Plott Balsams Preserve

1,595 acres in Jackson County

More than 90 percent of the preserve is forest, interrupted by the occasional rock outcrop.

Open to the Public


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Southern Appalachian Mountains
Jackson County


1,595 acres


1,595 acres


Topographical maps are available by contacting:
NC Geographical Survey.
1612 Mail Service Center
Raleigh, NC 27699-1612.
(919) 715-9718 


In 1997, The Nature Conservancy, N.C. Chapter purchased the Krauss/Stansbury Tract in the Plott Balsam Range.  In 2016, the Conservancy donated 1,654 acres to the National Park Service as an additional to the Blue Ridge Parkway. The property, which can be seen from the Waterrock Knob Overlook on the Parkway, is part of what will become known as Waterrock Knob Park.

The Plott Balsam Range casts a long shadow over the rugged territory between Sylva and Waynesville in western North Carolina.  Ranging from 2,100 feet in elevation near Sylva to more than 6,000 feet at Yellow Face and Waterrock Knob on the Blue Ridge Parkway, the mountain range rises more than 4,000 feet in elevation in less than eight miles. 

More than ninety percent of the area is forested and is interrupted only occasionally by rock outcrops and boulders.  Different forest types dominate the varying elevations, including northern hardwood forest, acidic cove forest, and rich cove forest.  The higher reaches of the range contain some significant spruce-fir forest, as well as old-growth forest in the most inaccessible areas.  Rare plant species such as the federally listed rock gnome lichen and the pink-shell azalea (almost entirely limited to North Carolina) grow on high elevation rocky summits in the mountain range, while colorful wildflowers like showy orchids grow in the hardwood forests. 

Black bear find ample roaming room in the mountain range.  The hoarse calls of the common raven are often heard in the air over the Plott Balsams, while the secretive ruffed grouse and wild turkey skulk in the woods.  The spruce-fir forest provides a refuge for the rare boreal species such as the federally endangered Carolina northern flying squirrel and the northern saw-whet owl, a species of special concern in North Carolina.

Hiking / Birding / Wildflowers 
There is also a parking area at the trail head with restrooms.

See above for access information from the Blue Ridge Parkway.


The Blue Ridge Parkway offers tremendous views of the Plott Balsams between Milepost 451 and 465.  The Waterrock Knob Trail at Milepost 451.2 offers a short but strenuous hike to the top of the Waterrock Knob.


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