North Carolina

Switchbacks and Summits: Hiking & Nature in North Carolina

Hike along the Appalachian Trail and Bartram Trail with an expert naturalist as you take in stunning views of the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina.
Rating (4)
Program No. 23435RJ
6 days
Starts at

At a Glance

In the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, wildflowers line rugged trails and switchbacks guide determined hikers to awe-inspiring summits to look out upon sparkling mountain lakes and green pastures. With a band of like-minded hikers & an expert naturalist, learn about wildflowers, trees, plants and rock formations. Discover the charming hidden-gem town of Highlands, and top off an incredible week of hiking with a farm-to-table feast and Appalachian music.
Activity Level
Outdoor: Spirited
Daily hikes of 4-6 miles. Varied terrain, from uneven gravel paths to difficult mountainous terrain over rocks and roots. One hike climbs up and over four different peaks. Elevation gains up to 2,000 feet at elevations above 3,000 feet.
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 ...

  • Journey through Nantahala National Forest along the world-famous Appalachian Trail and head out along Bartram Trail to the Scaly Mountain summit.
  • Enjoy an epic hike over four mountains — Cole Mountain, Goat Knob, Shortoff Mountain, Yellow Mountain — with 360-degree views.
  • Take a field trip to Highlands Botanical Garden to learn about native plants, wild flowers, plants of the Cherokee, mosses, liverworts and American naturalist, William Bartram.

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. Due to the nature of this program, listening devices are not available.
Featured Expert
All Experts
Profile Image
Brent Martin
Brent Martin is the owner/operator of Cowee, N.C.-based Alarka Institute and Expeditions, which offers a wide variety of nature-based workshops and outings. He has worked in conservation for 25 years, most recently serving for over a decade as the southern Appalachian regional director for The Wilderness Society. He lectures widely on the 18th-century American naturalist William Bartram and the cultural and natural history of western North Carolina's Little Tennessee River Valley.

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

Profile Image
Brent Martin
View biography
<%= Bio %>
Suggested Reading List
View 6 books

Click here to provide website feedback
Website Feedback