Black Balsam Knob Mountain might be my favorite spot on my usual stretch of the Blue Ridge Parkway. It’s in Pisgah National Forest just above Graveyard Fields, and about ten miles north of Frying Pan Mountain Lookout Tower. It’s also called Black Balsam Bald because of its unique tree line and grassy top. The short trail climbs 160 feet in elevation from the road to the peak over the course of 0.6 miles. This is a great hike for any age. Take a picnic and wear sunscreen. The constant winds will deceive you into thinking you’re not getting sunburned.
Black Balsam is my favorite way to access the Shining Rock Wilderness. This area is very popular, so I recommend making the hike in the morning before most of the crowd gets there. The weather at this elevation can swing wildly, so bring optional layers of clothing.
Parking is available along the road at the trailhead, but you might end up pretty far away if you arrive after lunchtime. People roadside camp all over the area. If you plan to camp on the bald, watch out for lightning.
Black Balsam Knob is part of the 30-mile Art Loeb Trail, which is lauded as one of the best hikes in America because of the view. People who want an Appalachian Trail experience, but don’t have the time to do a long-distance hike, usually do this trail as a substitute. I took this picture from atop the bald on a clear day. On a clear day, you can see 70 miles into the distance.
If these pictures look better than some of my previous ones, it’s because this was the first time I hiked with my Nikon D5100 DSLR. That model is a bit outdated now, I but I highly recommend anything in that line.