The Great Balsam range in the southern Appalachians is one of the most magnificent parts of the region. There are regions on the east coast that rival the mystic splendor of the Great Balsams. Located within this range are 10 mountains that exceed 6,000 ft including, Cold Mountain, Shining Rock, Grassy Cove Top, Tennent, Mountain, Black Balsam Knob, Sam Knob, Mount Hardy, Reinhart Knob, Richland Balsam & Chestnut Bald. Some of these mountains experience high traffic especially in the spring and summer months. But most of the peaks in the Balsam’s are remote and many of them are seldom visited. If you are looking for solitude, adventure, dramatic panoramas, wildlife and wildflowers the Great Balsams are a great place to escape to.
One 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.
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.
Parking at the Devil's Courthouse parking area is free.
Dog's are allowed on the trail, but must be kept on a leash.
Camping is allowed in the backcountry. There is a nice campsite at the junction of the Mountains to Sea trail and the Little Sam trail. Backcountry camping is free but I would advise registering with a ranger.