I took the less traveled road, HWY 38, from Harlan toward VA because Google maps shows an "old hwy 38" that connects to HWY 38 (a left turn from 38 to old 38 - 28.1 miles from Harlan). It also shows that "old hwy 38" becomes Black Mtn Ridge Road as it switches back and forth to the north and north east and goes over the private property of Black Mtn, KY to within 200 yards of it's true summit (unlike HWY 160 - the actual way to go - which gets you to within 1.5 miles from the true summit, and truly connects to Black Mtn Ridge Road).
Well, Old Hwy 38 isn't marked, and I couldn't find it. Plus I can tell you this, now that I have visited the summit of Black Mtn, Black Mtn Ridge Road is gated closed 200 yards from the summit for those trying to continue west. In other words even if I had found old hwy 38, and even if it did connect to Black Mtn Ridge Road, one still couldn't drive to the summit from HWY 38.
I ended up in Keokee VA (about 3.4 miles from the non-existing old Hwy 38), where I asked for directions to Black Mountain, and was sent SW to Hwy 421, 13 miles in the wrong direction.
At this point I took highways 421 to 58, and 58 to Big Stone Gap, then 23 to Inman to get on 160 and up to the VA/KY line to Black Mtn Ridge Road and 1.5 miles to the summit.
From Keokee, VA to Inman is only 10.6 miles - so asking for directions cost me 27 miles (which is about an hour on those windy roads).
Bottom line you can't 100% trust Google Maps, and you definitely can't trust hill billy directions to Black Mountain (hahaha).
I drove a Toyota Corolla with what appears to be 4 inches of ground clearance up the once paved but now weed infested and often washed away Black Mtn Ridge road to the Radar tower, then up the hill to just before where Black Mtn Ridge road is gated shut. At this point you can turn left and drive to the old Lookout tower, but not in a Toyota Corolla - anyways it's 200 yards to the old lookout tower and next to it you will see the summit plaque.
Windy roads through the coal mining country to the border of KY and VA. Road is pretty much dirt road . We parked about 500 ft from the top because the road was so rutty. Cold day with some snow showers. No view on the overcast day.
Second of five in a highpoint and whiskey trail driving vacation. Parked at the bottom of the road and walked the 1.5m to the top. Pleasant, easy walk ... quiet and serene. Not another soul in sight.
This one will be recounted many times over many drinks. A truly disastrous Airbnb experience to start the trip. When I woke up and found the mountain road, it had been police taped off and blocked. After a bit of searching found a new mountain/coal road, and going 5 MPH over deeply rutted and gouged dirt roads, made it to the top and signed the register.
HP 2 of 3 so far. Drove from Chillicothe, Ohio (around 172 miles away) on our way to Smokies. Really glad we drove my Nissan Xterra. Road was really rough. Not much to see at summit. Sign in book was inside a glass jelly jar. We put it inside a ziplock with a pen and a pencil to help protect it from the elements.
We read an article that said that improvements are on the way. Really hope so! Would love to come back to see it when it's completed.
Another summit that needs a clearcut.
First of 4 HP trip.
Not a place you want to be for long. Even the lookout tower is inaccessible and ragged. Drive to and fro is fairly pretty, however. I came from Mount Rogers where the access was blocked from ice storm. Have to make it another time for that one. First of back to back 11 hr driving days.
Views from summit are completely forested, and lookout tower needs repair. And finding the actual highpoint was a bit tricky navigating to...
Drove to the point with a rental car. Road a bit questionable but still car worthy. Foggy and slightly eerie. I missed the USGS marked on the rock but there is one under the tower.
I don't remember much about this HP, checked off list on a road trip
This was the most beautiful drive. Went on a Sunday so there was no traffic.
Donned my Nazgûl black rider outfit atop Black Mountain. Seemed fitting...
This was our 15th Highpoint and the 3rd stop on our week long loop which included 5 additional Highpoints. We had good driving directions but missed the turn to the right coming out of Appalachia, VA.
Drove up from the Virginia side (those switchbacks!) and parked at the overlook, then walked the rest of the way to the highpoint. As I walked, the weather ranged from drizzling rain to light hail to snow flurries just as I reached the top. I kept the waiver in my pocket the whole time, but none of the cars I passed challenged me.
Drove up to parking area and hiked the rest
Gravel road is pretty easy to drive up in a sedan. Really pretty drive up.
Parked along route 160 near the state line (after checking condition of the "paved" road - fine for a pickup but not worth a try in a minivan). Quite glad we did walk the 1.5 miles in - really enjoyable; green, leafy, calm, butterflies everywhere. Unique summit: monument & plaque, USGS marker, cell phone towers, FAA radar station: - to me, charming in its way, all part of highpointing. HP#21.
A little late in posting this one, but this was #18. A great drive up through the Appalachians, and with release form in hand, drove to the summit. Nothing noteworthy of this one, but it's officially complete.
Great drive to the top...
Not my favorite highpoint, but my most unforgettable!