Outings Program Update

If you’ve joined a guided group hike or farm tour with us recently, you probably know that Travis Bordley has now become SAHC’s new Outings Program Manager. You’ll recognize his […]

Clawhammer Hike 2019


butterfly photo

A Spicebush Swallowtail (Papilio trolius)

It was a rather calm morning deep in the Pisgah National Forest. The anxious noise of the city was far from recollection, with only the rushing sounds of a nearby creek bubbling in our ears. Filled with excitement, I took a deep breath and inhaled the cool, damp, mountain air; this is my stomping ground. My name is Shaylyn (Sarge) Sargent, and the Clawhammer hike today was my first hike of the 2019-2020 AmeriCorps service term with SAHC.  I could barely keep my socks on. Due to the threat of storms, we had a small group — Israel and his friend Abby along with her black puppy, Prairie. Israel, a former SAHC hike leader, shared his experience with me as we set off down into the rhododendron depths of the forest cove. Read more

Montreat Wilderness Hike 2018

In 2018 the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy purchased 123 acres including the western flank and summit of Brushy Knob, one of the Seven Sisters near Black Mountain, NC. To celebrate the acquisition of this valuable conservation land we led an educational hike along the outer rim of the Montreat Wilderness. Participants learned about SAHC’s role in conservation in the Black Mountains and were able to see the new acquisition firsthand. The hike consisted of 3,000′ of elevation gain over 8.5 miles! The following is one participant’s reflection on the outing…

Read more

Thunderstruck Hike 2018

“You can do this, Izzy, it’s only October,” I tried to convince myself as I braced for the angry, bitter, frigid wind outside in the parking lot. I was at the carpool rendezvous point at 8:30 am, 15 minutes before the group would arrive, and I needed to get breakfast. I opened the latch – come what may.

Steaming, painfully hot coffee in one hand, toasty vegan breakfast burrito in the other I was able to wait outside for the rest of my participants to arrive. I should have packed a thicker sweater. In total, eight of us met for the carpool – the rest would join us at the trailhead at Waterrock Knob.

I had the privilege of riding with my good friend Nico and two new friends Art and Wes. Adrienne Lenker’s new LP abysskiss played on my stereo as we ascended the Blue Ridge Parkway. Time slid effortlessly by as we discussed the finer points of stealth camping. Read more

2018 “For Love of Beer & Mountains” Thunderstruck Hike

Date: Saturday, October 13
Time: Starting at 10:00 am
Where: Plott Balsam Mountains off the Blue Ridge Parkway
Difficulty: Moderately Strenuous (7-8) — 6-mile hike with rugged terrain
Cost: FREE for all participants

Join the Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy and Highland Brewing Company for a moderately difficult hike to enjoy views of Thunderstruck Ridge, for which Highland’s latest seasonal is named. Participants will travel over 5 miles of 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.

The group will hike through the 1,595-acre Plott Balsam Preserve and eventually reach Blackrock Mountain, which SAHC protected in 2013, at a towering 5,600 feet of elevation. This beautiful section of mountains can be seen from the Blue Ridge Parkway. SAHC’s conservation work in this area protects high elevation habitat and pristine headwater streams. So come out and let’s celebrate Thunderstruck Coffee Porter and land conservation together. This hike is FREE for everyone!

Following the hike, we will meet for a Thunderstruck pint at Highland Brewing Company!

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

Registration for this hike is full – if you wish to be placed on the waiting list email

Clawhammer Hike 2018

Date: Saturday, September 22
Time: Starting at 10:00 am
Where: Pisgah National Forest near Brevard, NC
Difficulty: Very Strenuous (10+) — 10+ mile hike with significant elevation change
Cost: FREE for all participants

This hike to Clawhammer Mountain, namesake of Highland Brewing Company’s seasonal Clawhammer Oktoberfest Lager, will be a long and strenuous 10+ mile trip along multi-use trails that traverse mountain bike, equestrian, and hiking trails as well as forest service roads. We will follow the trails up a steep climb along a creek, through wildflower patches and rich cove forest. From Clawhammer Cove to the summit, we will climb close to 1,500 feet to finish at 4,072 ft elevation. The summit offers scenic views of the Blue Ridge Parkway and Looking Glass in Pisgah National Forest.

This year we will be departing as a group from Highland Brewing Company in Asheville, NC and returning there for a Clawhammer pint following the hike!

Please Note: There are a couple single log bridges, muddy areas, rocky and steep inclines and a chance of yellow jackets; SAHC wants to provide a fun and safe trip so please be aware of these conditions.

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

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

LGBTQ+ & Allies Hike to Laurel Falls

When: Sunday, September 9 from 1 – 6 pm

Where: Laurel Falls near Hampton, TN (depart from and return to Johnson City, TN)

Join fellow LGBTQ+ hikers and friends for an afternoon hike to one of east Tennessee’s most popular hiking destinations – beautiful Laurel Falls near Hampton TN. This powerful 60’ waterfall is considered by many to be the most spectacular in af east Tennessee.

Our hike will take us on the Appalachian Trail along Laurel Fork Creek passing through thickets of rhododendron and laurel, beneath towering trees, and across a wooden foot bridge spanning the creek. We’ll pace the hike so that everyone has opportunities to enjoy views of the Laurel Fork Gorge, take needed rest breaks, and spend time relaxing at the falls.

We’ll hike to Laurel Falls from the upper side of the falls via the Appalachian Trail starting in Dennis Cove. Much of this 1.2-mile hike is level and in some areas following an old railroad bed. Overall, the hike difficulty is “moderate,” but the last quarter of a mile is a steep descent on irregular stone steps into the gorge and to the falls. Sturdy shoes are a must, and the climb out is strenuous.

Afterwards, those interested and available are invited to meet-up at Yee-Haw Brewing (126 Buffalo Street, Johnson City) for refreshments and food. This will be a fun time to reflect on the hike, socialize and perhaps plan the next outdoor adventure for east Tennessee LGBTQ+ hikers and friends.

For more information about the hike and to RSVP (required) visit:

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! 

2018 April Wildflower Wednesday

Date:  Wednesday, April 25

Time:   11:00-3:00pm

Location:  Sandy Mush Farming Community

Cost:  This hike is free for SAHC members and Earth Month Volunteers, $10 for non-members/non-volunteers.

This outing is part of WNC for the Planet,  A group of environmental nonprofits working together to better our Appalachian region.  To celebrate Earth Month there will be an optional hour of fun volunteer work pulling garlic mustard on this outing.  If you decide to stay and volunteer there will be no cost to the hike!

This hike will take place in the Sandy Mush Farming Community, where SAHC has helped protect over 10,000 acres of land! The Pardues have been enjoying the birds and wildflowers on this property since the 1970s. The main attractions will be the spring wildflowers such as bloodroot, hepatica and spring beauty, and birds such as Blue-headed Vireo and Ovenbird. The hike will be at elevations of 3,400 to 4,000 feet, providing beautiful vistas. Hikers will walk about 4 miles through woodlands and along primitive trails, with some bushwhacking and occasional steep slopes.

This hike is part of  the Wildflower Wednesday Hike Series, showcasing the incredible biodiversity in our region. The hikes will be on the last Wednesday of the month in March, April, May, and June.  The Wildflower Wednesday Hikes will have representative from the Western North Carolina Botanical Club with us to help identify and learn about the flowers.

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!

This event is part of #WNCforthePlanet —  a collaboration of environmental and conservation groups in Western North Carolina to coordinate and raise awareness about events and volunteer opportunities scheduled throughout the month of April in honor of “Earth Month.” Local nonprofit organizations, universities, and businesses have teamed up to host a myriad of service days, workshops, hikes, educational events and celebrations. Join us in unifying our community to encourage and celebrate environmental stewardship for our planet and the region. More info at


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