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17288
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 (5)
Program No. 17288RJ
Length
6 days
Starts at
849
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.
Length
6 days
Starts at
849
Program No. 17288 RJ
Prefer to enroll or inquire by phone? 800-454-5768
climate
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itinerary
Please Note:
The itinerary for this program is different on certain dates.
Select your type of room
Price will update based on selection
Prices displayed below are based on per person,doubleoccupancy.
DATES & starting prices
PRICES
Aug 29 - Sep 3, 2021
Starting at
849
Oct 3 - Oct 8, 2021
Starting at
849
Oct 10 - Oct 15, 2021
Starting at
849
Apr 24 - Apr 29, 2022
Starting at
899
May 15 - May 20, 2022
Private Group
Starting at
969
Itinerary Note

CoCo Hikers

Jun 5 - Jun 10, 2022
Starting at
899
Jul 24 - Jul 29, 2022
Starting at
899
Aug 14 - Aug 19, 2022
Starting at
899
Oct 9 - Oct 14, 2022
Starting at
899
DATES & starting prices
PRICES
Aug 29 - Sep 3, 2021
Starting at
1,039
Oct 3 - Oct 8, 2021
Starting at
1,039
Oct 10 - Oct 15, 2021
Starting at
1,039
Apr 24 - Apr 29, 2022
Starting at
1,089
May 15 - May 20, 2022
Private Group
Starting at
1,159
Itinerary Note

CoCo Hikers

Jun 5 - Jun 10, 2022
Starting at
1,089
Jul 24 - Jul 29, 2022
Starting at
1,089
Aug 14 - Aug 19, 2022
Starting at
1,089
Oct 9 - Oct 14, 2022
Starting at
1,089

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 Montreat Conference Center that operates under special use permit on the Nantahala National Forest and operates on a nondiscriminatory basis.
Featured Expert
All Experts
Profile Image
Brent Martin
Brent and his wife Angela run Alarka Institute, a nature, literary and art based business that offers workshops and field trips. He is also the part-time director of the North Carolina Bartram Trail Society. He has an MA and ABD in history from Georgia State University and worked for several years on a dissertation on historical land use patterns in the northwest Georgia mountains. In his spare time he writes poetry and essays; he is the author of three chapbook collections of poetry.

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

Profile Image of Tracy Bailey
Tracy Bailey View biography
Tracy has been on the program staff of Montreat Conference Center since 1986. She began working with Elderhostel programs in 1989, and in 1997 assumed the additional role of on-site coordinator. A native of the area, she graduated from Asheville-Buncombe Technical College in 1981. Her favorite hobbies are hiking, pottery and reading. Tracy married Sam in 2007, and added three daughters to her family. In addition to her own grown children, she and Sam have been foster parents since 2010. They have four grandchildren.
Profile Image of Brent Martin
Brent Martin View biography
Brent and his wife Angela run Alarka Institute, a nature, literary and art based business that offers workshops and field trips. He is also the part-time director of the North Carolina Bartram Trail Society. He has an MA and ABD in history from Georgia State University and worked for several years on a dissertation on historical land use patterns in the northwest Georgia mountains. In his spare time he writes poetry and essays; he is the author of three chapbook collections of poetry.
Profile Image of Bev and Rod Richardson
Bev and Rod Richardson View biography
Bev and Rod have been visiting the Western NC mountains for over three decades. They travel regularly to see their children and extended family, and enjoy hosting friends and family at home in Florida. Bev is a retired PCUSA minister and serves as parish associate at First Presbyterian New Smyrna Beach; she has been a volunteer police chaplain for over 15 years. Rod is an elder and deacon in the PCUSA church and is retired from Northrup Grumman as a financial planner.
Profile Image of Elizabeth Domingue
Elizabeth Domingue View biography
Elizabeth (Liz) Domingue is a professional naturalist, educator, nature photographer, and guide with extensive experience hiking, backpacking, photographing, and studying the natural world. Her interest in and study of natural history has been her lifelong pursuit and passion. As the originator and operator of Just Get Outdoors, she leads interpretive hikes, photography workshops, and Naturalist Adventure Tours regionally and throughout the US. In all of her programs, Liz encourages awareness, understanding, enjoyment, and stewardship of our natural world.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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6 days
5 nights
15 meals
5 B 5 L 5 D
DAY
1
Check-in, Registration, Orientation, Welcome Dinner
Hayesville, NC
D
Hinton Center

Activity note: Check-in from 3:00-6:00 p.m. at the Joe Ervin Retreat House which will be the accommodations for the week.

Afternoon: Program Registration: 3:00-6:00 p.m. Join us at the Road Scholar table at the Joe Ervin Retreat House to get your room assignment, register with the program staff and get your welcome packet containing the up-to-date schedule that reflects any changes, other important information, and to confirm the time and location of the Orientation session. Remember to bring your name tag (sent previously).

Dinner: In the Dining Hall, we’ll choose from the buffet of two meat entrees, two vegetables, a starch option, as well as a salad bar; beverage choices of coffee, tea, water.

Evening: Orientation: 7:00 p.m. The Group Leader will greet everyone and lead introductions. We will review the up-to-date program schedule, discuss roles and responsibilities, logistics, safety guidelines, emergency procedures, and answer questions. As this is a nature program, there may be frequent stops while hiking to explore the flora and fauna of the region. This is a Road Scholar Retreats program. Our programming at Retreat locations includes opportunities for light morning exercise, interaction with members of the local community, a farm-to-table or locally sourced meal, and evening entertainment on at least one night. Periods in the schedule designated as “Free time” and “At leisure” offer opportunities to do what you like and make your experience even more meaningful and memorable according to your personal preferences. The Group Leader will be happy to offer suggestions. Program activities, schedules, personnel, and indicated distances or times may change due to local circumstances/conditions. In the event of changes, we will alert you as quickly as possible. Thank you for your understanding.

DAY
2
Hike to Summit of Standing Indian Mountain
Hayesville, NC
B,L,D
Hinton Center

Activity note: Light morning stretch before breakfast. Hiking 5 miles, approximately 5 hours throughout the day; elevation gain 1,000’. This moderately trafficked trail is rated as difficult due to the elevation rise on the way to the summit. No restrooms on trail. Depending on trail conditions and – at the group leader’s discretion – inclement weather, an alternate local activity will be selected. There may be frequent stops to explore the nature of the southern Appalachians region.

Breakfast: In the Dining Hall, we’ll choose from the breakfast buffet of egg dishes, hot and cold cereal, and breads with beverage choices of coffee, tea, water, orange and apple juices. We’ll then pack lunches and snacks for today’s hike from some basic options (which may vary throughout the week) for preparing sandwiches, chips and cookies selections, fresh fruit and water to fill your water bottles.

Morning: Beginning at Deep Gap, we will hike north on the AT to the top of Standing Indian. The trail climbs through switchbacks and rhododendron tunnels under a canopy of leafy trees. Ferns and moss are abundant along the forest floor. The climb intensifies at 1.7 miles then runs along a ridge with views on both sides of the trail.

Lunch: We will stop along the trail to enjoy the lunches we packed at breakfast this morning.

Afternoon: After gaining the summit and enjoying long-range views from the top of Standing Indian, we’ll descend through the leafy forest to Deep Gap. Your Group Leaders will share their knowledge of the many plants as we stop along the trail.

Dinner: Dining hall buffet.

Evening: The group leader will explain the entertainment for the week as the presenters and evenings may vary weekly.

DAY
3
Hike South on the AT to Glassmine Gap, Evening Program
Hayesville, NC
B,L,D
Hinton Center

Activity note: Light morning stretch before breakfast. Hiking about 6 miles throughout the day; elevation gain 713’; moderate terrain. Depending on trail conditions and – at the group leader’s discretion – inclement weather, an alternate local activity will be selected. There may be frequent stops to explore the nature of the southern Appalachians region.

Breakfast: Dining hall buffet. We’ll pack lunches and snacks for today’s hike from the variety of options.

Morning: We’ll begin today's hike in the Standing Indian basin and hike south on the Appalachian Trail, following a gentle rise to Rock Gap. From Rock Gap, we will continue to Glassmine Gap. Note the abundance of moss, lichen, and liverworts growing on rock faces.

Lunch: Packed lunches along the trail.

Afternoon: We’ll reach Glassmine Gap then return via the Long Branch Trail. As this trail winds through the forest, we will at times enjoy the sights and sounds of Long Branch's clear water rushing over rocks as it meanders down the mountain.

Dinner: Dining hall buffet.

Evening: Our evening presentations will consist of a naturalist talk on local flora and fauna or entertainment by a local musician sharing Appalachian ballads and other traditional music and instruments.

DAY
4
Hike Chunky Gal Trail & Boteler Peak
Hayesville, NC
B,L,D
Hinton Center

Activity note: Light morning stretch before breakfast. Hiking about 6 miles round trip, approximately 6 hours throughout the day; elevation gain approximately 1,400’; trail follows ridge of Chunky Gal Mountain. Hiking up and down the long grade of Shooting Creek Valley. Depending on trail conditions and – at the group leader’s discretion – inclement weather, an alternate local activity will be selected. There may be frequent stops to explore the nature of the southern Appalachians region.

Breakfast: Dining hall buffet. We’ll pack lunches and snacks for today's hike from the variety of options.

Morning: We’ll hike along the Chunky Gal Trail that connects the Nantahala and Tusquitee mountains. We start near Glade Gap off of Highway 64, then ascend Boteler Peak. This peak is known for outcroppings of serpentine rocks and associated rare plant species.

Lunch: Packed lunches along the trail.

Afternoon: Along the trail to Boteler Peak and down, in the rich forests are several rare plant species. Possible sightings include glade fern, dwarf ginseng, and American columbo.

Dinner: Tonight, we'll have a farm to table meal prepared by the chef with ingredients sourced as locally as possible. If the garden is producing, it will even include seasonal vegetables grown onsite.

Evening: At leisure.

DAY
5
Hiking from Winding Stair Gap to Siler Bald, Evening Program
Hayesville, NC
B,L,D
Hinton Center

Activity note: Light morning stretch before breakfast. Hiking 4 miles from Winding Stair Gap to Siler Bald plus a return hike of 2 miles via Wayah Crest or 4 miles via Winding Stair depending on group size and preferred activity level; rolling terrain; elevation gain 1000’. No restrooms on trail. Depending on trail conditions and – at the group leader’s discretion – inclement weather, an alternate local activity will be selected. There may be frequent stops to explore the nature of the southern Appalachians.

Breakfast: Dining hall buffet. We’ll pack lunches and snacks for today's hike from the variety of options.

Morning: Winding Stair Gap follows the AT to Swinging Lick Gap at 4100', then on to Panther Gap, and Big Stamp. This moderately trafficked out and back trail is rated as difficult.

Lunch: We will stop along the trail to enjoy the lunches we packed at breakfast this morning.

Afternoon: We’ll continue on to Siler Bald. At 5216', Siler Bald is an open grassy expanse with 360-degree views. The Group Leader will determine the best route of return, either Wayah Crest or Winding Stair.

Dinner: Dining hall buffet.

Evening: Our evening presentations will consist of a naturalist talk on local flora and fauna or entertainment by a local musician sharing Appalachian ballads and other traditional music and instruments. Afterward, prepare for check-out and departure in the morning.

DAY
6
Walk River Cane Trail at Campbell Folk School
Hayesville, NC
B,L

Activity note: Driving own vehicles to Campbell Folk School. Walking one quarter mile on well-maintained trails. Check-out 9:00 a.m.

Breakfast: Dining hall buffet. We’ll pack lunches and snacks from the variety of options.

Morning: We’ll check out and drive to the John C. Campbell Folk School for a farewell walk along the River Cane Trail. This mile-long Creekside loop features artwork from area artists depicting the Cherokee heritage of the Appalachians. At the conclusion of the walk, you may wish to explore the Folk School on your own. This concludes our program.

Lunch: We’ll have the lunches we packed at breakfast this morning on the Folk School grounds or take them to go.

Afternoon: If you are returning home, safe travels. If you are staying on independently, have a wonderful time. If you are transferring to another Road Scholar program, detailed instructions are included in your Information Packet for that program. We hope you enjoy Road Scholar learning adventures and look forward to having you on rewarding programs in the future. Don’t forget to join our Facebook page and follow us on Instagram. Best wishes for all your journeys!






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