Belview Mountain

Map of Belview Mountain near Cranberry NCSouthern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy has created a new nature preserve in the Highlands of Roan, which will permanently protect 151 more acres of mountain habitat and clean streams. It is very near other SAHC nature preserves and a 24,000-acre network of public lands! The new preserve is on Belview Mountain, and provides habitat for diverse amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals, contributing to climate resilience in an important wildlife connectivity corridor.

Tucked away in the rugged mountains of Avery County, near the communities of Elk Park, Cranberry, and Minneapolis, distinguished NC State Forestry professor and tree geneticist Bruce Zobel invested in a legacy for his children — one of rocks and dirt and living organisms rather than paper stocks. Now, his children have secured that legacy for future generations to enjoy — for natural communities to prosper and for hiking enthusiasts to enjoy protected views from the Appalachian Trail, for  years to come.

Landowners Julie Zobel and Kathy Ball sold 151 acres to SAHC on Belview Mountain, for SAHC to own and manage for the long term as a nature preserve. The property  reaches elevations of 4,400 ft. and can be seen from the Appalachian Trail on Hump Mountain. It boasts 10 headwater tributaries and the main branch of Cranberry Creek. The pristine creek waters support populations of wild trout. Read more

Roan Mountain Gateway

View of open areas on Roan Mountain Gateway

Roan Mountain Gateway, photo credit Dan Belanger, USDA Forest Service

Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy recently transferred 91 acres to the USDA Forest Service, adding to public lands just south of the popular Carvers Gap area on the North Carolina and Tennessee border. Collectively known as the Roan Mountain Gateway, these 91 acres encompass the last privately-owned land on NC Hwy 261 before reaching Carvers Gap.

The Roan Mountain Gateway is prominent in views from Round Bald and Jane Bald, iconic locations along the Appalachian National Scenic Trail in the Highlands of Roan. The land contains high elevation habitat, including restored habitat for neo-tropical migratory Golden-winged Warblers and other species, as well as headwater tributaries that flow into local trout streams. Read more

Tiger Creek

lower meadow at Tiger CreekThanks to supporters like you, in May 2020 we purchased 54 acres surrounded by Cherokee National Forest in the Highlands of Roan, within 2,000 feet of the Appalachian Trail. SAHC will own and manage the property to protect habitat and water resources until it can be added to Cherokee National Forest.

The Tiger Creek property rises in elevation from 3,400 feet to nearly 4,400 feet, just a short distance from the Clyde Smith Shelter on the Appalachian Trail. This stunning tract features an open field and early successional habitat for songbirds, beautiful tributary stream of Tiger Creek, and large, high elevation rock outcrop. Read more

Haw Orchard Ridge – 51 Acres Protected

SAHC Land Protection Director Michelle Pugliese on Haw Orchard Ridge

SAHC Land Protection Director Michelle Pugliese on Haw Orchard Ridge

In November 2019, SAHC purchased 51 acres on a prominent ridge near the Appalachian Trail in the Highlands of Roan. The Haw Orchard Ridge property adjoins Pisgah National Forest, rising to over 5,400 ft. just south of Roan High Knob. It is visible from the Appalachian Trail at Round Bald and Grassy Ridge Bald.

“Haw Orchard Ridge protects a portion of the well known red spruce-Fraser fir stand which stretches from Roan High Knob to Carvers Gap,” says Roan Stewardship Director Marquette Crockett. “This spruce-fir stand is used by numerous rare high elevation species including Red crossbill, Northern Saw-whet Owl, and Pygmy Salamander. It is also inhabited by federally endangered species including the Carolina Flying Squirrel and the Spruce-Fir Moss Spider.  We hope that our protection of this property and restoration work will help to create a safe haven for these climate sensitive species.”

Haw Orchard Ridge and Roan Highlands mapSAHC will manage the land as a nature preserve, restoring conifer habitat for birds with a recently awarded grant from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology Land Trust Bird Conservation Initiative.

“Protecting Haw Orchard Ridge has been a priority of SAHC’s for decades,” says Land Protection Director Michelle Pugliese. “Securing the rare high elevation habitat found on this property, bordering Pisgah National Forest and just down the mountain from the Appalachian Trail, is a great conservation achievement. We are so grateful to all of our supporters, philanthropic leaders Fred and Alice Stanback, and the Conservation Trust for North Carolina for providing funding to make this acquisition possible.”

Scenic view photo above taken from Jane Bald on the Appalachian Trail, by Travis Bordley. Haw Orchard Ridge sits just below Roan High Knob, sandwiched between Round Bald (foreground) and Roan High Bluff (background). 

Virtual Tour of Haw Orchard Ridge

SAHC and our partners at the Southern Appalachian Spruce Restoration Initiative are working to restore spruce-fir forests on this preserve, with support from a small grant program from the Cornell Land Trust Bird Conservation Initiative and the Land Trust Alliance. On a bright spring morning, our staff was thrilled to do the initial bird point count surveys for this property. How many species can you hear calling in the video?

PLEASE NOTE: The camera could not pickup all the bird calls that were being heard at that time. For example; at 0:28 Marquette identifies a ruffed grouse off in the distance while the camera only detects the call of a dark eyed junco. Similarly at 2:10 Marquette identifies a Canada Warbler visually while you can hear the song of a veery.

Roan Recreation Updates 2019

We are working with Pisgah and Cherokee National Forests, the Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC), and Tennessee Eastman Hiking and Canoeing Club (TEHCC) to address recreational impacts in and around Carver’s Gap and Grassy Ridge. This area, with easy access to stunning scenic views along the Appalachian Trail, has experienced significant increases in visitation. We joined these partners for two work days this summer, to repair and restore a section of the trail going up Jane Bald. In addition, new signage and interpretative materials are planned for 2020.

Over the course of the summer, Roan Naturalist Sarah Jones interacted with more than 8,500 people on the Appalachian Trail. Sarah taught visitors about the ecology of the Roan Highlands and the role that SAHC and other partners play in protecting the landscape.  She shared Leave No Trace ethics and provided support for hikers of all levels. We are very appreciative to our friends at the ATC and the TEHCC for their support of this position.

College Students Volunteer in the Roan

Students from Mars Hill University and Warren Wilson College joined us this spring for a Golden-winged Warbler habitat management workday and camping trip along the Appalachian Trail in the Highlands of Roan.

The energetic volunteers cleared downed tree limbs and lopped saplings to create ideal breeding ground for this threatened species of neo-tropical migratory songbirds. Read more

Hump Mtn Transfer to Cherokee Nat’l Forest

Close-up of fall leaves on the meadow on the Hump Mountain conservation property.

We have transferred 324 acres on the TN slopes of Hump Mountain to the Cherokee National Forest in the Highlands of Roan, the upper edge of the property extends just 500 ft from the Appalachian National Scenic Trail (AT). Nearby, the AT passes across the grassy balds atop Hump Mountain, affording hikers breathtaking 360-degree views of the surrounding landscape.

“This is an outstanding example of how federal, state and private partners can work together to achieve common goals,”said JaSal Morris, Forest Supervisor, Cherokee National Forest.  “The purchase is a great addition, not only to the Cherokee National Forest land base, but to the entire National Forest System. It will be managed for protection of its exceptional natural resources and the public’s enjoyment of its scenic beauty.”

Read more

2018 Roan Naturalist Travis Bordley

Former AmeriCorps service member Travis Bordley stepped into our Roan Naturalist boots this summer.  Travis spent the majority of his time from May to August on the Appalachian Trail between Carvers Gap and 19 E, recording data, educating hikers, and helping manage negative impacts to the Roan’s fragile, globally important ecosystems.

In total, he observed over 12,600 hikers in the Roan, and had interpretive, educational discussions with more than 4,000 people.

“There were days where I couldn’t believe my eyes at the steady stream of people pouring onto the trail,” says Travis. “These moments made me fear for the sensitive habitat in the area. There were also slow days when visitor usage was low, and I was able to genuinely connect with people.” Read more

Love and Light: The Blackalachian on the Appalachian Trail

On Thursday, July 26, Daniel White will share his journey “Love and Light: The Blackalachian on the Appalachian Trail” during a public speaking engagement at 6:30 pm the Arthur R. Edington Education & Career Center (133 Livingston St, Asheville, NC 28801). In addition to his experiences hiking the Appalachian Trail, he will discuss gear, tips to getting outdoors for the first time, and plans for his Underground Railroad bike ride. Sponsored by Everybody’s Environment organizations – Southern Appalachian Highlands ConservancyAppalachian Trail Conservancy, and the Center for Diversity Education at UNC Asheville.

Check out this article about Daniel in The Urban News!

About “The Blackalachian”:

Last year, Daniel White set off hiking the Appalachian Trail to get a new perspective on life. Feeling frustrated and stymied by his day-to-day grind in Charlotte, he looked for something new, fresh and invigorating to experience.

“I was seeing so much negativity on social media — there is just so much of it, and you take too much of it in, being aware of it at all times,” he recalls. “It was weighing down and killing my spirit. So, I randomly put out on Facebook that I wanted to learn to survive in the wilderness, and my cousin said I should hike the Appalachian Trail.”

Although he’d never backpacked before, the gold-toothed rapper was game to try.

“I hadn’t slept in a tent until three days before I started,” he says. “Growing up in Asheville, the trail was there all the time, but nobody introduced me to it. Once I got started, it was a learning experience. I was only planning to hike for a couple months, but then I really got into it and didn’t want to stop.”

Chronicling the journey via his YouTube channel, the Blackalachian (the trail nickname Daniel chose for himself) ended up hiking the entire 2,200 mile path ofthe Appalachian National Scenic Trail, from Springer Mountain, GA to Mt. Katahdin, ME. His viewers, from all over the nation and world, galvanized him to keep trekking. Now, he’d like to share that inspiration. This summer, Daniel returns to his hometown to share stories about his journey and hopefully inspire others to try something new — whether fishing, hiking, camping, biking, or maybe woodwork.

“We have to show kids that it’s okay to step outside the box, to be different and not get sucked into the group think,” he says. “There is so much outdoors that inspires creativity! Social media is a great tool, but it’s being misused – it’s becoming a way of living. We have to look for any way we can take kids outdoors to ignite and excite them. I learned to love reading from comic books; you just have to start somewhere.”

In July, Daniel plans to lead a few hikes and activities for youth groups in the Asheville area.

“The point is to get them to just enjoy what they are doing and have fun,” he says. “I didn’t see myself as being a role model, but I do have a unique story to tell. When I was growing up, I remember activities that we did at the community centers, and those memories have stuck with me till this day.”

Reflecting on challenges faced along the trail, Daniel says wildlife was one of the main concerns for his family members.

“There are bears, snakes, etc,” he says, “but I don’t think it’s any more dangerous than walking out of your door every day. I think you’re more likely to get hit by a car. With people, you run into some of the same things you face anywhere — sexism, racism, microaggressions — but I wouldn’t let that stop me. Getting started can really be a challenge — having enough money for the gear and being able to take off work for 6 months — or running out of funds on the trail. And then there’s the physical terrain. No matter how good a shape you’re in to start, hiking the mountains and being on the trail day after day really toughens you.”

“But there are lots of rewards, too,” he adds. “The peace, that’s the most important part. It’s so peaceful. And you meet a lot of people on the trail that help each other out. Those unwarranted acts of kindness really restore your faith in humanity. On TV you just see division, division, division — but when you get out on the trail and see people showing you love, that’s a real faith restorer. The experience opens you up, lets you meet people from all walks of life, make connections, and keep in touch. Completing something like this, you build momentum for yourself.”

Daniel also feels compelled to open discussions about access to trails and outdoor recreation.

“It was a great hike and experience, but sometimes I felt like a novelty,” he shares. “We really need more diversity out here. I only counted one other black hiker when I was on the trail, and in general it seems there are more black women hikers than men. I think we should have more conversations about why. I have a theory – I think it goes back to slavery and stories passed down through the generations, about people who went into the woods and didn’t come back. I think it’s a safety issue, a survival mechanism, and I wonder what other people think.”

He intends to keep hiking and is looking forward to his next big adventure – biking the route of the Underground Railroad, from Alabama to Canada. To support his ride, click here.

Find out more and connect with Daniel @TheBlackalachian on Facebook & Instagram.

2018 June Jamboree

Registration for the 2018 June Jamboree has now closed.

The Social

Time:  2-4 pm

After your adventure on your Jamboree outing be sure to stop by our afternoon social where friends and family can gather and share hike experiences while learning about SAHC’s recent accomplishments, including land protection and stewardship news. Drinks and light refreshments will be provided.

This years social will be at our Big Rock Creek Preserve.  The Big Rock Creek property, formerly the home of Trailridge summer camp, contains 127 acres of unique high elevation habitat and streams.  There will be a short, newly constructed trail that will be ready for walking – this trail was possible thanks to SAHC volunteers, the National Parks Conservation Association and Nature Valley!

The Hikes/Outings

*Hike Key Note: Hikes are rated 1-10 (greater than 10 for extremely difficult hikes). A rating of 5 is considered moderate, 10 difficult, and 1 extremely easy. We come up with this number by putting the hike elevation change and mileage into this formula: (0.002 x elevation gain (ft.)) + Round trip distance (miles) = Difficulty rating (1-10).

What to Bring: Water bottle, sturdy footwear, gear/clothing relevant for your specific outing, and a bag to carry personal items. Weather in the Roan can change quickly, so you may want to bring sunscreen, a rain jacket, and multiple layers. Most hikes will have an opportunity to stop for lunch along the way — please plan to bring your own lunch.

#1 Hike and Yoga

Location: SAHC’s Dr. William Davenport Preserve, Highlands of Roan

Start Time: 11 am | Est. End Time: 1 pm

Leader: Lauren McTigue | Difficulty: Easy (2/10)* – No yoga experience req’d

Join us for a peaceful yoga session in the Highlands of Roan, surrounded by scenic views protected by SAHC. The session will be on the Dr. William A. Davenport Tract, which was acquired by SAHC in 2014.  This property had been an SAHC top priority for 45 years before it was conserved! The yoga session will be led by SAHC’s Connecting People with Lands Associate, Lauren McTigue. Lauren has a 500 hour yoga certification in Anusara and Natural Movement Yoga. Students of all levels will enjoy a soothing, relaxing, and restorative experience.

#2 Roll and Stroll at the Rhododendron Garden

Location: Rhododendron Gardens, Highlands of Roan

Start Time: 11 am | Est. End Time: 1 pm

Leader: Amanda Smithson, Mountain Region Trails Specialist with NC Parks and Recreation  | Difficulty: Easy (2/10)* – 1 mile

The Rhododendron Gardens on top of the Roan will be blazing with color this time of year. Participants will stroll approx. 1 mile across gentle terrain with stunning views of the Roan landscape. On this leisurely walk, participants will learn about a number of SAHC’s land protection projects that can be viewed from the gardens. This family-friendly offering is designed to provide people of all abilities with an opportunity to get outside and enjoy some of the properties that SAHC has diligently worked to protect over the last four decades.  This trail is paved and wheelchair/stroller accessible.

#3 Challenge Hike: Shell Creek – Hampton Creek Cove State Natural Area –

**This Hike is Full – to inquire about the waitlist, please email**

Location: Shell Creek Community Start Time: 9 am | Est. End Time: 3 pm

Leader: Tom Gatti | Difficulty: Strenuous (9-10) * – 7 miles

This challenge hike will begin on the new 324-acre Hump Mountain tract that SAHC protected in May of 2017! This piece of land was an SAHC priority for over 40 years.   From Shell Creek you will hike up to Bradley Gap and then traverse along the Appalachian Trail over Little Hump Mountain into Yellow Mountain Gap and down into SAHC’s Hampton Creek Cove Property! The hike will be about 7 miles and will traverse beautiful grassy balds! Hiking along the balds, there is the chance for views in all directions of Yellow Mountain and Grassy Ridge to the west and Grandfather and Linville Gorge to the East.  Along the route there could be Gray’s lilies in full bloom, and migratory birds flitting around the edges of the balds.

#4 AT: Iron Mountain Gap – Big Rock Creek

Location: Iron Mountain Gap

Start Time: 9 am | Est. End Time: 2 pm

Leader: Michelle Durr, Roan Outreach Americorps Member | Difficulty: Strenuous (9-10) * – 8 miles

This eight mile challenge hike begins on the Appalachian Trail in Tennessee and ends in North Carolina. The forested hike will start at Iron Mountain Gap and end right at the June Jamboree Party on the Big Rock Creek Preserve.  The eight mile route takes you through an old apple orchard and has views of Pinnacle Mountain and Unaka Mountain. The hike will be uphill with a few steep sections until the descent into Big Rock Creek.  There is the chance for beautiful summer flowers!

#5 Plant Inventory Walk

Location: Little Cove Creek near Roan Mountain State Park

Start Time: 11 am | Est. End Time: 2 pm

Leader: Susan Fruchey| Difficulty: Moderate (3-4) * – 2 miles

Join Susan Fruchey, a US Forest Service Botanist, as she leads participants on a plant inventory of SAHC’s Little Cove Creek Preserve in the Highlands of Roan.  The hike will be about two miles, and Susan will be able to identify the flora that makes this property their home.  The hike will also pass a waterfall and many beautiful natural features. The inventory can tell us if there are any rare species and if they are being threatened by invasives, recreational impacts, or climate change.  Knowing that about the populations in an area is important for protecting species and maintaining a healthy, biodiverse ecosystem. Plan on a leisurely, educational stroll!

#6 Carvers Gap to Grassy Ridge

**This Hike is Full – to inquire about the waitlist, please email**

Location: Carvers Gap

Start Time: 10 am | Est. End Time: 2 pm

Leader: Gary Kauffman   | Difficulty: Strenuous (7-8) * – 5 miles

This classic and rewarding hike is full of adventure atop the highest elevation balds in the Highlands of Roan, widely considered among the most spectacular scenery along the Appalachian Trail. Grassy Ridge is the highest point near the AT, reaching a stunning 6,189 feet in elevation. Enjoy a natural, unobstructed 360-degree view and so much more — blooming rhododendron, flame azalea, patches of spruce fir forest and rare plants such as Gray’s lily and Roan Mountain bluets.

Along the way, Gary Kauffman, a US Forest Service Botanist, will discuss the significance of the balds and the best practices for managing this pristine habitat. For those hikers wishing for an easier hike, there is the option of hiking out to Round Bald or Jane Bald, to enjoy the flowers and expansive views, instead of going all the way to Grassy Ridge.  The hike is about 5 miles round trip! 


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