Hiking Trips

cliff diveThere are hundreds of miles of hiking trails in Western North Carolina. The trails vary in difficulty from easy trails along the banks of waterways to more difficult trails that climb to the tops of 6000-feet mountains. There are trails that wander past waterfalls, through mixed birch/evergreen forest, and through alpine-like meadows. Western North Carolina also contains ecology of high valley bogs, stunted fir forests and bald knobs that are not commonly seen in the Eastern United States. Hiking this region will provide experiences you will remember for many years. With no exceptions, we practice safe hiking and we always leave no trace. Enjoy making connections with new people while exploring the magical offerings of Mother Nature.

Hiking Difficulty Ratings

Please read the descriptions of difficulty levels carefully before signing up for a hiking trip.

Gentle: Someone in fair hiking condition. Slight elevation change.

Challenging: Someone in good hiking condition. Increased mileage; moderate elevation gain.

Strenuous: Someone in very good hiking condition. Increased mileage; significant elevation changes.

Very Strenuous: Someone in excellent hiking condition. Significant increases in mileage and elevation gain.

Extremely Strenuous: Someone in exceptional hiking condition. Trails are not always available. Significant increase in mileage and extreme elevation gain. Technical aspects of a hike for very experienced hikers. 

Required Equipment and Guidelines for Hiking Trips

Required on all trips:

  • A desire for fun, adventure, and self-discovery.
  • Canteens or water bottles: at least 1 quart of water for ½-day trips and at least 2 quarts for full-day trips.
  • Proper, secure, supportive footwear is absolutely, positively necessary. No bare feet or open-toed shoes of any kind (flip-flops, open-toed Tevas, etc.).
  • Cell phones are for emergency use only. Respectfully, we request that all cell phones are turned off in the van and on the trail. It is our desire that all trip participants interact with nature and each other. Taking photographs is encouraged.

Required on some trips:

  • Trips involving wading or swimming require proper footwear (see Shoe Requirements).
  • Evening trips require flashlights.
  • It is strongly suggested that you bring:
  • Rain jacket or poncho. You never know when you’ll need it.
  • Sunscreen.
  • Snacks if you’re planning to expend a lot of energy.
  • Insect repellent.
  • A dry bag for any “water stomping” type trips if you have anything you don’t want to get soaked.
  • Swimsuit and towel for the water hikes (and a change of clothes for the van ride back to campus).

Event # Event Type Date & Time Age Range
Monday 18th July 2022

600

Silent Walk


We start the week with an early morning reverent walk for some silent communication with nature at Pinnacle Park near Sylva. It’s the perfect opportunity to center yourself and begin your SUUSI week energized by the coolness of the early morning and the serene natural beauty. Drive Time: 20 mins.
Price: $22.00 Registration Details
Nature M 7:30-9:45am 14+

610

Bartram Trail to William's Pulpit


Bartram Trail: Wallace Branch to William's Pulpit is a 4.1 mile out and back trail located near Franklin, NC. It is part of the 100-mile Bartram Trail that winds through northeastern Georgia and western North Carolina. This hike includes a steady uphill climb of 1100 feet. There are spring and summer wildflowers along the trail, a cascading waterfall at the bottom, and a gorgeous view at the top. Drive Time: 40 mins one way. Note that a lunch is NOT provided.
Price: $27.00 Registration Details
Nature M 8am-1pm 14+

621

Sylva Pinnacle


If a short drive, big workout, and spectacular views sound like a fun way to start your SUUSI, then this 7.4-mile hike is for you! The ride is only 20 minutes each way, and the high elevation knobby summit has views of surrounding peaks with Sylva visible below. The first three miles are 1700 feet steeply up a mountain, so you'll need to be in very good to excellent shape for this adventure. There are creeks and boulders to explore along the way to the payoff panorama view and lunch at the top. Hiking distance: 7.4 miles with total climbing of about 2500 feet. Lunch provided, bring water. Recommended for experienced hikers.
Price: $38.00 Registration Details
Nature M 9:15am-5pm 14+

614

Rainbow Falls and Turtleback Falls


This 4-mile round-trip hike begins in Gorges State Park and proceeds down to the rugged Horsepasture River, which is designated as a National Wild and Scenic River. Located on this hike is the 150 foot tall Rainbow Falls, the spray from which broadcasts a beautiful spectrum of color and mighty wind that can be felt from the viewing platform near the base falls. The trail then continues uphill to Turtleback Falls, which is an enticing 20-foot waterfall into a deep pool, which presents the opportunity to get wet, if desired!. The scenery in the gorge is breathtaking and memorable. Lunch provided, bring water. Drive Time: 55 mins one way. Elevation Gain: 895 ft.
Price: $38.00 Registration Details
Nature M 10:30am-5:30pm 14+

607

Three Falls Hike (Family Friendly)


Enjoy 2.5 miles of hiking to three of the many waterfalls in Western North Carolina. We will hike to the 30-foot high Juney Whank Falls, the 70 foot Toms Branch Falls and the 30 foot Indian Creek Falls. Look for the beauty of Mother Nature along these trails. You may have the opportunity to see a variety of flora - trilliums, foam-flower, galax, crested dwarf iris, beardtongue, Solomon's seal, cinquefoil, bloodroot, bluets, Jack-in-the-pulpit, wild geranium, Clinton's lily, and the large houstonia, to name a few. There will also be an opportunity to swim! Drive Time: 40 mins one way. Elevation Gain: 200 ft.
Price: $22.00 Registration Details
Nature M 1-6pm 12+
Tuesday 19th July 2022

604

Trail Marker Trees at the Swag (Family Friendly)


For thousands of years, Native Americans have been masters of the mountains, traveling on steep and narrow trails between sacred sites, commercial centers, and other places in their vast homeland. They used living trees as markers. We will visit The Swag Resort in Waynesville and hike the nearby Cataloochee Divide trail to search for surviving marker trees. The hike will be one mile, some uphill, with views of the nearby Great Smoky Mountains. You will have extra time to explore the beautiful grounds of The Swag. A picnic lunch of culinary treats guided by fresh produce and deliveries from local farms will be prepared for us by The Swag's chefs, and including their famous Swag Bars. Drive Time: 65 mins one way.
Price: $57.00 Registration Details
Nature Tu 8:30am-1:30pm 8+

619

Sam Knob and Flat Laurel Creek


Traversing through dark fir forests, high mountain streams and bogs, rhododendron stands, wide-open meadows, and exposed rock outcrops, the sites, and relative solitude offered by this hike are hard to match. Located along the Blue Ridge Parkway, this hike is one you will not want to miss. Drive Time: 60 mins one way. . Hiking distance: 5.3 miles with total climbing of about 800 feet. (4%- 10% grade) Lunch provided, bring water.
Price: $38.00 Registration Details
Nature Tu 9:15am-3:45pm 14+

616

Black Balsam Knob and Tennet Mountain


The views can't get much better than a 360-degree panorama above treeline at 6000 feet elevation in an alpine meadow. Almost the entire 5-mile loop is the stunning Shining Rock Wilderness along sections of the famous Art Loeb Trail. We hope you won't be too distracted to look at the trail once in a while, as the terrain can be rough and unpredictable at times. Drive Time: 65 mins one way. Hiking distance: 5 miles with total climbing of about 700 feet.
Price: $38.00 Registration Details
Nature Tu 12:30-6pm 14+

601

Tunnel to Nowhere and Noland Creek (Family Friendly)


We start this hike enjoying the solitude and peaceful darkness of a "tunnel to nowhere." Afterward, we will take a quick drive to our next quest. There is one short steep grade, but the majority of the 2-mile hike involves walking along a flat service road where we will experience the serene sounds and beauty of walking along Noland Creek, reaching the edge of Lake Fontana. Cooling off your feet in the water may be possible, but this is not a swimming trip. Drive Time: 50 mins one way.
Price: $22.00 Registration Details
Nature Tu 2-6pm 8+

605

Black Balsam Evening (Family Friendly)


A moderate evening hike in the Black Balsam Knob area, just off the Blue Ridge Parkway. The quickest way to the summit of 6214' Black Balsam Knob itself is through the Art Loeb Trail at the gap. This walk is about a half-mile, which gains about 400' in elevation. It passes through beautiful open, grassy and rocky mountain meadows. Drive Time: 65 mins one way. Elevation Gain: 400 ft.
Price: $22.00 Registration Details
Nature Tu 6:30-10:30pm 10+
Wednesday 20th July 2022

615

Service Project: Mountains to Sea Trail


The Mountains-to-Sea Trail leads the hiker from the Great Smoky Mountains to the Outer Banks in North Carolina. About half of the planned 900-mile trail is ready. We will be working with the Wednesday Crew of the Carolina Mountain Hiking Club to improve a section of the trail that crosses the Blue Ridge Parkway. There will be a short lecture regarding the trail and the hands-on work we will be doing. Lunch will be provided. Bring a daypack to carry your lunch. Drive Time: 22 min one way.
Price: FREE Registration Details
Nature W 7:30am-2:30pm 16+

617

Panthertown Valley


Panthertown Valley has been called the Yosemite of the East. Join us as we hike a 5-mile loop trail past incredible vistas of deep gorges, broad valleys, mountain bogs, waterfalls, and granite rock domes. The hike will take in the view from the Saltrock Gap and the sheer granite walls of Big Green Mountain. Drive Time: 45 mins one way. Hiking distance: 5 miles with total climbing of about 800 feet. Lunch provided, bring water.
Price: $38.00 Registration Details
Nature W 8:30am-2pm 14+

606

Andrew's Bald (Family Friendly)


New this year! The hike starts from Clingman’s Dome at 6,643 ft. This elevation is not only the highest point in the Great Smoky Mountains, but has some of its most famous vistas. The 3.5-mile hike starting downward through coniferous trees is, at times, mystical and whimsical. It ends in a mountaintop meadow (or “bald”) with a serene and panoramic view. The hike finishes with a medium-intensity 600-foot climb back up to Clingman’s Dome. Drive Time: 80 mins each way, with spectacular views along the way. Hiking distance: 3.5 miles with total climbing of about 900 feet. Lunch provided, bring water.
Price: $38.00 Registration Details
Nature W 9:15am-3:45pm 12+
Thursday 21st July 2022

602

Gribble Gap Loop on WCU Trail System (Family Friendly)


This morning hike is on the well-maintained Western Carolina University campus trail system on a small mountain adjoining the campus. Enjoy a pleasant 3.2-mile lollipop-route hike in the woods with good company on a Thursday morning and be back in time for your morning workshops. A van will drive you to the trailhead in 5 minutes. Total elevation change of about 370 feet. Be aware that the WCU hiking trails are shared with mountain bike users.
Price: $22.00 Registration Details
Nature Th 7:30-9:30am 10+

620

Graveyard Fields Water Stomp


This "tripple slog" hike includes walking through the stream, swimming/wading through pools, climbing around trees and rocks, climbing and playing in seemingly continuous cascades, and two large waterfalls (up to 125 feet!). From the Blue Ridge Parkway, we will hike a short distance along the Mountains to Sea Trail until reaching Skinny Dip Falls on the Yellowstone Prong of the Pigeon River. After taking a quick dip (optional!), we slip into wild that feels untouched and extremely remote until we reach our "put in point" where the climbing/wading portion of the trip begins. You will get wet (completely soaked if you like). Due to the climbing and scrambling on wet, slippery rocks, this hike is much more challenging than pure distance or climb would indicate. Drive Time: 65 mins one way. Lunch provided, bring water.
Price: $38.00 Registration Details
Nature Th 9am-4pm 14+

609

West Fork Moses Creek Trail


Near the WCU campus, we will have the opportunity to explore one of the small secretive waterways of the NC mountains, on this 6.4-mile hike following minimally developed trails. Long pants are recommended due to brushy growth encroaching on the trail. Water resistant boots are recommended due to several water crossings. After following up the valley of Moses Creek, we will turn to go up a steep grade along its West Fork and pass a narrow waterfall. The waterfall can be approached and viewed from various angles with a little scrambling. At half way, we reach a forest road near a cabin and turn back passing the falls a second time. Hiking distance: 6.4 miles with total climbing of about 1100 feet. Lunch provided, bring water.
Price: $38.00 Registration Details
Nature Th 9:15am-2:45pm 14+

613

Wayah Bald and Brewery


This hike climbs along a section of the Appalachian Trail from the Wilson Lick Ranger Station to the Wayah Bald Lookout Tower. Wilson Lick Ranger Station was built in 1913 as the first ranger station in the Nantahala National Forest. Wayah Bald Lookout Tower was built of stone by the CCC in 1937 for forest fire detection, burned down in 2016 and has since been rebuilt. The hilltop and tower offer gorgeous views of the Appalachian Mountains in Georgia, Tennessee and both North and South Carolina. We will end our day at a local brewery where we will get to enjoy a well deserved refreshment and dinner, which will more than likely come off a local food truck! (Bring money and a driver's license if you plan to enjoy an adult beverage.) Drive Time: 70 mins one way. Hiking distance: 3.8 miles with total climbing of about 1200 feet.
Price: $38.00 Registration Details
Nature Th 1:45-8:15pm 14+
Friday 22nd July 2022

603

Silent Black Balsam


The sights and relative solitude offered by this moderate hike are hard to match. The view is spectacular and in all directions from the summit. We end the week with a morning half-day reverent, for some silent communication with nature. It’s an excellent opportunity to center yourself and complete your SUUSI week energized by the coolness of serene, natural beauty. Drive Time: 65 mins one way. Elevation Gain: 400 ft.
Price: $22.00 Registration Details
Nature F 8am-12:30pm 14+

608

Three Falls Hike (Family Friendly)


This is the same hike as Trip # 607 but held on Friday morning. Note that a lunch is NOT provided.
Price: $22.00 Registration Details
Nature F 8am-1pm 12+

612

Waterrock Knob and Soco Falls


From the Blue Ridge Parkway, we'll hike steeply up to Waterrock Knob, a 6000-foot peak in western North Carolina and the 15th highest in North Carolina. After descending, we'll proceed to the refreshing and a beautiful Soco Falls, where we can climb down to the foot of the falls, using ropes to guide us through. A delightful opportunity to play in the water, and only the very careful will not get wet feet (there is an option only to observe if desired). Lunch provided, bring water. Drive Time: 45 mins one way. Elevation Gain: 492 ft.
Price: $27.00 Registration Details
Nature F 9:15am-2:15pm 14+

611

Whiteside Mountain


Towering to 4,830 feet in elevation, Whiteside Mountain yields fantastic mountain views and is a designated National Recreation Trail. Named Sanigilâ'gi by the Cherokee people, this formation boasts the highest cliffs in Eastern North America. Finish your outdoor week with a 2.5-mile loop hike and a spectacular vista. From vantage points, atop the 700 foot high nearly vertical cliffs, you will be able to gaze out over the mountainous Appalachian landscape and the low-lying piedmont of upstate Georgia and South Carolina. Drive Time: 45 mins one way. Elevation Gain: 600 ft.
Price: $27.00 Registration Details
Nature F 1-5pm 14+