Swannanoa Valley Museum
Almost 50 people have now completed the Swannanoa Valley Museum’s popular, but strenuous Swannanoa Valley Rim Explorer Hike Series, and more than two-dozen hikers have already registered for the 2014 series. But many Swannanoa Valley residents have expressed interest in learning the fascinating history of the valley on more moderate hikes.
So beginning March 15 and continuing once a month through October, the Museum will offer a new moderate hiking series, consisting of eight, approximately 3-mile hikes to historic locations around the Swannanoa Valley, one in each of their communities. For interested hikers, two free informational meetings will be held – one on Thursday, March 6 at 7:00pm at the Swannanoa Valley Museum and a second on Tuesday, March 11 at 7:00pm at Black Dome in Asheville.
Hikers participating in the series will receive a punch card that serves as a log and validation of the completion of each hike. Hikers will explore various historic locations across the Swannanoa Valley in Riceville, Bee Tree, Swannanoa, Black Mountain, North Fork, Montreat, Ridgecrest, and on a special Leader’s Choice hike. Hikes will change annually, but will always explore unique parts of the communities that make up the Swannanoa Valley.
On March 15, 2014, the first hike in the series will take hikers to the summit of Sunset Mountain (also known as Miami Mountain) above Black Mountain. The easy to moderate trail follows the old road used by the former historic Peabody Hotel near its summit. There is an optional side trip to the site of the viewing gazebo, which was used by the hotel with views of Mt. Mitchell and surrounding high mountains. This site also has a dramatic view of Black Mountain.
On April 12, the second hike in the series will take hikers on a trek to the summit of Watch Knob Mountain, near the entrance to Bee Tree, the first permanent settlement in Western North Carolina. The mountain is believed to have gotten its name from the Native Americans who would keep watch at its peak for approaching settlers.
On the third hike, on May 17, hikers will see the ruins of the Alexander Farm, which was one of the earliest inns to provide housing for tourists in Swannanoa. Local guide and descendant of Samuel Davidson, Bill Alexander, will lead the tour, followed by a two-mile hike to the top of Jones Mountain to see the place Davidson was murdered.
On the 4th Saturday in June, hikers will follow a moderate trail just off the Blue Ridge Parkway to see the remains of the historic Rattlesnake Lodge. The lodge was built between 1903 and 1904 to be a summer home for Dr. Chase P. Ambler and his family. Dr. Ambler was an early conservationist and a major advocate of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The family lived at the lodge in the summers until it was sold in November of 1920.
On the fifth hike in the series, July 19, hikers will venture to the bottom of Catawba Falls. These dramatic falls have a long history of receiving visitors for recreation, and the waters of the river below the falls have been used for electrical generation as well. The trail heads upriver on old road beds, crossing the river once on stepping stones. The trail climbs moderately past some old building foundations and an old dam.
On August 16, hikers will take a moderate trail and a network of roads on part of the Grove Stone & Sand Quarry owned by Hedrick Industries. Jason Conner, who works for the quarry, will share the geology of the region. Museum guides will lead hikers to a viewpoint the overlooks the North Fork Valley and the Asheville Watershed.
The seventh hike in the series will take hikers to Ridgecrest on September 20. This hike is on a moderate trail, famous with mountain bikers. Knowledgeable hike leaders will share the history of this interesting community and lead the group to viewpoints with dramatic mountain vistas.
The final hike in the series, on October 18, focuses on the history of Montreat and the remnants of the Montreat hydroelectric facilities that were constructed in 1913 and were in use until 1947. This will be a moderate 3-mile hike with an optional 3/4 mile difficult section at the end if any hikers would like to also see the holding ponds above the campground.
To find out more about the Swannanoa Valley Museum’s new Valley History Explorer Moderate Hiking Series, hike guides will hold two free informational meetings — one on Thursday evening, March 6 at 7:00pm at the Swannanoa Valley Museum and a second at Black Dome on Tuesday, March 11, also at 7:00pm. Please RSVP.
Hikes will occur on the 3rd Saturday of the month (March – October) at 10:00am and meet at the Museum. (Except for the April hike, which will be held on the 2nd Saturday.) Each hike costs $20 for members of the Museum and $30 for nonmembers. The entire series can be purchased for $150 for members. Nonmembers may sign up for a membership and the series for $175.