The Museum’s VALLEY HISTORY EXPLORER HIKING SERIES consists of 8 hikes to historic locations around the Swannanoa Valley, one in each of our communities. This series has been developed to introduce the significant history of the region to visitors and residents of the Swannanoa Valley through moderate, approximately 3-mile hikes to historic locations. 

Hikes will generally occur on the 2nd Saturday of each month at 9:00am and meet at the Museum. Each hiker will receive a punch card that serves as a log and validation of the completion of each hike. 

Finishers receive a Patagonia fleece with series logo.

WINNER Outstanding Achievement in Historic Preservation (Education Category), 2019
Preservation Society of Asheville and Buncombe County


Registration for the 2020 VHE Hiking Series is now closed. Please e-mail with any inquiries. 

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. Cost per hike $30 members, $40 nonmembers




2020 Schedule

Saturday, March 14 @ 9:00AM – 12:30PM
Valley History Explorer Hike #1: Bee Tree (Reservoir)

The first hike in the series will explore the Bee Tree community. With special permission from the Conservation Trust of North Carolina, we will hike around the Bee Tree Reservoir, hear tales of the community that was here prior to the reservoir being constructed, and see an impressive waterfall.

Saturday, April 18 @ 9:00AM – 12:30PM
Valley History Explorer Hike #2: Leader’s Choice (Guastavino)

Join us as we explore the ruins of the “Spanish Castle,” the estate of architect Rafael Guastavino, just south of Black Mountain. Examples of the internationally renowned architect’s craftsmanship grace many of America’s most famous Beaux-Arts landmarks, including the Boston Public Library, Grand Central Terminal, Grant’s Tomb, the Great Hall at Ellis Island, Carnegie Hall, the Smithsonian, and the U.S. Supreme Court, as well as the Biltmore Estate and Basilica of Saint Lawrence in Asheville. His home in Black Mountain was a ramshackle three-story white-washed wooden house with a central bell tower. Through grander than local farmhouses, the house did not exhibit the cohesive construction technology that made the architect famous. Locals called the house the “Spanish Castle.” Guastavino did employ tile vaulting in the construction of a hillside wine cellar. He made cider from apple trees on the property. He had special bottles made, embossed with the estate’s name, and shipped cases of cider to friends and family during the holidays. Today, we see inside the wine cellar and see the remnants of the kiln where Guastavino fired his famous tiles. An optional hike to a small cemetery will complete the event.

Saturday, May 9 @ 9:00AM – 1:00PM
Valley History Explorer Hike #3: Swannanoa (Davidson Grave & Alexander Farm Ruins)

The next hike in the series will take hikers to see the grave of the first European settler west of the Blue Ridge – Samuel Davidson (located on private property),  who was killed by Native Americans shortly after settling in 1784. The hike will continue to the ruins of Alexander Farm, an early boarding house run by Davidson’s descendants.

Saturday, June 13 @ 9:00AM – 12:30PM
Valley History Explorer Hike #4: Black Mountain (IntheOaks)
Join us for a historic tour of the Montreat College Athletic Campus, the former site on In-the-Oaks. Hike leader, Alan Edwards, will share the history of the estate and how they came to build In-the-Oaks, the selling of the property to the Episcopal Diocese, the second owners of the property and organizers of Camp Henry, up to Montreat College’s acquisition of the estate.

Saturday, July 11 @ 9:00AM – 12:30PM
Valley History Explorer Hike #5: Ridgecrest (Point Lookout)

This hike will follow the Kitsuma Trail to a viewpoint boasting sweeping vistas of the Swannanoa Valley, including a breathtaking view of Mt. Mitchell, which is visible on clear days. Today, Ridgecrest is best known as the home of the Lifeway Ridgecrest Conference Center. The conference center was first founded as the Southern Baptist Assembly by Dr. Bernard Washington Spilman in 1907. The center is marked by a large white cross, which is visible as drivers heading west on I-40 crest the top of the Blue Ridge on their way up from Old Fort.

Saturday, August 8 @ 9:00AM – 12:30PM
Valley History Explorer Series Hike #6: Riceville (Rattlesnake Lodge)

Riceville is named after Joseph Marion Rice, who settled in the valley in the 1780s. We’ll carpool from the Museum to the trailhead and along the way view several points of historic interest.  This hike will explore the 1700-acre tract of Pisgah National Forest land just below the Blue Ridge Parkway at the end of Shope Creek Road including the small, but beautiful Casita Falls. 

Saturday, September 12 @ 9:00AM – 1:00PM
Valley History Explorer Series Hike #8: Montreat (College & Conference Center)
This hike focuses on the history of Montreat, which was founded in 1897 by Rev. John Collins. The remnants of the Montreat hydroelectric facilities that were constructed in 1913 and in use until 1947 are visible on this moderate, 3-mile hike.

Saturday, October 10 @ 9:00AM – 1:00PM
Valley History Explorer Hike #7: North Fork (Grove Stone)

This hike will explore part of Grove Stone Quarry overlooking the North Fork Valley. This moderate trail is part of the network of roads that trucks drive through the quarry. Jason Conner, who works for the quarry, will share the geology of the region. We will hike into the quarry while we learn about the history of the area.

Though individual hikes may change annually, a hike will take place in all of the following Swannanoa Valley communities:

Valley History Explorer Hike Series Punch Card

Riceville, named after Joseph Marion Rice, who first came to the area in the 1780s and is infamous for shooting the last buffalo seen in the area in 1799.

Montreat, founded by Rev. John C. Collins in 1897 as a  place “for physical and spiritual renewal,” was named by combining  the words “mountain” and “retreat.”

Swannanoa, derived from a Cherokee word meaning “beautiful river,” was settled in the 1780s by the first settler west of the Blue Ridge, Samuel Davidson.

Black Mountain was named for the mountain range north of town when the post office relocated near the railroad and changed its name from Grey Eagle in 1893.

Bee Tree, thought to be named for a literal “bee tree,” was the location of the first permanent settlement in the valley on Bee Tree Creek – the Swannanoa Settlement.

Ridgecrest, first called Terrell after W.P. Terrell, who ran the helper train from Old Fort to Ridgecrest, the name was changed by the railroad in 1912.

North Fork, first settled by the Burnett family in the late 1700s, the valley is now home to the Asheville Watershed and the North Fork of the Swannanoa River.

Leader’s Choice, There are so many historic places in our valley, our volunteer hike leaders will choose one of their favorites for our final hike of the series.

To complete the series and receive a finisher fleece, you must complete one hike in each community.

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

Important 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 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.

Series Scholarship:
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 every year we offer a full series scholarship. Anyone is invited to apply for the scholarship, but keep in mind that these hike 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 hike program and how the scholarship would help you participate.

The scholarship includes a one year family membership to the Swannanoa Valley Museum.

Thank you for hiking with us!