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The Black Balsam Knob hike is one of our favorites and this guide will show you why.

Black Balsam Knob: Hiking the Most Popular Section of the Art Loeb Trail

Last Updated on September 15, 2020

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Black Balsam Knob is a moderate hiking trail that’s easily accessible from the Blue Ridge Parkway (MP 420). It’s part of the 30-mile Art Loeb Trail and the most popular stretch of that wonderful network.

The 1.4-mile roundtrip hike will lead you to some of the most impressive mountain balds in the South. Open fields looking out to beautiful ridges await, making this one of our favorite places to spend a morning or afternoon.

What’s even better is that it’s only 26 miles from Asheville, making it easy to reach for incredible sunset views and still be back downtown for dinner. Inside our guide, we’ll share a few nearby spots that’ll keep you occupied throughout the day, along with hiking tips, and how to prepare for this wonderful spot in our mountains.

Many of these unique places to stay near Asheville sit within a short drive of the Black Balsam Knob trailhead.

This post is part of our series on Western North Carolina, especially focusing on hikes near Asheville here. We’ve also covered waterfalls near Asheville, Brevard, and Cherokee if you’re seeking some watery fun!

Leave No Trace

Before hiking to Black Balsam Knob, we want to remind you to always keep North Carolina beautiful and pack out everything you bring in. Trash does NOT belong on our trails.

If you’d like to go a step further, pick it up if you see it. That act will make you feel better and also, will help us all maintain these beautiful mountains today and for future generations.

Black Balsam Knob

The Balds

One thing you’ll notice while hiking this section is the lack of tree cover, which is why these mountains are known as balds. Still, we have to ask, why are there so few trees here?

This occurrence still puzzles scientists, though they’ve theorized that many of the area’s balds have been a combination of natural forces and human involvement.

At this elevation, it is not uncommon to have extreme climate activity. Another hypothesis is that humans burned the mountain tops for agriculture and the trees in this region never came back.

Parking

The trailhead for Black Balsam Knob sits just off of the Blue Ridge Parkway (MP 420). The trailhead is 0.7 miles on Black Balsam Rd.

There is a second parking lot at the end of the road. You can reach Black Balsam Knob from this lot by taking a difficult connector trail that spurs from the gravel road.

We don’t really recommend it. If there are spots available at the first parking area alongside the road, the hike will be much gentler and even kid-friendly.

If you do park at the end of Black Balsam Rd, you can reach the summit of Sam Knob, but it’s a bit of a longer hike.

Hiking to Black Balsam Knob

From the roadside parking lot, it only takes half a mile of gentle climbing before reaching open fields and incredible views. From here, it will only take another half mile to reach the top of Black Balsam Knob, which is the 23rd highest mountain in North Carolina.

Once you reach the bald, the journey is up to you. Grab a spot and enjoy a picnic or carry on for a longer hike.

As we mentioned, this hike is part of the Art Loeb Trail. From Black Balsam Knob, you can continue on another half-mile to Tennet Mountain, which sits at a similar elevation.

The treeless mountaintops follow a ridgeline and provide for 360-degree views at over 6,000 feet. Rock outcrops, tall grass, and wildflowers will surround you.

Stay on the Trail

The plants and wildlife on Black Balsam Knob are very fragile, so please remain on the trail. There are incredible camping spots on the balds, and because of the trail’s popularity, they are often filled up.

Tips to Prepare

Spur trail from the second parking lot

While the beautiful mountain balds are incredible, there is little shade. Please remember to apply sunscreen as it is easy to get a sunburn without even realizing it.

This part of the parkway is often closed during the winter, so plan accordingly and check the Blue Ridge Parkway’s status.

Also, bear activity is prevalent in this area, so you should keep food in a bear-proof container if you’re camping.

Enjoy Black Balsam Knob!

As one of the 40 peaks in North Carolina over 6,000 feet, Black Balsam Knob was on our bucket list for so long. We’re grateful to have hiked this spot and can’t wait to keep coming back for more here and along the Art Loeb Trail.

Have you ever been lucky enough to walk along this path? We’d love to know what you thought about the hike! And if you haven’t yet, we hope you’ll make it out here sometime very soon.

Hikes near Black Balsam Knob

Black Balsam Knob isn’t just a part of the epic Art Loeb Trail. Being in a great spot off the Blue Ridge Parkway, it’s also surrounded by some fun hikes that are also among our favorite BRP stops.

Skinny Dip Falls

North of Black Balsam Knob, the beautiful Looking Glass Rock is viewable from an overlook at Milepost 417. After taking in those amazing views, you can walk across the Parkway and hike to Skinny Dip Falls

This swimming hole is very popular and gets packed early in the day. Who can blame everyone for coming, though? Skinny Dip is a beautiful three-tiered waterfall with icy cold water waiting for you to cool off!

Graveyard Fields

The Graveyard Fields Loop Trail will quickly lead you to a spectacular waterfall. You can follow a longer loop to a cascade. Come here in July and August for the wild blueberries, if you want a specific time of year to visit.

Another bonus is that this is one of the few Blue Ridge Parkway trailheads (MP 418.8) with a toilet.

Devil’s Courthouse

Devil’s Courthouse is a short yet tough hike at Milepost 422.4. You’ll reach a rock overlook at 5,720 feet after hiking a mostly-paved trail.

If you’re into legends, one here states there is a cave within the mountain. Inside that cave, the devil holds his court.

Fryingpan Tower

Fryingpan Mountain Lookout Tower was built in the 1940s by the United States Forest Service. Today, you can hike to its fifth story of and enjoy 360-degree views from the stairs.

The hike is fairly easy and views from the stairs are epic!

More Blue Ridge Parkway Stops

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