Trails in the Black Balsam Trailhead Area
Here is a list of trails in the Black Balsam Trailhead area. For more information and a map (where available), click the trail name.
Blaze Color: Blue
Connnects the Mountains to Sea Trail, between the Little Sam trail and NC Hwy. 215, with the Devil's Courthouse trail. Short and mostly level. Passes over the top of the Devil's Courthouse tunnel on the Parkway.
Blaze Color: Orange
USGS/USFS Number: 346
Follows an old railroad grade up from NC 215 to the end of FS 816, the Black Balsam parking area. Gentle climb, wide trail & very rocky all the way. Unique trail; all above 5000' elevation. Starts w/ crossing of Bubbling Springs Branch. Goes into mixed high-elevation hardwoods. Forest transitions to mostly spruce/fir by upper end. Passes over old concrete bridge w/ waterfall going underneath. Then travels along mountainside; excellent views. Prolific rhododendron, mtn. laurel & blueberries. Slips into Flat Laurel Creek valley, w/ cascades to L. as creek spills out of valley. Above this point, trail follows creek for a ways before pulling away to the R. Flat Laurel Creek valley is indeed relatively flat. Trail passes nice campsites & through grassy, high-elevation meadows. From here to end, low forests & open meadows to L. with dense spruce-fir forest to R. Several stream crossings & wet areas, although much maintenance has been done recently improving the surface.
USGS/USFS Number: 101
Similar to the Flat Laurel Creek trail, this trail follows an old railroad grade. It travels around Black Balsam and Tennent Mountains. It is level or climbs gently in places. It is very rocky and very wet, although there are no sizeable stream crossings. The high elevation forest consists of mainly mountain ash, birch, beech, spruce and fir, and planted windrows of longleaf pine. There are many bald areas or areas where only rhododendron, mountain laurel, and blueberries grow. The blueberries grow in profusion and are generally ripe during mid August. The road is open to four-wheel drive vehicles in fall.
Blaze Color: Yellow
USGS/USFS Number: 347
High elevation trail. Follows old road/railroad grades. One large stream crossing. Very muddy and wet, and somewhat overgrown. Travels above a very interesting wild valley. Views. Can be made into a loop with the Flat Laurel Creek and Art Loeb trails.
Fantastic, high elevation trail travels to the summit of Sam Knob. Blueberries in season. Starts on level road, travels through large field, then winds up a newly built path to the summit. Short, high-elevation hardwood forest, then heath balds and grassy areas. Summit offers spectacular 360 degree views of Middle Prong, Shining Rock, and Black Balsam areas.
In what could be one of the worst naming scenarios on the region, this trail starts at the Balsam trailhead at the end of Black Balsam Road, then travels through a big open field before ending. It does NOT go to the summit of Sam Knob. However, a right turn onto the regular Sam Knob trail at the end of this one does indeed lead there.