The Swannanoa Valley Museum’s exclusive SWANNANOA VALLEY RIM EXPLORER™ HIKING SERIES offers eleven hikes that 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.

New, Full-Series Hikers – On January 1, 2019, registration for the 2019 Swannanoa Valley Rim Explorer Series will open up for 25 new hikers at 10:30am. 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 1, 2020.

Hikers who started the series in prior years and need to make-up individual hike(s) may register for individual 2019 hikes beginning on December 1, 2018, by emailing or calling the Museum.

New 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: approximately 56 miles
Rim Distance: approximately 31 miles
Elevation Gain:  +17,903 ft
Elevation Loss:  -21,211 ft
Elevation Min / Max: 2,316 / 6,462 ft
Average Grade:  14 %
Average Difficulty: Difficult

Rim Hike Interest Meeting: Learn more about the hiking series and receive a special full-series discount during this free hour-long presentation. Held every January. 

Rim Hikes Distance Difficulty Elevation Gain (feet) Elevation Loss (feet) Elevation (feet) Start/Max/Min
Rim #1: Weatherford Heights 6.7 miles Strenuous 2710 2500 3900/4363/3507
Rim #2: Rhododendron Rim 4.3 miles Moderate 1120 1925 3300/3637/3027
Rim #3: Cherokee Boundary 3.4 miles Moderate 931 1671 3300/3548/2565
Rim #4: Montreat East Ridge 5.8 miles Difficult 1971 2324 3000/4020/2670
Rim #5: Pinnacle of Blue Ridge 8.2 miles Strenuous 2660 2660 5220/5653/3016
Rim #6: Grey Eagle Rock 3.2 miles Strenuous 1810 875 5002/6423/5151
Rim #7: Patton’s Table 5.2 miles Mod/Difficult 2024 2107 5300/6607/5294
Rim #8: Walker’s Knob 4.0 miles Moderate 1475 1199 5300/5865/5054
Rim #9: Buckner’s Knob 3.3 miles Moderate 794 1220 5700/5870/5243
Rim #10: Top Brushy/High Top Bee Tree 4.6 miles Difficult 1909 2025 3658/4903/1245
Rim #12: Garden of Eden 7.7 miles Strenuous 2708 2708 2317/4124/1807

All GPS data and graphics courtesy of Joe Standaert

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!”

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.”


Rim Hike #3: Cherokee Boundary
Join the museum for the next hike in the Swannanoa Rim Hike Series to the Cherokee Boundary. This difficult, four-mile long 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-mile trip (many ups and downs) will be off trail and may require bushwhacking.

Rim Hike #4: Montreat East Ridge
Rim Hike 4 Montreat East RidgeThis 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.

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!

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.

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.

Rim Hike #8: Walker’s Knob
Rim Hike 8 Walker's KnobThis 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.

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.

Rim Hike #10: Top of Brushy/High Top Bee Tree
Rim Hike 10 Top of BrushyIn 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.

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.



No refunds. In some circumstances, unused payments maybe transferred to another hike or event. Other unused payments will become donations to the non-profit museum.

Pet Policy: Pets (except service animals) are not allowed on any of our hikes or events.

Important Rim Hiking Policies:

  • The museum will not make accommodations for individual makeup hikes or credit done on individual hikes. Credit will only be given for scheduled group hikes.
  • Those who are unable to attend on the planned day will have succeeding years to complete their hikes.
  • If the Museum cancels a hike (due to weather, etc.) a makeup date will be announced. We will try to reschedule the hike for the following Saturday if possible.
  • Hikers are expected to start and complete each hike with the group on the scheduled hike day.
  • The purpose of the Rim Hike series is not only to physically cover the territory but to interpret history, point out landmarks, etc. in a safe and professional way. Our hiking policies allow us to do this successfully.

Rim Hike Explorer Series Scholarships:
We do our hikes and other events as fundraisers for the Museum, and they – along with the memberships that they bring in – account for about half of our budget. So while we cannot offer our hikes for free, we do want to make sure that they can be accessible to all who would like to do them.

That’s why, this year, we will be offering two full Rim Hike Explorer Series Scholarships thanks to two very special donors.

Anyone is invited to apply for the scholarships, but keep in mind that many of these hike are strenuous and all require a time commitment.

To apply, please email the following to the Museum at

  • Name
  • Address
  • Phone Number
  • Email
  • A 500 word essay explaining why you want to do the Rim Hike program and how the scholarship would help you participate.

The value of the scholarship is $330 and includes a one year family membership to the Swannanoa Valley Museum as well as 11 Rim Hikes.