The Swannanoa Valley Museum’s exclusive SWANNANOA VALLEY RIM EXPLORER™ HIKING SERIES offers eleven hikes that generally take place the 3rd Saturday of the month. Each hike covers a portion of the approximately 31 miles of the Swannanoa Rim, which runs from Jesse’s High Top, across Lakey Gap, over Ridgecrest and Montreat, up to the Blue Ridge Parkway, and down to Cedar Cliff above Camp Rockmont. The hikes are led by experienced hike leaders who are also extremely knowledgeable about the history, topography, and ownership of the land.
Finishers received a Patagonia Jacket with Rim Hike logo.
WINNER – Outstanding Achievement in Historic Preservation (Education Category), 2019
Preservation Society of Asheville and Buncombe County
New, Full-Series Hikers
On January 2, 2020, online (credit card) registration for the 2020 Swannanoa Valley Rim Explorer Series will open up for 25 new hikers at 10:30am on this webpage. You must be a member of the Museum to register. Once these spaces are filled we will not take any more full-series registrations until January 2, 2021.
Note: If you would prefer to pay by check/cash please contact the Museum ASAP.
Hikers who started the series in prior years
and need to make-up individual hike(s) may register for individual 2020 hikes beginning on December 1, 2019, by emailing or calling the Museum.
Hikers (who wish to register for individual hikes)
may add their name to the waitlist on the first of the month in which the hike they are interested in occurs. Additional spaces for individual hikers on the waitlist may open up if a full series hiker cancels their registration.
Total Distance: ~56 miles
Rim Distance: ~31 miles
Rim Hike #1 – Weatherford Heights
The hike to Weatherford Heights explores the history and geography of Y.M.C.A. Blue Ridge Assembly. The hike follows the original boundary line of the conference center’s grounds, surveyed by educator, author, and religious leader Willis Duke Weatherford in 1906. Weatherford sought a permanent location for student training sessions he arranged. When he reached the present site of Blue Ridge Assembly, between two steep forested ridges of the Swannanoa Mountains two miles from Black Mountain, he exclaimed, “Eureka, we have found it!”
Difficulty: Strenuous, 6.7 miles
Elevation Gain: 2,710 feet
Rim Hike #2: Rhododendron Rim
The second in the Swannanoa Valley Rim Hike series, the Rhododendron Rim segment runs from Wendell Begley’s home on Sunset Mountain to Route 9. This hike passes above property once owned by Spanish architect Rafael Guastavino, best known for his innovative system of self-supporting arches and vaults using interlocking tiles. He retired in Black Mountain and built an eclectic estate called Rhododendron and known locally as the “Spanish Castle.”
Difficulty: Moderate, 4.3 miles
Elevation Gain: 1,120 feet
Rim Hike #3: Cherokee Boundary
The Cherokee Boundary was the eastern most boundary of the Cherokee Nation. This difficult hike traverses part of the boundary between the Cherokee and American colonists, as well as the Eastern Continental Divide at the crest of the Blue Ridge Range south of Black Mountain, continuing to near the Swannanoa Gap. Following the boundary, the hike ascends to elevations between 2,600 and 3,600 feet. Almost all of the approximately 4.5-mile trip (many ups and downs) will be off trail and may require bushwhacking.
Difficulty: Difficult, 4.5 miles
Elevation Gain: 931 feet
Rim Hike #4: Montreat East Ridge
This difficult, 6-mile segment traverses the crest of the Blue Ridge (Continental Divide) along the eastern boundary of Montreat. Montreat was founded by Rev. John C. Collins in 1897 as a place “for physical and spiritual renewal,” and was named by combining the words “mountain” and “retreat.” The hike will include the peaks of Rocky Head, Brushy Mountain, and Boggs Bunion and will descend to the historic Swannanoa Gap at Ridgecrest. On the way we will see remnants of the old Mt. Mitchell Railroad and Scenic Auto Road.
Difficulty: Difficult, 5.8 miles
Elevation Gain: 1,971 feet
Rim Hike #5: Pinnacle of Blue Ridge
This will be a rewarding hike with some of the best views on the rim. However, it will be long and difficult. The hike will be a loop hike of over 8 miles and includes two strenuous ascents, two steep descents, some rock scrambling on three rocky summits, and some moderate off-trail hiking. The return will be back to the Parkway via the Mt. Mitchell Toll Road. Hikers will carpool from Black Mountain to the Parkway. So, plan on an all-day hike and please bring raingear, sturdy shoes, plenty of water, a hearty lunch, and hiking sticks if you have them!
Difficulty: Strenuous, 8.2 miles
Elevation Gain: 2,660 feet
Rim Hike #6: Grey Eagle Rock
This strenuous 3.1 mile hike takes its name from the rock that resembles a Cherokee chief known as Grey Eagle sitting and overlooking Black Mountain. The hike begins at Black Mountain Gap off the Blue Ridge Parkway. During the trek, hikers will cross the summit of Potato Knob (6,400’). Potato Knob is the highest point in Buncombe County. To summit it, one has to endure a 1,200-foot elevation gain in one mile. In addition to being the roughest section of the Rim it features the highest elevation, most spectacular environment, and the most incredible vistas on the Swannanoa Rim.
Difficulty: Strenuous, 3.2 miles
Elevation Gain: 1,810 feet
Rim Hike #7: Patton’s Table
Hikers will witness what has been described as some of the most stunning scenery on the entire 900+ mile Mountain to Sea (MTS) Trail. This hike follows the MTS Trail to top of Bearwallow Stand Ridge and includes some bushwacking to arrive at the junction of the Old Perley Crockett Railroad grade. These mountain, the Blacks, are the highest mountains in the Eastern United States and take their name from the darkly colored Fraser fir and red spruce trees that adorn their slopes.
Difficulty: Moderate/Difficult, 5.2 miles
Elevation Gain: 2,024 feet
Rim Hike #8: Walker’s Knob
This peak (elevation 5,482 feet) was named after North Fork’s Walker family, one of the early families to settle in the upper North Fork valley. The Walkers owned much of the land and were engaged in timber and logging. Along this trail are giant hemlocks, lichen and moss covered rocks, stretches of beech forest, surround by spectacular views.This 4-mile, moderate hike begins at Balsam Gap and extends to Greybeard Overlook on Blue Ridge Parkway. On this hike there are several long range views over the North Fork Valley and the Asheville Watershed.
Difficulty: Moderate, 4.0 miles
Elevation Gain: 1,475 feet
Rim Hike #9: Buckner’s Knob
Buckner’s Knob was the original name given to today’s Craggy Pinnacle, named after the Buckner family, one of the early families to settle on the Barnardsville side of the Craggies. The Flats of Craggy were the spot where the boys from North Fork side of the Craggies and those from the Barnardsville side would meet for baseball games and campouts. The flats were much more open then due to the grazing of cattle and sheep for many years. This 3.5-mile, moderate hike begins at Craggy Pinnacle parking lot and extends to Craggy picnic area at Bearpen Gap.
Difficulty: Moderate, 3.3 miles
Elevation Gain: 794 feet
Rim Hike #10: Top of Brushy/High Top Bee Tree
In the 1800s and early 1900s the top of Brushy was an important meeting spot for hunters. It divides the large drainages of Bee Tree Creek (Right Fork), Laurel Branch, and Sugar Fork. The high top of Bee Tree is the highest point on the Swannanoa Rim. The Bee Trees run south from the Blue Ridge Parkway to Grovemont and Swannanoa, separating the North Fork drainage from the Bee Tree Creek drainage. The Museum’s hike provides a tour of these mountains from White Oak Flats, just south of Brushy Ridge, to the gap near Eden Rock, above the Granny and Laurel Branches.
Difficulty: Difficult, 4.6 miles
Elevation Gain: 1,909 feet
Rim Hike #11: Garden of Eden
Join the museum for the final hike of the Swannanoa Rim Hike Series to the Garden of Eden. This rocky mountaintop is located one mile northwest of Lake Eden on the Swannanoa Rim. In the summer months its rocky top was famous for its sunning serpents (rattlesnakes and copperheads) and it why this segment of the rim is hiked in the winter. This loop hike begins at Camp Rockmont.
Difficulty: Strenuous, 7.7 miles
Elevation Gain: 2,708 feet