OverviewRichland Balsam is the highest peak of the Great Balsam Range, the highest in the Pisgah Ranger District, and the 10th highest in the eastern US. The peak is accessed by way of a 0.7 mile access trail from the Haywood-Jackson Overlook along the Blue Ridge Parkway. The overlook area and the nearby Richland Balsam Overlook, the highest point on the Parkway) are often quite busy places during the summer. However, I have found that very few people climb the 500 vertical feet to the summit. The summit is typical of high peaks in this area in that it supports a northern-type spruce-fir forest. Also typical for this area, unfortunately, is the fact that this forest is being slowly devestated by the Balsam Wooly Aphid.
Getting ThereThe Richland Balsam Trail begins and ends at the Haywood-Jackson Overlook about a halfmile south of Parkway Milepost 431.
This section of the Blue Ridge Parkway can be accessed from the south where it is crossed at Balsam Gap by US-23/74 or from NC-215 to the north. The trailhead is 12 miles from US-23/74 and 8 miles from NC-215.
Red TapeBecause Richland Balsam is located its highest point, the Blue Ridge Parkway is frequently closed during the winter, making the peak inaccessable unless you don't mind a 16-mile round-trip.
Blue Ridge Parkway Info: 828-298-0398