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Plott Balsam Mountains
Cherokee, NC

Trail of Tears

Located within the Cherokee Indian Reservation, the Plott Balsam mountains can be observed from overlooks on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Colonel William Thomas purchased this land from the US government for the Cherokees in 1880. Since then the tribe has been responsible for the stewardship of this unspoiled mountain range. After the Trail of Tears, the deadly march that forced the Cherokees westward in 1838-39, a small group remained and were "given" a lease on the land that is now part of the Cherokee Reservation. In order to continue their stay on this property they were required to purchase it.

Plott Balsams

This group of mountains range from 2000 to over 5000 feet in elevation. There are several stands of Balsam Firs at the higher elevations, some suffering the ill effects of increasingly poor air quality. These firs are typically observed in the boreal forests of Southern Canada. As the glaciers of the Ice Age retreated northward, these forests were left behind at the higher elevations forming "Islands in the sky". Although these firs are sensitive to air pollution and adelgids (non-native insects) the Cherokee Forest Service has done an excellent job of preserving the remaining stands. Another success story of The Cherokee's stewardship is their effective wild hog abatement program. The havoc that the non-native species is wreaking in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park, just next door, is not occurring on the reservation.

It shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone that the Cherokees place a high priority on the preservation of their forests.

Great Views form the Blue Ridge Parkway.

A highly recommended trail to observe these beautiful views is the Waterrock Knob Trail at milepost 451. Climb the trail at the east side of the parking lot to a summit of 6400'. The paved trail turns into a rocky climb of about a half of a mile. The extensive views of the Smokies and the Plott Balsams are worth the effort.

Hikes Nearby:

Waterrock Knob    Flat Creek Trail  
Hemphill Bald Trail  Blue Ridge Parkway
Spruce Mountain  Polls Gap Trail 

Gettin' There
Pull in at the overlooks of the Blue Ridge Parkway from Milepost 451 to the end of the Parkway near the entrance of the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. The best views of the Plott Balsams are best observed between Milepost 451 and milepost 465. An easy access point is the entrance of the Parkway near Maggie Valley, NC. at Socco Gap. This is approximately a 1 hour drive from Asheville, N.C..

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