Reinhart Knob & Richland Balsam, NC (6-6-12)
Reinhart Knob (6,106') and Richland Balsam (6,410') are, as the Carolina Mountian Club describes it, one of the easiest and hardest South Beyond 6K'ers on the list. This primarily has to due with the fact that Reinhart Knob has no trails to it's summit and there are no connector trails between the two peaks. Thankfully, they are relatively easy to get to. Located astride the Blue Ridge Parkway south of Waynesville, the peaks sit within a couple miles of each other making for a relatively quick hike barring any off-trail wrong turns.
My hike began at the Beartrail Ridge Overlook on the Blue Ridge Parkway. From there I walked a few hundred yards south where I turned right and dove into the forest. The route up and over Reinhart Knob is a bushwhack, and a tough one at that, with a thick understory of mixed thorny plants. The descent down the back side was steep and rocky. Once at the Mountains to Sea Trail I turned north paralleling the ridge above for about 2 miles until I was roughly below the Richland Balsam Overlook. At that point it was a short (but steep!) bushwhack back up to the parkway which I arrived at only a quarter mile or so below Richland Balsam. After a quick scramble up the rocks across from the overlook I quickly picked up the trail over the top of Richland Balsam at which point I simply followed the Parkway back to my car. All told it was a 5-6 mile hike and, despite the beauty of it, one I hope not to repeat anytime soon...
Route Type: Loop Difficulty: HARD (Petzoldt Rating: 8.90 )
Hike Length: ~6.0 miles Hike Duration: 3:00
Trailhead Temp: 50'F Trail Traffic: 10-25 people
Min. Elevation: 5,350' Max. Elevation: 6,410'
Total Vertical Gain: 1,450' Avg. Elevation Gain / Mile: 485'
Trails Used (blaze color): Mountains-to-Sea (white), Richland Balsam Loop (unblazed)