Explore a beautiful, mossy, high-elevation spruce-fir forest on this short hike on the Richland Balsam Trail, just off the Blue Ridge Parkway near Asheville.

georgia hiking trails: 0-2 miles 1.3 miles
(round trip)
? Your mileage may vary! Accuracy of your GPS device, weather conditions, and stops along your route will affect your own recorded distance.
georgia hiking trails: moderaterelatively
moderate
?Our difficulty estimate, based on distance, terrain, elevation change, & ease of wayfinding. May vary daily due to weather, trail reroutes, downed trees, etc.
georgia hiking trails: dog-friendly Dog-
friendly
?Leashed dogs are allowed on this trail. We’ve loved hiking this route with our trail-loving Labrador Retrievers! Check out more of our favorite dog-friendly trails near Asheville for a great hike with your pup.

LOCATION:on the Blue Ridge Parkway southwest of Asheville, NC

GEAR: Osprey Stratos 24 Backpack, our hiking gear list and Canon 6D Camera

WEAR: Our ultra-soft Asheville Trails shirts and mountain logo hats

OFFICIAL MAP: Nat Geo 780 Trails Illustrated Map

Soaring to 6,053 feet, the Richland Balsam Overlook is the highest spot on the Blue Ridge Parkway, offering wide, panoramic views over a stand of fragrant balsam fir. Nearby, the mountain’s true summit rises nearly 400 feet higher, covered in a mossy, sun-dappled spruce-fir forest filled with ferns. And while the views from the mountain’s true summit don’t rival those at the Parkway overlook below, the mountaintop offers a beautiful hike through a high elevation forest that’s most definitely worth the miles.

Richland Balsam Trail

Access to the mountain’s summit is from an overlook southeast of the Richland Balsam Overlook, following a moderately challenging trail in a 1.3-mile lollipop-shaped loop. The route departs from the Haywood-Jackson Overlook, an open, sunny, grassy stop on the Parkway with picnic tables for a great pre- or post-hike snack. Printed trail guides at the trailhead offer a deeper look into the wonders of the spruce-fir forest and explain its ever-changing ecosystems, a conflict between the forest’s fir and the balsam woolly adelgid, a foreign insect that attacks the mountain’s stands of Fraser fir. It’s a hike filled with ample fresh air, fragrant forest scents of sweet fir and spruce, and beautiful (though narrow) views from two overlooks along the way.

Explore a beautiful, mossy, high-elevation spruce-fir forest on this short hike on the Richland Balsam Trail, just off the Blue Ridge Parkway near Asheville. #hiking #asheville #nc #northcarolina #travel #outdoors #adventure

Richland Balsam Trail: the hike

The adventure begins at the Haywood-Jackson Overlook on the Blue Ridge Parkway (view maps and driving directions), departing from a trailhead on the parking area’s northern side. The trail is paved on a short initial stretch, climbing from the trailhead as the onion-like, pungent scent of galax fills the air. Reaching the end of the pavement, the trail dives into a shady, mossy forest, reaching the loop portion of the trail at .15 mile.

The route veers right at the loop. The trail winds through switchbacks, ascending steadily and rising through dense stands of balsam fir. The forest’s red-hued soil contrasts with the verdant green of the trees, mosses, and ferns.

Richland Balsam Trail

Yellow birch trees speckle the forest as the hike continues the climb. The trail levels briefly for a tenth of a mile before making a final climb to the summit, reaching the mountain’s signed peak at .6 mile. Departing the Richland Balsam summit, the hike continues following the loop, veering southbound and descending rustic stone stairs. The trail passes through a rocky, fern-filled stretch of forest before reaching the first of two overlooks, catching narrow, through-the-trees views at .7 miles.

The trail continues its descent, passing through a sun-dappled stretch of forest filled with tall wildflower and fern at 1 mile. The trail levels briefly and then begins a short climb, reaching the hike’s second view over a small, grassy clearing.

Richland Balsam Trail

After taking a moment to soak up the view (and some fresh, sweetly fragrant air), the route resumes its descent, hiking southbound. The trail completes the loop at 1.15 miles and continues south, reaching the trailhead at 1.3 miles and finishing the adventure.

More view-packed Blue Ridge Parkway hikes near Asheville

Up for some more classic mountain beauty on the Parkway? Hike our ten favorite trails to the Blue Ridge Parkway’s best summit views near Asheville, scoring stunning vistas from rocky peaks, grass-covered mountain balds, and rolling ridges covered in blooming rhododendron and wildflowers.


Richland Balsam Trail Map, Directions & Details

This map is not a substitute for official trail maps or topographic maps.

Driving Directions



Parking

Free parking is available at the Haywood-Jackson Overlook on the Blue Ridge Parkway south of Asheville. (Before you go, check for trail updates and parkway closures on the official Blue Ridge Parkway website.)


GPS Coordinates

35.359967, -82.986900     //     N35 21.598 W82 59.214

Elevation Profile

Richland Balsam Trail on the Blue Ridge Parkway: Elevation Profile
 
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Eric Champlin
Author

Eric Champlin is a writer and photographer who loves to hike, run, backpack, kayak and cycle the southeast. He’s the editor and founder of Atlanta Trails, Asheville Trails, and Trailful, digital magazines that highlight the South’s best outdoor adventures and top Southern-worthy outdoor gear. His mission? To inspire others to get fit outdoors and explore the South’s incredible scenic beauty.