Standing over converging mined veins, Black Mountain is the highest point in Kentucky at 4,145 feet above sea level.
In a state known for its coal mines and caves more than its mountains, underneath Black Mountain lies over so many hollowed-out veins the summit area is prone to collapse. Ever optimistic, the owners of the summit, Penn Virginia Resources, allow access—as long as you complete a waiver and mail it in to their Kingsport, Tennessee office.
Black Mountain’s history is tied to the coal fortunes of the area. The town at the foot of the mountain, Lynch, was one of the largest coal towns in the country with a population of over 10,000. After mining became more mechanized in the 1960s and 70s, many workers left the area, dropping the population below 1,000. In 1998 a company petitioned to use mountaintop removal in this area, but protests across the state and a visit from President Clinton thwarted those plans.
At the utilitarian summit are various communication towers, an FAA dome, and a former lookout tower that had its lower stairs removed. A forest surrounds the summit that is home to many black butterflies, and views are to be had from the road leading to the mountain from the Virginia side.
Know Before You Go
From Route 160 between Lynch, KY and Appalachia, VA, turn southwest on a dirt road at the crest of this road at the state border. Have a copy of your waiver with you just in case.