Balsam Mountain Campground is located in a relatively remote part of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The secluded setting offers visitors the ability to enjoy a multitude of recreational activities without the crowds which are sometimes common in other parts of the park.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park is a hiker's paradise, with over 800 miles of maintained trails ranging from short, leg-stretchers to strenuous treks. The Balsam Mountain area features several trails that are less heavily used compared to other areas of the park.
The campground offers a short nature trail located beside site 43. The hiker only Flat Creek Trail is a pleasant walk through a hardwood forest. For the adventurous hiker the Hemphill Bald and Rough Fork trails provide a 14-mile loop hike, with outstanding views and old growth trees.
Campers can enjoy high-quality backcountry fishing in the cool waters of the countless streams and rivers that snake through the mountains. Anglers will agree that some of the best trout fishing in the area can be found along the Balsam Mountain and Straight Fork Roads, some of the most remote sections of the park. Fly fishing is particularly good during spring months when aquatic insects hatch in large numbers.
Wildlife viewing is a popular pastime, and with around 1,500 bears living in the park, it is not uncommon for visitors to spot one. The park is a sanctuary for a magnificent array of animal and plant life, all of which is protected for future generations to enjoy.
The park also holds one of the best collections of log buildings in the eastern United States. Over 90 historic structures have been preserved in the park.
For the auto touring enthusiast, the 14-mile Heintooga Round Bottom Road, a one-way unimproved gravel drive, offers spectacular scenery with mountain vistas and the occasional bear or elk sighting. Buses, motorhome, vans longer than 25' and any vehicle towing a trailer are prohibited on this road.
Balsam Mountain Campground offers 42 campsites for a traditional outdoor camping experience with the added convenience of flush toilets and drinking water. There are no hookups or showers at the campground. No lights are available in the restrooms at this campground. For campers' safety use of a flashlight, lantern or headlamp is recommended when accessing these facilities after day light hours.
Balsam Mountain Campground is surrounded by picturesque mountain ranges and pristine mountain streams. Elk are common in this part of the park during the spring and fall. Located at 5,310 feet elevation, Balsam Mountain's daytime temperatures rarely exceed 70 degrees F and night time temperatures may dip into the low 50's.
Nearby attractions include: Maggie Valley, NC, Cherokee, NC, the Oconaluftee Visitor Center, the Mountain Farm Museum, the Blue Ridge Parkway, the Nantahala Outdoor Center, the Bryson City Railway and Asheville, NC
ADA Access: N
We chose this campground specifically for the elevation, knowing we would be camping in late August and wanting an escape from the heat. It definitely delivered--at over 5300' elevation, it is much, much cooler at the campground than many of the trails lower in the Smokies. It is also extremely foggy--we did not spend much time here during the day as we were hiking, but both morning and nights we were there, clouds settled in over the entire campground, creating a very cool effect. (It also rained on us both nights, so make sure your tent is properly sealed against water!)
We stayed in sites 38 and 39, which had been booked in advance by the friends we went with. These are very close to the entrance, to other sites, to the bathrooms, the campground hosts, and the dishwashing station, and they are right on the road. It made these sites very convenient, but not the best for us as we had 5 small children with us. The tent pad at site 38 was also a little too small for our 6 person Coleman Evanston—one corner was hanging off the wooden platform.
While our campsite was not as private as we normally would choose for ourselves, the campground itself was very quiet and very peaceful, and nowhere near full occupancy, despite the crowds on the trails below us. It is very wet, so if you want a campfire be sure to buy some of the heat-treated wood available for purchase down the mountain, and be prepared to secure anything you don't want to get wet in your cars overnight.
My only complaint here was the interaction the campground hosts had with our children--a bear had been seen at the entrance to the campground our first night there, and one of the hosts attempted to scare one of our toddlers into staying close to her mom, which is a decision I found highly inappropriate, and the hosts in general acted annoyed anytime our children wanted to play more than a few feet away from the adults. However that is not a fault of the campground itself, and I think if we had not been so close to the host site that would not have been an issue, and would have made this a very family-friendly place to go--provided you prepare for temperatures 10-20 degrees cooler than it is at lower elevations!
Other things of note with this campground:
-For privacy, sites 32-37 looked to be the best, although they require a couple of steps down from the car so are not ADA compliant. These sites are very grassy, with a lot of room for kids and dogs to run around without being right on the road. Site 23 was also very private compared to the others, although small; I don’t think anything larger than a 4 person tent would fit here.
-The tent-only sites, 26-31, are clustered together and very open to each other, but offer privacy from the road and the other sites in the campground, and are considered the "walk-in" sites. The walk is very short, and I did see bear boxes to store food, as proper food storage is extremely important in the Smokies--within a few miles of the campsite we saw elk, bears, wild turkey, and deer.
-There is a dishwashing station behind site 38, with two sinks. There was some dish soap in there on our trip, but as always, be prepared with your own, and the water was cold water only.
-Site 38 is next to an open field rolling down the mountain; the hosts told us there is a bear family that likes to cross the campsite between sites 7 and 38, so be prepared to see one if you choose a site near this crossing!
-There is a trail along the edge of this campground that is supposed to have wonderful sunset views, although we did not get to take advantage of this due to the fog.
-Because of the high elevation, Balsam Mountain has a shorter operating season that the other GSMNP campgrounds; plan your trip accordingly.
-There are no electric or water hook-ups here, although RVs and campers may park at the sites.
-The bathrooms have solar-powered lights for nighttime, but they are very dim, so flashlights/headlamps are encouraged.
We camped at Balsam in late July. The night temps were in the 50s and 60s, perfect for a Fall preview for a southerner like me. The sites were smallish but private and the bathrooms were clean. We made friends with the salamanders that wandered through our site and were serenaded at 2 am by owls. Beautiful and quiet and too far from everything to hear much road noise. I would camp there over and over.
This campground is right off the Blue Ridge Parkway, close to Cherokee, and Maggie Valley. The sites are first come first service, which is great if you want to camp on a whim. No showers, but there are restrooms. This place is close to trails and there are plenty of waterfalls a short drive away. All sites have a tent pad, fire pit with grill, and picnic table. There is a larger picnic area next to the campground.
A great secluded campground in the Smokies. A few trails nearby, but we drove about an hour for most of the hikes we did. Clean bathrooms, no showers.
It was a busy weekend and everything was full. We finally found a place here and it was great. Clean bathrooms with running water. No showers but hey it was better than the middle of nowhere that we stayed the night before.
The long drive up the mountain is well worth it for the seclusion from the rest of the park. Plus, depending on your specific site location, you wake up to some beautiful views.
This is not Gatlinburg! It is almost an entirely different park. A lot quieter on the NC side overall, I feel. Flowers, Waterfalls, Wildlife, Mountains, Streams…amazing. No showers…not Canada!
If you want to put some distance between you and the masses at Great Smoky NP than head to Balsam Mountain Campground. Quieter and greater chance of seeing bears and other wild life. And of course waterfalls galore!
Camped for a weekend at the Balsam Mountain Campground, and absolutely loved it. The site is kept spectacularly clean, as are the amenities such as the bathrooms, the dishwashing station, and the various water fountains. There are over forty sites that have a gravel-like area for tents, a very convenient picnic table, and a great fire pit with a grill cover. The camp sites are also large enough to have room to spread out and feel like you have some semblance of privacy. All in all, this is a great place to camp. The signs up into the Blue Ridge Parkway and the site are very clear and the look out points along the way are definitely worth the stop. Also, there are a multitude of great trails very near to the campsites that are a blast to explore during the day.