Hemphill Bald Hike

Date:  Saturday, February 9th
Time:  10 am – 3 pm
Difficulty:  Strenuous (8 on a scale of 10) — 5 miles
Cost: Free but registration required

Join the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy on a hike to the breathtaking heights of Hemphill Bald in Cataloochee Ranch. Hemphill Bald, directly adjacent to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, was the first tract of land to be conserved by SAHC in the Cataloochee area in 1993. Translated from Cherokee into English, the word “Cataloochee” means “wave upon wave.” From the summit hikers will indeed be able to see wave upon wave of Blue Ridge Mountains including other SAHC-conserved properties such as the 8,000 acre Waynesville Watershed (protected in 2005); the Plott Balsam conservation easement protecting the top of Plott Balsam Mountain (2003 and 2006); the Crawford Creek conservation easements at the base of Cold Mountain (2000); and the high ridgetop properties of one of SAHC’s primary farmland focus areas: Sandy Mush, Buncombe County.

Registration has filled for this hike, if you’d like to be on the wait list email

Focus Area Feature Hike: Smoky Mountains

Location: Hemphill Bald at Cataloochee Ranch, adjoining Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Date: Saturday, March 25th

Start Time: 10 AM; Carpool info TBA

Difficulty: Strenuous (7-8)

Leader: Haley Smith, SAHC AmeriCorps Outreach Member

Cost: FREE for all participants

Registration: Pre-registration is REQUIRED.

This hike will highlight our Smoky Mountains conservation focus area, where we work to expand the non-fragmented network of conservation land and create habitat corridors that link the Great Smoky Mountains National Park to other networks of protected land.

We’ll begin at Purchase Knob with breathtaking views of the surrounding landscape. This 6-mile out-and back hike will climb along the boundary of the National Park to Hemphill Bald at Cataloochee Ranch, where we hold a conservation easement. On a clear day at Hemphill Bald, you can see from the Balsams to the Black Mountains and on toward the Highlands of Roan. We’ll discuss our land protection efforts in this region and be joined by the Smokies’ AmeriCorps Citizen Science Associate, who will tell us about their work at Purchase Knob. You will also have the option after the hike to help gather salamander data from the Science Center’s research plots.

Presented as part of our Focus Area Feature Hike 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 geographic 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.

Questions about this hike? Contact Haley Smith at or 828.253.0095 ext 205.

Hurray for Volunteers! At Cataloochee Ranch with Nature Valley & NPCA

cataloochee-nature-valley-work-day-023.jpg31 volunteers and staff rallied to help the Smokies on Saturday, July 28.  In a partnership with Nature Valley (the granola bar company) and the National Parks Conservation Association, several SAHC projects are underway at the protected Cataloochee Ranch (directly adjacent to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park) to improve animal habitat, plant life and water quality.

On Saturday under a clear sky with beautiful views of the Plott Balsams, Mt. Pisgah, and the Smokies, volunteers improved an eroded section of popular trail mere meters from the border of Great Smoky Mountains Park.  Fueled by camaraderie and an endless supply of Nature Valley granola bars, volunteers used shovels and trail tools to reshape a badly incised section of trail into a good slope to efficiently shed water instead of catching sediment and carrying it to the streams. Read more

Cataloochee Ranch: A Success Story in Haywood County

Spectacular fall colors on Hemphill BaldIn the 1990’s, 67-year-old Maggie Valley resident Tom Alexander realized that he would have to do something to be able to hand down his beloved land, 1,000 mostly undeveloped acres adjacent to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, intact to his children. The land had been in his family for 60 years, but development in Haywood County had greatly increased over the past few decades and the value of his land was doubling in value about every three to four years.

Read more


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