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

Published by Christina Riley. Last Updated on October 17, 2023.

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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 North Carolina‘s 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 Blue Ridge Mountain balds. 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 downtown 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 Western NC.

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Leave No Trace

a beautiful hilltop along a North Carolina hiking trail

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.

Read More: 50+ Great Things to Do With Kids in Asheville (and Nearby!)

Black Balsam Knob

The Balds

Our little girl hiking to the top of Black Balsam Knob

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.

Another bald we love hiking is Bearwallow Mountain in Henderson County, near Asheville and Hendersonville.

Read More: Hikes near Asheville and Hiking in Hendersonville


The trailhead for Black Balsam Knob sits just off of the Blue Ridge Parkway (MP 420). The Black Balsam Knob 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 Black Balsam knob 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.

Read More: Blue Ridge Parkway Hikes

Hiking to Black Balsam Knob

an Ariel view of the trail leading 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.

The view from the top of Black Balsam Knob

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 360-degree views at over 6,000 feet. Rock outcrops, tall grass, and wildflowers will surround you.

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Stay on the Trail

a brown trial leading along the ridge of Black Balsam Knob

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

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Tips to Prepare

me hiking with my daughter on my back through the fields along the Spur Trail to a brown trial leading along the ridge of Black Balsam Knob
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 some 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 going Black Balsam knob camping.

Read More: 25 of the Most Amazing Winter Hikes in North Carolina

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

a small waterfall with a couple of pools and a bridge overtop the base of the falls

Currently Closed Due to Damage from Tropical Storm Fred.

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 end of the Graveyard Fields Loop Trail

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.

Read More: Colorful Fall Hikes in North Carolina (+ 20 Beautiful Places to Explore!)

Devil’s Courthouse

the view at the top of Devil's Courthouse mountain

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.

Read More: 20+ Awesome Things to Do in Black Mountain and Nearby

Fryingpan Mountain Lookout Tower

The summit of Frying Mountain Lookout tower

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

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

More Blue Ridge Parkway Stops

2 thoughts on “Black Balsam Knob: Hiking the Most Popular Section of the Art Loeb Trail”

  1. I just hiked Black Balsam Knob this morning and it was so breathtaking it made me want to bust out ainging the Sound of Music…and my hiking partner telling me to shut my Trapp!


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