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At Home: Balsam Mountain Preserve

Arnold Palmer Signature Golf Course

By Emma Castleberry

Just 40 minutes from Asheville, Balsam Mountain Preserve is a low-density private community that brings nature to the forefront of lifestyle. More than 75 percent of the preserve is conservation land boasting beautiful natural resources, including 40 miles of streams and more than 42 miles of trails. Where there is development at Balsam, it is purposeful, unique and curated to luxury living: fine dining, a pristine golf course, equestrian facilities and, of course, spectacular homesites, homesteads, cabins and cottages.

Reed home

Developer David Southworth has developed luxury communities throughout the US, Scotland and the Caribbean, and Balsam Mountain struck him from the first encounter. “Balsam is such a unique property,” he says. “You just don’t see developments like this. There are remote cabins out in the woods, there’s a graveyard, there’s an old mine—there are so many cool things here. And even if you were to strip all that away, it’s a beautiful community made up of really spectacular homes and a wonderful membership.”

The core value of Balsam Mountain Preserve is in the name: preservation. The Balsam Mountain Trust was established in 2000 to help manage the Preserve’s land, and now provides an array of conservation education programs. As a nonprofit operating within a private development, the Trust serves both the regional community at large and Balsam residents specifically through research, homestead botanical inventories, its one-of-a-kind Birds of Prey program, and management of the Nature Center at the Preserve.

Mine Tavern and Summit House Restaurant

Every amenity has been developed to tread lightly on the landscape and the intentional design has prioritized restraint. At the Arnold Palmer Signature Golf Course, every hole celebrates the visually stunning landscape. The state-of-the-art Ruby Valley Fitness and Wellness Center offers a pool for lap swim and family play, courts for tennis games, grills for afternoon cookouts, as well as personal training and spa services. The equestrian center at Balsam Mountain Preserve is a major draw for many residents, and it’s growing, with plans to add another eight-stall barn and more pastures soon. Club horses are available for ring training and trail riding, and there are also programs for horses boarded at the large, well-appointed barn.

Ride a club horse or hike to Dark Ridge Camp, a charmingly rustic experience just short of glamping, located at the edge of the Preserve. Enjoy a cookout at the open-air pavilion, roast s’mores on the fire pit, enjoy trout fishing in Dark Ridge Creek, sleep beneath the stars on a tent platform or snuggle up in a bunkhouse. “You can be as active socially and physically as you want, but you can always retreat to your home for privacy, the beautiful views and quiet time curled up in front of your fireplace,” says Doug Franklin, who moved to Balsam Mountain with his wife Teresa five years ago.


Culinary experiences abound, with executive chef Edwin Bloodworth bringing his vision of understated-yet-bold gourmet dining to the distinctive Summit House and Mine Tavern restaurants. At Balsam, where you dine is as important as what you eat: the gorgeous clubhouse campus is filled with remarkable details, not least of which is an 18-foot, hand-crafted dining table, cut from an old-growth red oak tree and situated beside a glass-walled wine cellar. But beautiful design and fine food don’t equate stuffiness at Balsam. “The atmosphere here is very casual,” says Franklin. “I did the suit and tie for my career, and I appreciate the relaxed environment where I don’t have to wear a sports jacket to the club every evening.”

Just a few short steps from these dining havens is Doubletop Village, a new collection of 17 mountain homes and four cottages currently in development. These homes will echo the design features of the restaurant and tavern, a distinctive aesthetic that Southworth calls Balsam Craftsman. “The cottages will have the same feel and it’ll be like you’re on the same campus,” he says. These slightly smaller homes will be available at a lower price point than the estate homes at Balsam Mountain, broadening residential accessibility to the Preserve.

Homesteads at Balsam Mountain Preserve range from 3,000-4,700 feet in elevation, with many bordering the conservation easement. These mountain-view properties offer the unique opportunity to realize your vision for home, whether you need an acre or several. There are also a selection of beautiful spec homes available for those ready to move in now. The Preserve’s Fractional Cabins offer an opportunity for shared ownership in cozy, tin-roofed cabins surrounding the Gathering House, a signature venue at the Preserve. No matter what avenue you choose, all residents reap the full benefits of membership to Balsam Mountain Preserve.

“I love the spot that we’re in,” says Southworth. “I’ve been doing this a long time and I’m just very optimistic about the future of Balsam and can’t wait to blink and see what it looks like in ten years.”

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