Balsam Mountain Trail
ElevationAscent: 2,062' 628 m
Descent: -547' -167 m
High: 5,954' 1,815 m
Low: 4,439' 1,353 m
GradeAvg Grade: 5% (3°)
Max Grade: 21% (12°)
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“A beautiful ridge trail, with views of the Smokies, that gradually ascends to the Appalachian Trail.”— Max Willner
Heading north, runners will come across Balsam High Top and Ledge Bald (a nice spot to take a break) and have the option of branching to the left along Mount Sterling Ridge Trail towards the breathtaking Mt. Sterling fire tower.
Just past the Mount Sterling Ridge Trail is the Gunter Fork Trail, which leads to Campsites #36 and #37.
About 4.3 miles into the trail is the Laurel Gap Shelter. It's important to note that a permit must be acquired through the park in order to stay at this shelter.
At 6.9 miles in, runners will reach Luftee Knob and Thermo Knob, before passing Mount Yonaguska and Mount Hardison. Yonaguska is named after a Cherokee Chief, and Hardison after James A. Hardison, who helped in the creation of the Great Smoky Mountain National Park.
The trail comes to an end at the Appalachian Trail, where runners can either head north towards the Cosby Knob Shelter or south towards the Pecks Corner Shelter.
As for local fauna, black bears are common in the area, along with white-tailed deer and 31 species of salamanders. Birdwatchers can spot a variety of species, notably the northern flicker (Colaptes auratus) and red-eyed vireo (Vireo olivaceus). For more information on black bears, refer to this webpage.
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Land Manager: NPS - Great Smoky Mountains National Park