“For Love of Beer & Mountains” Thunderstruck Hike

Date:  Saturday, November 11
Time:  Starting at 10:00 am
Where: Near Waterrock Knob on the Blue Ridge Parkway
Difficulty:  Moderately Strenuous (7)
Cost: FREE for all participants, but pre-registration is required

Join us for a moderately difficult hike to enjoy views of Thunderstruck Ridge, for which Highland Brewing Company’s seasonal Thunderstruck Coffee Porter is named.

Participants will hike 5 miles over rugged terrain, through red spruce and fraser firs, red oak forest, and other high elevation trees while occasionally stopping at rock outcroppings for views of Thunderstruck Ridge to the west.

We will hike through the 1,595-acre Plott Balsam Preserve, protected by The Nature Conservancy, and eventually reach Blackrock Mountain, which SAHC protected in 2013. The Blackrock summit reaches an impressive 5,600 ft elevation, and our conservation of the mountain protects over 1,700 feet of pristine stream corridors. This beautiful section of mountains can be seen from the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Dogs: Well-behaved dogs are welcome, but must be kept on a leash.

Leader: Emily Adler, AmeriCorps Conservation Education & Volunteer Outreach Associate. For questions or more info, contact Emily at or 828.253.0095 ext 205.

Hike difficulty ratings are based on this formula: (0.002 x elevation gain (ft.)) + round trip distance (mi.) = difficulty rating (1 – 10+)

This hike is offered as part of our “For Love of Beer & Mountains” Partnership. Highland Brewing Company in Asheville, NC partners with SAHC to support our conservation efforts and heighten awareness of the rare and threatened natural treasures of the Southern Appalachians. We are grateful for their support!

Registration for this hike is now full. To be placed on the waitlist, or if you plans have changed and you can no longer join us, please contact Thank you!

Laurel Ridge II

We purchased 60 acres adjoining the Asheville Watershed and SAHC’s 492-acre Laurel Ridge Preserve. The acquisition protects a headwater tributary of Laurel Branch, which flows into the Swannanoa River. This property is an important addition to the large network of over 125,000 acres of public and private protected land in the Black and Craggy Mountains.

“This tract is a portion of a larger property that was a boys’ summer camp for several years,” explains Land Protection Director Michelle Pugliese. “It bridges two previously unconnected units of SAHC’s 492-acre Laurel Ridge Preserve and joins the Asheville Watershed. By connecting both sides of our Laurel Ridge Preserve, it creates a critical conservation corridor.” Read more

Focus Area Feature Hike: Balsam Mountains (also part of the Southern Sixer Challenge)

Location: Black Balsam Knob and Tennent Mountain

Date: Saturday, April 1

Start Time: 10 AM; Carpool info TBA

Difficulty: Moderately Strenuous (6-7)

Leader: Haley Smith, SAHC AmeriCorps Outreach Member

Cost: Members FREE/Non-members $10

Registration: Pre-registration is REQUIRED.

This hike will feature our work in the Balsam Mountains, a biodiversity hotspot and critical wildlife corridor between the Nantahala National Forest and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The Balsams also contain two designated Wilderness Areas and nearly 3,000 acres of old growth forest, making them some of the most pristine wilds in our region.

This 5-mile loop traverses rocky terrain through high elevation forests and across beautiful open balds with scenic views, including over the summit of Black Balsam Knob at 6,214 feet and onwards to Tennent Mountain at 6,040 feet. We will discuss our land protection efforts in this area, including ongoing work near the Cold Mountain Game Lands and along the Blue Ridge Parkway near Waterrock Knob and other locations.

This hike is offered as part of our both our Conservation Focus Area Feature series and  “For Love of Beer & Mountains” Southern Sixer Challenge series:

Have you ever wanted to learn more about SAHC’s land protection work, particularly our conservation focus area priorities? This year we are offering a series of six Focus Area Feature Hikes, each highlighting one of the six distinctive greographic regions where we work. Over the past 43 years, our members and donors have protected over 70,000 acres across ten counties in NC and TN. Join us in learning about these successful projects and find out what makes each of our six Focus Areas unique.

Our “For Love of Beer & Mountains” Partnership with Highland Brewing Company celebrates conservation of the stunning, unique landscape of the Southern Appalachians. Highland’s latest seasonal  “Southern Sixer IPA,” is named for the collection of 40+ peaks in NC and TN whose summits reach over 6,000 feet elevation. As part of our partnership we have launched a 2017 Southern Sixer Hiking Challenge – a challenge to summit at least six of these 6,000+ ft peaks in 2017. To help meet the challenge, we will lead guided hikes to several of these peaks throughout the year.

Registration for this hike is currently full. To be added to the wait list, or for questions, contact Haley Smith at or 828.253.0095 ext 205.

Not a current SAHC member? Click Here to pay for your outing or join SAHC. Members hike for free all year! If you have questions about your membership status, please contact Membership Director Cheryl Fowler at or 828.253.0095 ext 209.

Thunder on the Mountain

2014_thunderstruck_hike_view_from_waterrock_knobDrew Stevenson from Highland Brewing Company  and Kana Miller (SAHC AmeriCorps PR and Outreach Associate) fearlessly led our group of hikers into the clouds for a strenuous but fun October hike — the Thunderstruck “For Love of Beer and Mountains” Partnership hike to  Blackrock Mountain. Drew recounts this trek through the Plott Balsams in Jackson County, our 2nd Partnership  hike of the fall season:

“The hike group met at the Waterrock Knob overlook (elevation 6,292 feet), which gets its name from a cool stream where hunters and farmers came to quench their thirst. About 1/4 mile down from the Waterrock Knob Visitor Center we started the trail, which covers approximately 2.2 miles of up-and-down terrain, becoming very skinny at times to hug the steep mountainside.

Read more

Blackrock Mountain – Protecting views from the Blue Ridge Parkway!

Iblackrock-summit-sw-corner-parcel.jpgn October, SAHC purchased the summit of Blackrock Mountain in the Plott Balsam Mountains of Jackson County, with more than 250 surrounding acres. We plan to hold the property and manage it as a nature preserve until it can eventually be transferred to public ownership as park lands.

“All you need to do is stand at the Plott Balsam overlook on the Blue Ridge Parkway or hike the trail from Waterrock Knob, to appreciate protecting Blackrock Mountain,” said Michelle Pugliese, SAHC’s Land Protection Director. “The 5,700 ft peak contains rare spruce-fir forest and two headwater tributaries that flow down its slopes. We are so proud to have preserved this view for all to enjoy.” Read more

Fall “For Love of Beer and Mountains” Partnership Hikes

img_1643.jpgOur new AmeriCorps PR and Outreach Associate, Anna Zanetti, launched into a full schedule of fall hikes when she came on board with us in September. Part of that slate of fall hikes included our “For Love of Beer & Mountains” Clawhammer and Thunderstruck partnership hikes — which luckily occurred on two lovely October weekends. The Thunderstruck hike also gave the group an opportunity to visit one of SAHC’s newly protected tracts  — Blackrock Mountain. Below is Anna’s take on the experience:

“SAHC partnership hikes with Highland Brewing are one of the highlights of my job. These popular group hikes feature protected peaks that are namesakes of Highland Brewing Company’s seasonal beers. The “For Love of Beer and Mountains” partnership, including our guided hikes, helps raise public awareness of the places and species that make our mountains so special. Read more

114-acre Property Protected in the Swannanoa Mountains

forest.jpgAt the end of October, we closed on a 114-acre conservation easement in the beautiful Swannanoa Mountains, along Jim’s Branch, that will protect important tributaries that flow into Christian Creek and is within 6,600 linear feet of the French Broad river basin.

Jim’s Branch is approximately two and a half miles from the Blue Ridge Parkway and practically adjacent to two other properties held by SAHC.  While there is no direct landscape connectivity between Jim’s Branch and the Blue Ridge Parkway or other conservation lands, the conservation easement is connected to neighboring forested land, other SAHC conservation easements, and natural corridors that allow for species movement. Jim’s Branch close proximity to other protected land greatly increases the conservation value of the property and the viewshed from the Blue Ridge Parkway. Read more

Key Tract Off Parkway Protected in the Craggy Mountains – 37 acres adjacent to Asheville Watershed, Pisgah National Forest, and the Blue Ridge Parkway

chauncysconeflower_carson2.jpgWe worked with Joe Carson, a generous landowner in Buncombe County, who donated a conservation easement on his 37- acre property in Swannanoa. Conservation of this land is crucial because of its location. It is less than a mile from the Blue Ridge Parkway and is adjacent to the protected Asheville Watershed and Pisgah National Forest. It is also close to SAHC held conservation easements that total over 2,500 acres. This easement contributes to the network of protected lands within the Craggy Mountains and protects the scenic integrity of views from the Blue Ridge Parkway and other public roads. Read more


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