Richland Balsam, a mountain near Waynesville, rises to 6,410 feet and is the highest peak on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Visitors can reach the summit on a 1.5 mile, self-guided loop trail that passes through a spruce-fir forest.
The term “balsam” is commonly applied to Fraser fir and red spruce, the scent of which permeates the fresh air on the mountain. Two varieties of spruce grow at Richland Balsam: “he-balsam” has rough bark and prickly needles like a man’s beard and “she-balsam” has smooth barked fir with shiny flat needles.
Other plants such as blackberry and elderberry grow where the firs have been knocked over by windstorms, opening the forest floor to sunlight.
The Richland Balsam trail starts from the Haywood-Jackson Overlook at Parkway milepost 431.
Blue Ridge Parkway Visitor Center
195 Hemphill Knob Road
Asheville, NC 28803
Visitor Information Recorded Message: (828) 298-0398
Blue Ridge Parkway website