The TH for this hike is the Sunburst parking area on NC 215. There are two logging roads that can ba taken, consult topo. The topozone link is the Sunburst Picnic area and the start of the hike.
Ever the explorer to try new routes hiking, I thought climbing Richland Balsam via jeep roads and bushwhack would be infinitely more pleasing than a hike 0.5 miles from the parkway. After looking at the USGS topo, I thought I would ascend the logging roads out of Sunburst and up Boomer Inn Branch. When they ended I would head up the mountain to Lickstone Ridge, cresting south of Doublespring Gap. There is a faint trail I followed to the summit. After summiting Richland, I walked north on the Blue Ridge Parkway. At the Beartrail Ridge Gap, I went up through the woods and reached the top of Reinhart Knob (1 mile E of Richland Balsam). I then came down a gully back down to the parkway.
I had decided to bushwhack down Big Beartrail Ridge to my car as a roadwalk down the parkway and NC 215 was >10 miles. At first it was pretty open hardwood forest but the rhodos started getting thick and I alternated between ridgeline and valley back to car. It was 3 miles long but at least it was downhill.
Length = 9 miles, time = 7+ hours, gain = 3535 feet
USFS Shining Rock/Middle Prong map or USGS Waynesvile and Sams Knob Quads, compass/GPS, excellent conditioning
If you have information about this route that doesn't pertain to any of the other sections, please add it here.