OverviewOne of the least visited summits in the Great Balsams is Chestnut Bald. The mountain is located just off Mountains to Sea Trail near the Blue Ridge Parkway in Transylvania County, North Carolina. Don’t let the name fool you, Chestnut Bald is not a “bald” in the traditional sense of the word. Chestnut Bald was once covered in Chestnut trees and patches of heath bald. The introduction of the chestnut blight in 1904 devastated stands of chestnut trees throughout the Appalachians by the 1930s including those on Chestnut Bald. Today, Chestnut Bald is mainly covered by dense balsam and fir forests. Because the final ascent to the summit includes a short but incredibly rough bushwhack through the dense foliage that blankets the summit of Chestnut Bald, there are few visitors to its summit. Chestnut Bald offers both solitude and a good introduction to bushwhacking in the southern Appalachians.
Getting ThereGetting there:
From Asheville NC
Take I-40 West toward Knoxville, TN
Get off at US 23 West (Great Smoky Mountains Expressway) going toward Waynesville. After passing through Waynesville continue on US 23 for about eight miles to the Blue Ridge Parkway (BRP). Go north toward Asheville on the BRP to the Devil’s Courthouse Parking area (mile 422.4). Park at Devil’s Courthouse.
Route DescriptionFrom Devil’s Courthouse parking area:
Follow the paved trail toward Devil’s Courthouse overlook. At about 0.3 miles there is a T-intersection where the pavement ends. The Devil’s Courthouse overlook trail veers right & a spur trail that leads to the Mountains to Sea Trail is to the left. Take the spur trail 0.1 mi. to the Mountains to Sea Trail. You will pass the signed junction for the Little Sam Trail (0.6 mi.). From this point stay on the Mountains to Sea Trail (MST) for about 0.2 more miles. The rest of the hike involves a bushwhack off the MST. At this point you will want to begin looking for a faint man-way on the right-hand side of the trail. The summit will be ahead of you and to the right. There and the remnants of blue & pink ribbons tied on trees marking the way to the summit and these are helpful to a limited degree. However, these ribbons were tied well over a decade and a half ago and many are hard to find. Some of them were affixed to trees that have long since been blown down and several have simply rotted away. The 0.2 miles to the summit of Chestnut Bald may be short in distance but don’t let this fool you. The route to the summit is incredibly dense and brushy. Young firs, blackberry thickets and blow-down will slow your progress to the top of this mountain. It is, however, a great adventure and a good introductory bushwhack in the Southern Appalachians.
Essential Gear1. If you don't want to suffer from countless cuts oon you exposed flesh, you would be well advised to wear clothing that covers your arms and legs.
2. A map & compass are essential in especially in the bushwhack near the summit.
3. Raingear is a must in the southern Apps. any time of the year.