Real Estate Scorecard Recommends Doubletop Mountain Hike on October 19, 2013 - Balsam Mountain Preserve's Most Challenging Hike in Western North Carolina

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Balsam Mountain Preserve Hiking Trails

Award Winning Western North Carolina Gated Communities

One of the most difficult hiking trails at Balsam Mountain Preserve is called Over the Doubletop which wends from the Cold Springs Gap (aka Fern Gap) to the summit of Doubletop Mountain at an elevation of almost 5,500 feet. The trail’s elevation from start to summit is 780 feet of strenuous hiking for practiced and proficient hikers. The reward for reaching the peak is the expansive view of the surrounding area from the observation tower. From the tower, views of other nearby mountain tops as well as the Nantahala National Forest, 500,000 acres of unspoiled national parkland.

Celebrating their 20th Anniversary, the Balsam Mountain Trust just surpassed their fund-raising goals which helps maintain one of the best nature preserves in Western North Carolina. Each week the trust organizes hikes for residents on a very personal level on the Balsam Mountain Preserve hiking trails or off property. The next big hike is scheduled for October 19, 2013.

“We don’t quit hiking because we grow old, we grow old because we quit hiking.” (from The Hiking Fools on the Great American Road Trip) Groomed hiking trails are one of the most popular amenity requests by Baby Boomers searching for mountain property in gated communities in Western North Carolina.

Near a Blue Ridge Parkway entrance, one of the best nature preserves in Western North Carolina has them, some of which connect to the Blue Ridge Mountain Trails. Whether “thru hikers” or “section hikers,” residents of Balsam Mountain Preserve can HYOH (Hike Your Own Hike). 30 miles of Balsam Mountain Preserve hiking trails of varying levels of difficulty provide hiking opportunities for every skill level.

Balsam Mountain Preserve has two dedicated naturalists on staff to coach and guide residents with the community's wide variety of trails. One of the most popular hiking trails is the Sugarloaf Creek Trail. It starts at a waterfall that falls over a prominent rock ledge and slopes downward gradually where hikers will find quaint bridges, log steps, and gravel roads.

Not far from the top of the trail is a narrow area between two boulders known as “fat man’s squeeze.” In addition to the falls and “fat man’s squeeze”, the “must-see” on this trail is the remote cabin at the bottom of the trail, which is representative of the homes that families lived in during the 1800’s. Rustic in its lack of modern conveniences, the cabin provides shelter and, for interested residents, reservations can be made for overnight stays. All in all, the trail boasts beautiful birch, poplar, oak, maple and beech trees, all of which blaze with riotous color during autumn.

Also extremely popular in one of the best nature preserves in Western North Carolina is the Camp Ground Loop Trail. This trail has a moderate terrain that slopes down gradually 100 feet for a little over a mile ending at the family camping grounds. The camping grounds have two cabins for overnight stays, an open-air pavilion, an outdoor grill and a fire pit. The “must see” on this trail is the Dark Ridge Creek which has superior water quality due in part to its rushing down over 5,000 feet. Because of the campground’s proximity to the creek, many folks enjoy fly-fishing and “shore lunches” (catch it and cook it). The trail meets up with the Fisher Cove trail to return to camp. Along the way, residents traverse log steps and bridges with views, where they are able to admire the beautiful rhododendrons, sugar maples, a grape vine on a tulip tree and more. All of this beauty and fun is very near a Blue Ridge Parkway entrance.

Connecting with the Dark Ridge Camp Loop on the west, the Upper Dark Ridge Creek Trail is 1.75 miles round trip. Even with its 400 foot elevation change, it is one of the easier trails to hike with a terrain that meanders along an old logging road. Various marked vantage points have views of the “must see” rushing stream of the Dark Ridge Creek which begins its spectacular descent from about 5,400 feet on the side of Old Bald Ridge and Grassy Ridge in the Great Balsam Mountains.


One of the most popular hikes starts at the Cataloochee Mountain. Not only do the preserved, historic churches, school, and homes make this an interesting hike, but also a herd of elk can often be seen grazing in the Cataloochee Valley. This hike ends at the award winning Swag Inn in Waynesville where hikers can stay to feast on sumptuous fare, turn and return to the start, or leave the hike from the inn. Balsam Mountain Preserve's activity calendar keeps property owners up to date with upcoming organized hikes off.

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