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. Black Mountain is actually quite large, but underappreciated for its status as the highest mountain in Kentucky. So much so that coal mining was done for years on the upper reaches of the mountain, and a huge high voltage tower charges within 1/10 of a mile of its summit. A waiver used to be required to hike Black Mountain; to be signed and have on your person in case you ran into employees of the coal company. That has since changed.
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 the area has been 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. An overlook was built on the Virginia side in recent years, which will hopefully give visitors a good view of the mountain.
In 2018, the State took ownership of the high point and improvements have been made; and those improvements will make the experience more enjoyable in years to come. However, as of the summer of 2020, it is my understanding that the lookout tower is still not climbable, and a new one is still planned, so there aren't really any views from the summit.
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.
A waiver used to be required to hike to the Black Mountain summit. However, with State ownership, this is no longer the case.
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