North Carolina

Nature Hiking in the Southern Appalachian Mountains

Hike the Southern Blue Ridge Mountains with a local expert and learn about the region’s abundant wildflowers, natural history and distinctly Appalachian folklore.
Rating (4.86)
Program No. 17288RJ
6 days
Starts at

At a Glance

Lace up your hiking boots and explore the scenic trails and natural wonders of the Southern Blue Ridge Mountains in a small group with a hiking naturalist who reveals the wonders of wildflowers and mountain life. Walk along the southern portion of the Appalachian Trail, through the Nantahala National Forest and spend your evenings immersed in tales of Appalachian folklore and natural history.
Activity Level
Outdoor: Spirited
Hiking 4-8 miles per day on varied terrain. Elevations up to 5,500 feet. There may be frequent stops to explore the flora and fauna of the Southern Appalachians.
Small Group
Small Group
Love to learn and explore in a small-group setting? These adventures offer small, personal experiences with groups of 10 to 24 participants.

Best of all, you'll ...

  • Hike to spots above 5,000 feet like Standing Indian Mountain and take advantage of exquisite views.
  • Walk on sections of the famous Appalachian Trail, including the Muskrat Creek Shelter portion, Winding Stair Gap and Siler Bald.
  • On sections of the "Chunky Gal" Trail study the natural history of the area with a local trail and nature expert.

General Notes

The Retreat Difference: This unique, often basic and no-frills experience at a Road Scholar Retreat includes opportunities for early morning exercise, interaction with the local community for insight into local life, an authentic farm-to-table or locally sourced meal, a live performance or event, and a value-priced single room. This program is coordinated by the Intentional Growth Center that operates under special use permit on the Nantahala National Forest and operates on a nondiscriminatory basis.
Featured Expert
All Experts
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Doris Gove
Doris Gove has written or co-authored several books about hiking and natural history in the southern Appalachians, including "50 Hikes in the Tennessee Mountains: Hikes and Walks from the Blue Ridge to the Cumberland Plateau." Doris has been an instructor at the University of Tennessee and a writer at the Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine, and she brings a naturalist's love of wildlife to her hiking programs.

Please note: This expert may not be available for every date of this program.

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Doris Gove
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Visit the Road Scholar Bookshop
You can find many of the books we recommend at the Road Scholar store on bookshop.org, a website that supports local bookstores.
Appalachian Trail Trees & Wildflowers
by Waterford Press Inc.
Handy for a pocket or backpack, this durable, fold-out reference features flora and fauna that travelers will likely encounter on the Appalachian Trail.
Great Smoky Mountains Wildlife
by James Kavanagh
A folding wildlife guide designed for quick reference in the field. With full-color images and text, it features more than 140 creatures often seen in the Great Smoky Mountains.
Newcomb's Wildflower Guide
by Lawrence Newcomb
A classic identification guide, which uses a simple dichotomous key for identification. With 1,075 mostly black-and-white drawings, it covers the Northeast and Great Lakes region, south to Kentucky, Virginia, West Virginia, and most of Tennessee.
Our Southern Highlanders
by Horace Kephart
A classic book of history and folklore of the mountaineers of the southern Appalachians. Kephart is considered the premier folklorist and historian of the area. First published in the 1910s.
A Walk in the Woods
by Bill Bryson
The entertaining account of Bryson's hike up the Appalachian trail, combining biting satire with a certain warmth. A fond memoir and a very entertaining read.
Saints At The River
by Ron Rash
Few are better at writing Southern life than Ron Rash. In his second novel, a 12-year-old girl drowns in the Tamassee River. As her hometown is thrown into the national spotlight, the girl's parents demand that her body be recovered. Environmentalists are convinced the operation would cause permanent damage to the river. Winner of the Weatherford Award for Best Novel.
This is Where We Live, Short Stories by 25 Contemporary North Carolina Writers
by Michael McFee
A collection of short stories from the last 15 years. Includes pieces by Philip Gerard, Heather Ross Miller and June Spence.
Cold Mountain
by Charles Frazier
Set in North Carolina, this is the best-selling novel of a wounded Confederate soldier who abandons the front line and journeys home to his prewar sweetheart. In spare, eloquent prose, Frazier describes the strong bond between a man and the land.

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