A really awesome and beautiful hike, that should definitely be on everyones “must do” list is Black Balsam Knob.  The Black Balsam area, located in Pisgah National Forest, and off the Blue Ridge Parkway, offers some of the most spectacular scenic views in the Blue Ridge.

Black Balsam Bald

The Black Balsam area includes: Black Balsam Knob, Sam Knob and Tennent Mountain.  All of these are “balds”, meaning there are few if any trees, and nothing but small brush and tall grass.  Given the average elevation here is over 6000 feet, the balds provide 360 degree stunning views.

Black Balsam Knob is 6214 feet in elevation, making it the 23rd highest peak in North Carolina.

Location: Black Balsam Area in Pisgah National Forest, NC – Just off the Blue Ridge Parkway
Roundtrip Distance: 2 – 5 miles depending on the hike you choose
Difficulty: Moderate
Features:  Incredible high elevation scenic views
Directions: From The Blue Ridge Parkway, head milepost 420.  Depending on your direction, it will be just before or just after Graveyard fields.  There will be signs at the road entrance saying “Black Balsam”.  Follow the road as it curves up for a little over 1/2 a mile, and you’ll see the parking area on your right.   As you drive up, you’ll see Graveyard Fields down to your right.
Recommended Gear: Digital camera and other day hiking essentials.  Dress in layers, as the weather can change very rapidly, and the winds can often make it cold.  We also recommend a hat and some sunscreen.

Black Balsam Knob Hiking

Above the Clouds at Black Balsam
Above the Clouds at Black Balsam

Hiking at Black Balsam can be as little as 2 miles roundtrip for the out and back hike to Black Balsam Knob, or up to 5 miles for the loop trail that takes you out.

You’ll start your hike up the Art Loeb Trail from the trailhead at the parking lot.  The trail splits left and right shortly after the trailhead, go left to head towards Black Balsam Ridge.

Your first 1/2 mile will be through some beautiful pine forest and you’ll travel up a deep trail, that slopes upward.  Be advised, this area gets pretty muddy after some rain.  A good set of hiking boots is really beneficial here and on the rest of the trail.

After the 1/2 mile, you’ll suddenly emerge from the heavy forest into a grassy field (the bald), and the trail will continue to slope upwards towards the first knob.  On the way, you’ll pass one lonely pine tree that seems to have managed to survive he high winds.   You’ll also climb up lots of rock, which is often a bit slippery, so be careful!

The first knob is pretty, and a good place to take in the scenery and enjoy the view.  Black Balsam Knob is about another 1/2 mile down the trail.  As you hike to Black Balsam Knob, you’ll see a number of primitive tent camp sites.

Black Balsam Knob

The top of Black Balsam knob is a great place to take a break, enjoy a picnic lunch, and just enjoy the incredible views, and the blissfully quiet sounds of the Blue Ridge Mountains.   From here you can see the Parkway and Graveyard fields.

Graveyard Fields from Black Balsam
Graveyard Fields and Looing Glass Rock from Black Balsam

From here, you can turn back the way you came, or continue further down the trail to cross Tennent Mountain at 6040 feet, which is another 1/2 mile down the trail.   From Tennent Mountain, you can also continue on to do the 5 mile loop trail.

Black Balsam Loop Hike

We haven’t done this yet, but it’s on our list for the spring/summer.   If you continue past the Tennent Mountain summit for another 1/4 of a mile, you’ll intersect with Investor Gap Trail, take a LEFT.  This will take you back to the parking lot at the very end of Black Balsam Road, where you can walk back up the road to your car.  There is also a connector trail back up to the Art Loeb trail, but we haven’t been able to find it yet.

Camping at Black Balsam

As we mentioned, there are lots of great primitive camp sites along the Art Loeb Trail through Black Balsam.  Most o them offset stunning 360 degree vistas at over 6000 feet in elevation.  Talk about some amazing sunrises and sunsets.

BUT, if you choose to come camping at Black Balsam, come prepared.  Winds can get insanely strong.  The last time we were there, the winds were so strong, it was difficult to walk and keep your footing.   Temperatures can also vary greatly in just a matter of minutes.   You’ll want to bring a quality wind resistant tent, lots of layers of clothing, and a camping stove, as campfires are prohibited in the area.   There are no nearby freshwater sources, so bring water as well.

More Photos of Black Balsam:

IMG_1340 IMG_1337


About the author

Larry Deane is co-owner of Blue Ridge Mountain Life. He has spent more than 20 years exploring the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains and has a deep passion for nature, history, storytelling, and adventure. Along with his wife Jenn, they combined these passions to create Blue Ridge Mountain Life, a travel guide to these stunning mountains they are fortunate to call home.

Larry has more than 20 years of experience as a writer and journalist, and has established himself as a leading voice and expert for Blue Ridge Mountains. He is also an avid hiker, photographer, and videographer. He loves sharing his mountain adventures and knowledge with more than 500,000 people per month on Blue Ridge Mountain Life.


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