Black Mountain (Kentucky State Highpoint)

Kentucky

Trip Date: Thursday, July 2nd, 2020
Last Updated: Monday, July 20th, 2020
By Ricky Holzer

Hike Information

Rating ★☆☆☆☆(1/5)
Overall Difficulty Easy
Navigation Difficulty     Easy
Distance 0 miles roundtrip
Time 15 minutes
Terrain Mostly flat
Best Seasons Spring, Summer, Fall
Family Friendly Yes
Dog Friendly Yes
Accessible Yes

Highlights

Hike Summary

Having visited 39 state highpoints at the time of writing, I can easily say that Black Mountain is my least favorite (followed by Mississippi). It's one thing to lack views on an actual mountain peak, but the owners of this land don't even pretend to appreciate that this mountain is special in any way. Despite the long, uncomfortable drive to the top, you'll unfortunately want to spend very little time here.

As evidenced by the cornucopia of communications towers on the summit as pictured below, Black Mountain is privately owned and access is a privilege. Before visiting, you're supposed to sign this waiver and mail it to the address at the bottom. A coal company owns this land, and up until 1999 when Kentucky purchased the mineral and timber rights to the summit, coal mining threatened the summit, with mountaintop removal mining activities being planned in the area.

Some of the communications equipment on Black Mountain

Some of the communications equipment on Black Mountain

Even though highpointers are permitted at the summit, it still felt like I was trespassing -- I wanted to snap my pictures and leave ASAP. Not only that, the place is just creepy. On the drive up, you'll pass a massive FAA communications facility with a strange domed tower reminiscent of something used to talk to aliens. If it's foggy (which is relatively common), the place is an absolute terror.

The summit marker is a small brick and concrete monument surrounded by overgrown grasses and shrubs located on the eastern side of the communications cluster, as pictured below. If it weren't for the orange traffic cone next to it, I would have missed it entirely. At 4145 feet above sea level, Black Mountain is taller than any other mountain in Kentucky by nearly 500 feet.
The short summit monument on Black Mountain

The short summit monument on Black Mountain

The biggest bummer is that there are absolutely no views to be had despite the massive prominence of the peak. A dilapidated lookout tower is rusting at the summit, just waiting for someone to care enough to repair it. However, you can drive to nearby Kingdom Come State Park for the Appalachian views you crave.

Well, that was another highpoint. Check it off your list and never return! Connect with me using the social media links below and share your adventures!



Important Information

Keep your dog on leash to respect this private property. You can visit in the three warmer seasons, but snow and ice may make a winter journey impossible or incredibly dangerous. You're unlikely to encounter anyone here, especially given the lack of scenic beauty on such a tall mountain.

Directions

Black Mountain is far from any interstates or major cities; use the Google Maps link to navigate to the top of the mountain. Whether coming from Kentucky or Virginia, you will take the steep and winding State Highway 160 most of the way to the top. At the crest of the highway in between the Virginia and Kentucky welcome signs and on the south side of the road, you'll find the unmarked dirt road leading to the summit. Although I successfully navigated this road to the top in a small sedan, the road is very rough and high clearance is recommended.

Google Maps Directions

Parking, Fees, and Facilities

Parking is free! There are no facilities here or anywhere nearby.

Nearby Hikes

Views to the east after gaining some elevation
Mount Rogers (Virginia State Highpoint) from Massie Gap
Grayson Highlands State Park, Virginia
★★★★★(5/5)
The concrete tower on the summit of Clingmans Dome
Clingmans Dome (Tennessee State Highpoint)
Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee
★★★★☆(4/5)

External Links