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Known for its historic mountain inn, Balsam includes the highest point along the scenic Blue Ridge Parkway in Jackson County. The old railroad town is in the heart of the Great Smoky Mountains.

This beautiful Jackson County community can be found near Balsam Gap, a mountain pass between two of the highest ranges in the Appalachian Mountains. Balsam is also an entrance to the scenic Blue Ridge Parkway and includes Richland Balsam Overlook, the Parkway’s highest point. Located near both Waynesville and Sylva, Balsam has plenty of activities nearby. It’s only a thirty-minute drive from the Asheville airport and is a great base camp for your mountain adventure. 

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The Richland Balsam Trail is a 1.5-mile loop known as the best-smelling trail on the Blue Ridge Parkway, which winds its way through a breathtaking spruce-fir forest. There are parking areas along every pull off for a picnic and to get ready to hit the trails!

Taking its name from the shared nickname of the red spruce (he-balsam) and Fraser fir (she-balsam), the Balsam community is best known for the historic Balsam Mountain Inn, which dates back to 1908. Like a large open house floor plan, the lobby is a beautiful gathering spot for guests to enjoy afternoon tea and reading. Located on Cabin Flats Road, the Inn is also renowned in the United States for being a haunted property, when you check-in be sure to ask about it! Balsam was once home to the highest passenger rail station in the East, and the trains brought many guests to stay at the Inn. The station no longer operates, but guests today can still enjoy the Inn’s 100-foot porches, grand dining room, and stunning library.

Due to the spread-out nature of the outdoor activities in and around Balsam, it is a COVID safe destination to visit.

More to Explore

If you’re looking for more adventure in the Balsam area, check out these popular activities below:

  • Waterrock Knob Trail – The steep, 1.2-mile roundtrip hike leads to a 6,292-foot summit and boasts views of up to 50 miles out on a clear day in the Smokies.
  • Cherokee – Only a short drive from Balsam, Cherokee is home to the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians and features outdoor dramas, a museum, and Native American crafts.
  • Lake Junaluska – Looking to get outdoors and stretch those legs? Lake Junaluska in nearby Haywood County features a nice walking loop around the lake with scenic views and is in close proximity to Maggie Valley.
  • Western North Carolina – While staying at Balsam, you are at the perfect place to explore the entire region – from Asheville to Bryson City, Balsam is in the middle of the most for easy access to your mountain adventure; it’s not too far from anything you want to do in the WNC mountains.
  • Vacation Rentals abound, and many real estate firms offer townhomes and cottages for rent at Balsam. Check out Airbnb and VRBO for many options for your stay.
  • While it’s a bit more of a drive, the Pisgah Inn is a restaurant along the Parkway you can dine at and catch incredible sunrises and sunsets.

Fun fact: Balsam is also home to Balsam Mountain Preserve, a private, gated, mountain, golf, and equestrian community in the western North Carolina Mountains. The golf course is a signature Arnold Palmer course. While it used to be open to public play, it is now a private course. Many celebrities call Balsam Mountain Preserve home! Realtors in Jackson County have seen a massive uptick in homes for sale and under construction in recent years due to the popularity of the region and the appeal of all the natural assets the area has to offer.

Ready to plan your trip to Balsam?

Take a look at our Trip Ideas to get inspiration for your next mountain getaway. Or check out some FAQs to get all your Jackson County questions answered.

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