- Total Distance: 2.6 Miles Out and Back (my gps measurement)
- Total Elevation Gain: 383′ (my gps measurement)
*Note: Several online sources list elevation gains ranging from 380′ to over 500′. The Ramblr app on my iphone calculated the above measurements. So, that is what I’m going with.
From Asheville, follow the Blue Ridge Parkway south for 26.5 miles past the NC 191 Parkway access. Turn right on FR 816 (Black Balsam Road) just past milepost 420; a sign reads “Black Balsam”. Follow this road to the end at the parking area. The parking lot gets crowded quickly on weekends, so plan to arrive early if you want a spot.
There are pit toilets in the parking lot. They are extremely aromatic in the summer months … not for the faint of heart.
The trail follows an old roadbed that is fairly level for the first several hundred yards. Wooden stairs have recently been constructed to control trail erosion as the trail leads down into the meadow.
Cross the meadow and turn right to ascend to Sam Knob. The trail winds gently back and forth up to the summit. There are 2 tops, actually. When you get near the top the trail will have 2 forks leading to 2 summits where 360 degree views await.
in 1925, wildfires burned Sam Knob and the Black Balsam area. The fires burned so hot that the heat basically sterilized the soil. There are no trees on the top, only rhododendron and low bushes. A few wildflowers like bluets, are dotted along the trail. Make sure you take sun protection because if the sun is shining, it is shining on you!