque, the USGS Survey Marker lies on a prominent boulder in a small copse of trees. It was a foggy, early Fall evening with wildflowers in profusion; not a bad day in the beautiful Southern Appalachians.
    Posted Oct 28, 2013 10:09 pm
    ticktock5051Trip info

    Hasn't voted

    I did this point last week. Here's some updates:

    -The summit road is no longer "paved." Although remnants of pavement remain, the drive up is mostly dirt

    -There is no sign for the summit road. However, the summit road is the road to the LEFT of the FAA Long Range Radar sign

    -There is a large pullout right next to the "Welcome to Kentucky" sign. I slept in my car there the night before and this provides an alternative to camping miles away.

    -Most importantly: Under NO circumstances attempt to go to the next town over (Lynch/Cumberland) by taking a "scenic adventure" using the other dirt roads in the area. I decided to do so and - going down Cloverlick Creek road from Black Mountain - encountered some SERIOUS grades and terrain. Since I was departing the highest point in the state, I could descend alright, but if I had to go up a similar road, I would seriously be at risk of having to abandon the car. If you're going to do a dirt road adventure, make SURE that you have a passable route and do prior research. Don't get into the situation I did
    Posted Jul 19, 2015 1:00 pm

    Viewing: 1-4 of 4    


    the road to the KY highpointRoute 160 is the windy...Black Mountain, KYFall colors along the summit...View from the upper slopes of...Black Mountain. (Sorry about...rkrevald
    9-11 Black Mnt MemorialSpring Colors on Black MountainThe prominence of Black...The scenic summit of Kentuckytwenty-seven - 9.6.9Black MountainView from the upper reaches...
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