If you want to go faster, go by yourself. If you want to go farther, go with a group.
Whatever your outdoor passion, there’s probably a club for you in Western North Carolina. But joining one won’t make you fit; rather, it’s your reward for being fit, and a great way to improve your skills or try a new pursuit. (Note: The annual dues listed below are for an individual membership; family memberships may cost more.)
Asheville Amblers Walking Club
Annual dues: $10
The Asheville Amblers is a member of the American Volkssport Association, which organizes three- and five-mile walks in scenic or cultural settings. These are walks, not hikes, and they take place mostly in town. You don’t have to walk with a group, but spokesperson John Young says that beyond the health benefits of walking, “there are social events and goals to shoot for. There are 1,700 walks in the U.S. When my wife and I travel, we always look for these walks.”
Carolina Mountain Club
Annual dues: $20
The oldest hiking club in Western North Carolina, it organizes 175 guided hikes per year. The club also maintains 400 miles of trail (including a portion of the Applachian Trail), with several crews going out each week.
“CMC is particularly attractive to people who want to maintain a regular hiking schedule,” club President Becky Smucker explains. “We car pool to trails all over the region within a 30- to 75-minute radius of Asheville, including the Smokies and the Pisgah National Forest. We offer hikes from easy half-day to daylong [and] strenuous.” There are even occasional multiday treks, she says.
High Country Hikers
No annual dues; $5 access fee
This Hendersonville-based club hikes Mondays and Thursdays and favors the Pisgah National Forest and Dupont State Forest. Co-chair Linda Kennard says the group “consists mainly of transplants from all over the country, and most are retired. Anyone may hike with us. However, one should be in good physical condition with adequate equipment for the hike. If you choose to join the group, there is a $5 charge which enables access to our e-mail list, where hike information is passed along.”
Nantahala Hiking Club
Annual dues: $10
Based in Macon County, the Nantahala Hiking Club takes responsibility for maintaining the AT from the Georgia state line to the Nantahala River at Wesser. The group schedules maintenance hikes every week of the year, plus monthly recreational hikes on Saturdays from April to October. “Most of our members are retired, and the sexes are equally mixed,” says trail crew supervisor Don O’Neal. “They are experienced hikers, but we are happy to have novices.”
Blue Ridge Bicycle Club
Annual dues: $25
The Blue Ridge Bicycle Club brings together a community of mountain and road cyclists, who work to provide opportunities for safer and more enjoyable recreational cycling in Western North Carolina. “We have a listserv where we post rides so you can hook up with people,” notes spokesperson Cheri Rosenblatt. “We have scheduled rides from easy to century. For example, in the summertime, we have a beginner’s ride from Etowah to Hendersonville, and we wait for everyone. The club is also very active in advocacy for cyclists and the environment. We do a lot of work for bike-friendly roads, including a publicity campaign to get drivers to understand [cyclists].”
Pisgah Area SORBA
Annual dues: $30
The Southern Off-Road Bicycle Association is devoted to promoting land access, trail preservation and new trail development for mountain-bike touring and racing. Current Pisgah Area SORBA President Van Rogers says he joined “because I love the sport.”
“I have such fun riding in various conditions and terrain that joining just seemed like the right thing to do,” he explains. Each month, the club schedules at least one technical ride, one all-levels ride and one trail-maintenance day. Members who volunteer their energy and time for Pisgah Area SORBA-designated trail-maintenance sessions receive Biker Bucks that can be redeemed at any Western North Carolina bike shop for parts or service. Beginning in April, the group plans after-work trail-maintenance days at Bent Creek.
Carolina Climbers Coalition
Annual dues: $25
The club’s motto is “preserving, protecting and expanding your climbing opportunities.” Past President Sean Cobourn says: “We love new members, and we’re the only regional organization representing climbers’ interests. We bought Laurel Knob near Cashiers, the tallest cliff in the eastern U.S., and have preserved it from development. We’re leasing the Asheboro Boulders for our members’ exclusive use. Our members range in age from teens to geriatrics, men and women. Climbing is a sport that anyone can participate in at various levels of difficulty, from steep hiking to Olympian overhanging routes.”
Asheville Ski Club
Annual dues: $30
This year, the club is organizing major ski trips to Oregon, Italy and Utah (the latter aimed at families and scheduled over spring break). But it’s not just about skiing: There are bike rides in the fall, and sometimes a weekend of bike riding and camping. The club also sponsors whitewater-rafting trips. “Last year, we took 100 adults and students to Vail,” President Bob Van Dine recalls. “The youngest was 4 years old, and the oldest was 80! As an all-around sporting club, I don’t think you can beat the Asheville Ski Club. We’re active in all kinds of outdoor adventures and specialize in skiing and riding.”
Asheville Rowing Club
Annual dues: $225
Team rowing is the quintessential group sport: You flat-out can’t do it alone. To join ARC, individuals must either be experienced rowers or have successfully completed an ARC learn-to-row class. The dues aren’t cheap, but the club provides boats, maintenance and storage at its boathouse on Lake Julian in southern Buncombe County.
“Rowing is the perfect sport for WNC’s outdoor community,” says Treasurer Jeff McKenna. “Rowing is non-impact, yet provides one of the best all-around workouts. We have the privilege of rowing on some of the most beautiful rivers and lakes in the country!”
Only clubs that schedule regular outdoor activities were considered for this listing. If your group wasn’t listed here, contact Danny Bernstein at email@example.com.
[A hike leader and outdoors writer, Bernstein is the author of Hiking the Carolina Mountains.]