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Ascent of Balsam Beartown Mountain on 2020-10-25

Climber: Steven Fishback

Date:Sunday, October 25, 2020
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Balsam Beartown Mountain
    Location:USA-Virginia
    Elevation:4710 ft / 1435 m

Ascent Trip Report

I have been the AT volunteer trail maintainer through P.A.T.H (Piedmont App Trail Hikers) club for years but never did this hike to Balsam Beartown Mnt. I've done the hike up to Chestnut many times. See my Chestnut Knob TR for details driving and parking.
I was doing AT trail work this day so I didn't start my GPS track until walked away from the Beartown Wilderness sign and privy behind the shelter. In my experience you have two option here:
(1) Skip Chestnut knob and take the farmer road around to and from Balsam Beartown Mnt
Chestnut Knob is very rewarding, has an old fire warden cabin converted into an AT trail shelter, a grand view of Burkes Garden below also called “God’s Thumbprint”, no water there but has privy. I understand Vanderbilt looked into placing his Baltimore house here versus in Asheville. So I’m told. Good place to take a break before continuing on.
(2) Go to Chestnut Knob and take the farmer road on your return to avoid up an over Chestnut Knob on your return.
Keep in mind the farmers road is half on private property, muddy, can be confusing with cow paths but parallels the USFS boundary eventually returning to USFS property. I do not recommend ever trying to start a bushwhack straight from Walkers Gap or via some other route in Burkes Garden. The mountain is very steep and full of hawthorn and briers. Stick to trails and roads in the beginning stages. I’ve done USFS/AT boundary marking along the side of this mountain and it’s very difficult terrain.

For my adventure. I did option #2
GPS Label guide:
1st usfs road switch: Lat=37.055087; Long=-81.38331 – First of three AT trail “switchbacks” or old forest road crossings up to Chestnut Knob. Continue on AT trail ‘southbound’.

USFS & Farmers road walk location: Lat=37.055652; Long=-81.389038 – Second “switchback"/road crossing. Going to Chestnut Knob then continue on AT trail ‘southbound’. Skipping Chestnut Knob then right turn and follow forest road which bends around the corner to the left. Eventually you’ll leave USFS boundary marked by the farmers electric fence. If using the farmer road on your return trip then this is AT trail ‘northbound’ pickup point in order to return back to Walker Gap. Don’t try to bushwhack to Walker Gap, follow the AT trail.

AT bearing marker #50: Lat=37.059173; Long=-81.400515 - Walked downhill from the privy location, this is the AT/USFS boundary marker with red paint around bearing trees.

Heninger gap: Lat=37.062815; Long=-81.404411 - You’ll may see a road and a green house in an open area. Keep this place in mind on your return as this where you pickup the farmer road on your return in order to skip Chestnut Knob and return to Walker Gap. A very short distance from here is another road going down to the right, continue straight up on the road. On your return avoid taking this road by mistake instead look for the green house then take the farmer road.

Road narrows/faint: Lat=37.066279; Long=-81.399884 - road can difficult to follow at times but try to stick with it

46: Lat=37.068026; Long=-81.399399 - road/trail sometimes pink ribbons.

Road ends: Lat=37.070808; Long=-81.399412 - road begins if going to the peak, road ends on your return.

Red Gate : Lat=37.072838; Long=-81.401153 - going to the peak, bear left and follow the fence line. Don’t cross the red gate.
At this point overall I recommend try to follow the newly installed barbwire fence. Use that as a handrail all the way to South Balsam Beartown Mnt and down to the creek crossing. Bushwhacking is fine and easy most of the time. Just keep the fence line close to you. You do not cross the fence at any time.

Usfs marker 25-720: Lat=37.074254; Long=-81.402627 - very close to the South Balsam Beartown peak and close to the fence line I am suggesting to follow. I followed the fence line down and on my return. It was not easy but gave a clear line walking path most of the time. Do not cross the barbwire fence. Use it as a handrail on your right going down on your left on your return. Old rusted barbwire fence is grounds so be careful along here.

After crossing the creek, I attempted to walk uphill and at an angle as much as possible. It was difficult. Eventually you’ll start to climb less where you can make out a ridge line to follow. I recommend keeping the hard ridge line drop-off close on your right and balsam trees on your left. Someone has been maintaining a path so once your able to pick that up it’s easy going to the top. The peak is somewhat open and I did not locate the BM marker.
Good luck, you earned this one.
Click on photo for original larger-size version.
Very close to the top. USFS sign swallowed by tree (2020-10-25). Photo by Steven Fishback .
Click here for larger-size photo.
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:301 ft / 91 m
    Total Elevation Loss:1110 ft / 338 m
    Round-Trip Distance:6.6 mi / 10.6 km
    Quality:7 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Maintained Trail, Bushwhack
    Gear Used:
Ski Poles
Ascent Statistics
    Gain on way in:301 ft / 91 m
    Distance:3.3 mi / 5.3 km
    Start Trailhead:chestnut knob AT shelter  4409 ft / 1343 m
    Time:2 Hours 59 Minutes
Descent Statistics
    Loss on way out:1110 ft / 338 m
    Distance:3.3 mi / 5.3 km
    End Trailhead:chestnut knob AT shelter  3600 ft / 1097 m
GPS Data for Ascent/Trip


 GPS Waypoints - Hover or click to see name and lat/long
Peaks:  climbed and  unclimbed by Steven Fishback
Click Here for a Full Screen Map
Note: GPS Tracks may not be accurate, and may not show the best route. Do not follow this route blindly. Conditions change frequently. Use of a GPS unit in the outdoors, even with a pre-loaded track, is no substitute for experience and good judgment. Peakbagger.com accepts NO responsibility or liability from use of this data.

Download this GPS track as a GPX file




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