SB6K GreatBalsams


 Great  Balsams Area  Map - Topo

Great Balsams Area Map

Ten of the qualifying peaks are located in this area. Two of the peaks (Reinhart Knob and Chestnut Bald) involve bushwhacking; three are accessible by unmaintained but well-traveled trails (Mt. Hardy, Shining Rock, Cold Mountain); and the rest can be reached by maintained and heavily used trails.

Hikes combining peaks include Richland Balsam and Reinhart Knob; Mt. Hardy , Chestnut Bald and Sam Knob; and Black Balsam, Tennent, Grassy Cove Top, and Shining Rock. A ridgeline hike of the last group has over 2.5 miles of open, treeless country with excellent views.  Cold Mountain is most often hiked as a single peak.

  • For the individual peaks, clicking on the peak name will list the CMC hikes which will take you to the area of the summit description


Individual Peaks in the Great Balsams


The summit is close to the end of the summit ridge just beyond a series of small knobs and an overlook. 

The summit has a benchmark. To reach the summit follow a steep trail from Deep Gap that leads to the crest of the ridge between Cold Mtn. and a spur to the southwest. Shortly before this crest you will pass a spring with excellent water. At the crest turn right and follow a trail going gradually up the ridge.

Hike Descriptions:  Cold Mountain

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The summit trail, a spur off the Old Butt Knob trail,  is heavily traveled, but unmaintained. The summit area is a snow quartz outcrop. There are two high rocks. The first is on the north edge of the outcrop, the other is near the center. 

To get to the summit from Shining Rock Gap, take the heavily traveled trail from the north east side of the gap. From Old Butt Knob, take the heavily traveled trail to the right, just where the Old Butt Knob trail starts downhill.

Hike Descriptions: Shining Rock

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There was a trail relocation in the Grassy Cove Top area a few years ago. The old trail, which can still be seen from the south, goes directly over the summit. Please do not use this trail to climb the south face of the Top.

Follow the Art Loeb trail to the north side of Grassy Cove Top. Where the Art Loeb drops off the ridge to the east the old trail goes south up to the summit plateau. The summit is a rock to the right of the trail on the north end of the summit plateau.

Hike Descriptions: Grassy Cove Top

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The summit is obvious.

Hike descriptions: Tennent Mountain

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The obvious summit is just to the north of the trail.

Trail descriptions:  Black Balsam Knob

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The summit is obvious, but is inaccessible as there is a small group of trees growing out of it. 

The summit is a short bushwhack off the MST. The best route up the eastern face of the Bald on the faint trail which follows the property line between the NPS and the National Forest. Do not climb on the Parkway side of this line as there are a lot of briars.

When walking eastward on the MST, about 75 feet before the MST turns sharply left there is an NPS boundary sign. When walking westward on the MST, it turns sharply right and goes north. As you go north, keep looking back as the NPS boundary sign is not visible while traveling north.

While you're in the area, go  about 10 feet east beyond  the sharp turn in the MST. There is a short trail leading south to one of the finest views in the Pisgah District.

Hike descriptions:  Chestnut Bald

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  SAM KNOB, 6040

The two summits are obvious. Which is higher is not obvious. The south summit is believed to be higher, but climb both to be sure.

Hike descriptions: Sam Knob

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  MT. HARDY, 6110

Mt. Hardy has a long, relatively level north-south summit ridge, traversed by an unmaintained trail. The actual summit is not the benchmark near the northern end of the ridge but a large boulder at the southern end of the ridge, just west of the trail.

The summit trail begins at a three-way junction north of the final summit climb. The junction is marked with a 3-armed blaze on a flat rock. At this junction, the trail branching off to the east leads to the Parkway and the trail going north joins the MST.

Leaving the MST for the summit: Climbing from the west on the MST there is an obvious trail leading off to the right, with a sign for the MST straight ahead. The trail to the right leads to the junction. Climbing from the east there is a large downed tree just to the left of the MST. A few feet beyond that a trail to the left leads to the junction. These two trails from the MST join before climbing to the junction.

Hike descriptions: Mt. Hardy

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This summit is a small hump. About 100 feet west from the summit there is another hump, but the difference in elevation between the two is apparent.

The summit is a difficult bushwhack. Three routes are commonly used; beginning along the Parkway, at the Bear Trail Ridge parking area, and along the MST. In all cases, the bushwhack itself is too short to qualify as a permissible route. Most qualifying routes involve bushwhacking up to Reinhart and then down Reinhart to the MST and then an ascent of Richland Balsam.

The most used of the bushwhacks (not for those afraid of heights) begins by climbing the chute at BRP mile 429.8. A picture of the chute is shown on the description of hike #98. At the top of the chute bear left and follow the very steep clipped trail to the summit area. The summit is about 30 feet to the right of where the trail comes out. Do not use this route from late fall to early spring. There is often ice in the shady chute.

The most obvious and seductive route is southeast up the mountain from the Bear Trail Ridge Gap overlook. As this follows the county line, there are often signs that surveyors have been up this way. The route is full of spruce blow-down and briar.

The bushwhack from the MST begins where the MST crosses the south fork of Bearwallow Creek. The last several hundred feet are quite steep. This bushwhack is most often used to descend to the MST from the summit.

Hike descriptions:  Reinhart Knob

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The summit is not where the sign says it is. The summit is the obviously higher point about 50 feet north on the summit trail.

The summit can be reached by climbing the summit trail from the Parkway at either from Haywood-Jackson Overlook or the Richland Balsam Overlook. If climbing from Richland Balsam Overlook, climb up the obvious gully and turn left on to the summit trail, which is about 10 feet inside the woods. 

Richland Balsam and Reinhart Knob are most often combined into one trip.

Hike descriptions: Richland Balsam

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