Richland Balsam
Blue Ridge Parkway, North Carolina
hike difficulty
hike difficulty
Duration 1 hour
Elevation Gain 420 ft.
State North Carolina
Park/Forest Blue Ridge Parkway
Parking Fee None
Blaze None
Nearby City Waynesville, NC
Trailhead Coord. 35.359958, -82.986877

Journey to the top of both the Blue Ridge Parkway and the Great Balsam Mountain range as you hike this short interpretive trail to the summit of Richland Balsam. The smells of the spruce-fir forest and the cooler weather under the dense foliage make this short hike a pleasure to travel along.

The trailhead for this hike begins at the Haywood-Jackson overlook along the Blue Ridge Parkway. A good sized parking is accompanied by a single picnic table, but no restrooms. Before (or after) heading out on this hike, travel less than half a mile south along the parkway to the Richland Balsam overlook. While this overlook doesn’t actually provide trail access to Richland Balsam, it does mark the highest point along the Blue Ridge Parkway as well as offer sweeping views to the southwest.

The trail begins as a paved path to the left of the parking area. Follow it to the information signs. A box will contain laminated trail guides that detail the 23 numbered posts along this hike. If there are no trail guides, an online version is linked below in the Additional Information section. The trail immediately begins to gain elevation, ascending 400 feet over .6 miles to the summit. Take a break on one of the many benches along the way.

At just under .2 miles, the trail splits to form a loop. Stay to the right to follow the numbered markers. As you climb, the forest become dense and cool, a great escape on a hot day. A posted sign marks the summit, although there are no views. From here, it’s all downhill, looping back around following above the Blue Ridge Parkway back to the parking lot and overlook. The path around this section of the loop is much rockier, including several sets of stone steps, but still not difficult.

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Green MarkerTrailhead   Blue MarkerPoint of Interest   Yellow MarkerDirections
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Trailhead Coordinates
35.359958, -82.986877 (Degree Decimal, DegDec)
N 35°21.6, W 82°59.21 (Degree Minutes, MinDec)
N 35°21'36'', W 82°59'13'' (Degree Minutes Seconds, DMS)

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Further Directions
The trailhead is at the Haywood-Jackson Overlook, half a mile north along the Blue Ridge Parkway from the Richland Balsam Overlook.


Ranger District Information
Maintained by the National Park Service
US Department of the Interior

Other Information
For an copy of the trail guide information, visit:
Printable, text-only version: