Nature FAQ

Should I pre-register for Nature trips?

Yes. Don’t wait until you arrive at SUUSI to sign up for Nature trips. Equipment and van rentals are based on advance registrations. Trips with low pre-registration numbers may be canceled.

From where do Nature trips depart?

Youth and Middler Nature trips will leave from the youth program area. All other trips will depart from the Nature Tent, the location of which will be marked on the SUUSI map you will get when you arrive.

Even if the trip is on campus, go to the Nature Tent first to check in.

When do trips depart? What if I’m late?

Please meet 15 minutes early to check in with your trip leader. Trips leave at the time stated in the catalog, or earlier if everyone has arrived. If you are not present when departure is nearing and others are waiting on standby, your spot may be forfeited.

What do I need to bring? What happens if I do not have all the required equipment?

Some equipment may be provided by SUUSI. Read all the information on your trip type and the description for each of your trips carefully. Before the trip departs the trip leader is required to make sure all participants have the proper equipment. If you don’t show up on time with the right gear you won’t be allowed to go. A quart of water and rain gear are required for nearly all Nature trips. If you have questions about trip requirements before SUUSI, email nature@suusi.org. If your questions are during SUUSI, drop by the Nature Tent or ask a Nature staffer.

Are Nature trips ever canceled (if it’s raining, for example)? Do locations ever change?

The Nature program will cancel a trip only if conditions are unsafe. Locations may be changed to assure safety, to improve the experience if site conditions are not good, or if the site is no longer available.

Are waivers required to go on a Nature trip?

Yes. A few trips require two waivers: one for SUUSI and one for the owner of the property we will be visiting. Parents or guardians must co-sign an assumption of responsibility form for minors under their supervision. Nature trip leaders will warn you about common risks and hazards, but they cannot protect you against all hazards.

What guidelines should I use when choosing a Nature trip?

Check the difficulty rating for your trip below each description and in the legend at the beginning of each Nature program section. Trip difficulty ratings are there for your safety. Some of our trips are very physically challenging. Please consider the level of difficulty and evaluate your current capabilities before registering for any Nature trip. Nature activities are group experiences as well as personal explorations. We want participants to be able to stretch themselves without intruding on the experience of others.

The trip leader will have a first-aid kit and will be ready to assist you with most minor injuries. We ask, however, that you prepare for your own well-being. If the day is not a good day for you to carry out the activity safely, either physically or mentally, please don’t go on the trip. Stay with the group, follow the leader’s instructions, stay focused on safety, and use common sense in deciding what to bring with you in addition to required items. For example, a sunburn or poison ivy can spoil your day, or maybe even your week.

What if I have physical limitations or need assistance? If you have special considerations or need more information to determine whether a trip is right for you, please contact Nature Staff prior to SUUSI at nature@suusi.org. If you need one-on-one assistance to participate, your support person is welcome to come along as long as they also are registered for the trip.

One of the goals of SUUSI Nature programming is to provide opportunities for participants to challenge themselves and to stretch beyond their typical comfort zone. However, safety and the well-being of trip participants always remain the first priority of Nature Staff. Thank you for joining in helping to make Nature programming as safe, accessible, and adventurous as possible. We'll see you out there!

My child wants to go on a Nature trip. What do I need to know?

Look for FF (Family-Friendly) after the title to find trips that are open to children 13 and younger. An adult must register for the trip and accompany each child under 14 years old, except on Nature trips run through the Youth and Middler programs. The accompanying adult is responsible for the child’s safety and behavior during the activity and must maintain direct supervision of the child at all times.

Please note that NC law requires children under 8 to use an age-, weight- and size-appropriate car seat or booster seat. Parents or guardians must bring a seat to the Nature Tent 15 minutes before the trip departs.

What can I do if the trip I want is full?

If the trip you want is full when you register, don’t despair. Sometimes people drop trips and spaces open up. Add your name to the waitlist in SOLIS. If you don’t receive notification that space has opened up, frequently participants can add trips at check-in on Sunday, or at the SUUSI office and Nature Tent during SUUSI.

Even if a trip is full when you check at the Nature Tent, you are welcome to come to the Nature Tent 15 minutes before the trip start time and check in as a standby. If there is a “no show” you can go in their place. This is especially likely late in the week after some folks have expended their energy. Remember to bring the required equipment (clothes, boots, etc.) and fees so you will be prepared to go.

Does SUUSI give refunds for Nature trips?

If the SUUSI Nature program cancels a trip the fee will be refunded to you, or you may donate the fee to SUUSI. Refunds are not given to people who don’t show up, arrive at the Nature Tent late, or arrive without their required equipment. If you cancel your Nature trip at least 24 hours in advance, a credit can be issued to be used for another Nature trip, workshop, or activity during the current SUUSI.

  • 605: Black Balsam Evening (Family Friendly)Limit 14

    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.

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  • 607: Three Falls Hike (Family Friendly)Limit 14

    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.

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  • 614: Rainbow Falls and Turtleback FallsLimit 7

    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.

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  • 617: Panthertown ValleyLimit 13

    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.

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  • 620: Graveyard Fields Water StompLimit 13

    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.

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  • 619: Sam Knob and Flat Laurel CreekLimit 13

    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.

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  • 616: Black Balsam Knob and Tennet MountainLimit 13

    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.

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  • 611: Whiteside MountainLimit 13

    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.

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  • 700: Morning Canoe (Family Friendly)Limit 13

    Do you want to canoe on a beautiful lake with us? Then bring a family member or a friend to check this trip out. You will be able to see spectacular views while paddling this mountain top lake. Drive Time: 30 mins each way.

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  • 701: Family Friendly CanoeLimit 13

    Bring a friend or your family and paddle downstream on a pleasant section on the Little Tennessee River. There are a few easy class-one rapids and lots of beautiful scenery. We will stop at the takeout to wade and play in a stream if we have time – swimwear encouraged! We suggest that you have some basic canoeing skills; basic instruction will also be provided. Only one child permitted if there are two adults in the canoe. Two children may go with one adult. Children must be registered separately. Drive Time: 45 mins each way.

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  • 703: Evening Canoe Wednesday. (Family Friendly)Limit 13

    Join our group as we enjoy a peaceful and relaxing trip to beautiful Bear Creel lake. Listen to the quiet sounds of the lake and enjoy the sights at dusk. Bring a flashlight or headlamp just in case we get back to our take-out point, and it is dark. Drive Time: 30 mins one way.

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  • 710: Kayaking the French BroadLimit 13

    It's a great day to go down the river on the French Broad River. Lunch will be located on riverside picnic tables at our outfitters before we launch onto this scenic river. We will float by the Biltmore House, stables, bike trails, and other beautiful spots. The wildlife and scenery make this a perfect trip for everyone! Bring extra drinking water (32oz. or more). Drive Time: 60 mins one way.

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  • 704: Evening Canoe ThursdayLimit 13

    See trip # 703 for more details. A second evening canoe trip on Bear Lake! Join us and practice some paddle strokes while enjoying what the evening offers on the water. Drive Time: 30 mins one way.

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  • 705: Last Canoe Trip (Family Friendly)Limit 13

    During the last full day of SUUSI, you might want to come to enjoy this canoe trip on the beautiful Little Tennessee River. You are going to have some fun paddling and sightseeing. We will give some basic paddling instruction before we canoe downriver through a few easy to navigate obstacles. If time permits, we should be able to frolic and play in the stream at the takeout. Only one child permitted if there are two adults in the canoe. Two children may go with one adult. Drive Time: 45 mins one way.

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  • 707: White Water Rafting MondayLimit 14

    Let's head to the river for a rafting adventure, running the rapids on one of North Carolina's ancient rivers. The Nantahala River Gorge is as scenic as it is challenging, and the morning affords more space for solitude, reflection, and the ability to experience the sights with fewer people on the river. Don't bring anything on this trip that you can't afford to lose in the river. The outfitter will provide a complimentary splash jacket. Drive Time: 45 mins each way.

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  • 712: Duck The TuckLimit 13

    We will be paddling downstream in inflatable kayaks (Duckies) on the Tuckasegee River. Previous experience with basic paddling will be helpful on this trip. There will be some whitewater paddling instruction. Come ready to learn, have fun, and enjoy a scenic & exciting paddling trip. The white water rating is Class I-II+. Do not bring anything that you can not afford to lose to the river. Drive Time: 15 mins one way.

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  • 714: Intergenerational Tubing and Cookout (Family Friendly)Limit 42

    Tubing on The Little Tennessee River provides excitement going through some easy small rapids and then time to relax and play as we meander downstream with fellow SUUSI friends. Your appetite will be whetted as you get closer to the picnic area and smell the aroma from the cookout drifting upstream. This area is steeped in history and during certain water levels, you can view Native American fishing weirs along the way. The Little Tennessee River is one of the most intact aquatic ecosystems in the entire Tennessee River system. Consider bringing a tiny dry bag and a way to tie it inside your tube to stow away water, snacks, water toys, etc. to enjoy while you float downriver. Drive Time: 45 mins one way.

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  • 715: Adult TubingLimit 26

    The Little Tennessee River is one of the most intact aquatic ecosystems in the entire Tennessee River system. This area is also steeped in Native American history, and when the water is at certain levels you may be able to see some Cherokee fishing weirs. Come float and enjoy the beautiful surroundings. We suggest that you bring some water and a snack to enjoy while you float downriver. Drive Time: 45 mins one way.

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  • 505: Waterfalls Tour (Family Friendly)Limit 9

    An easy and mostly effortless way to get off campus and get your Nature on! There are some beautiful waterfalls in Highlands, NC. It is a long and winding road but well worth it to see some of the most picturesque waterfalls around. Bring your camera! Most of the waterfalls can be viewed from the van, but if time allows, we will be able to get out and walk around at some of the falls. Drive Time: 55 mins one way.

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  • 808: WCU climbing gymLimit 18

    Western Carolina hosts one of the most extensive climbing programs in the East and the tallest collegiate wall in North Carolina. The Base Camp climbing wall offers 2100 square feet of climbing surface and is 50 feet tall. There are routes designed for the first-time climber as well as for the serious climber looking for a workout. An additional waiver is required for this trip. Please print the waiver, fill it out, and bring it to registration. For participants under the age of 18, a parent or legal guardian's signature is required. Please do not arrive late to check-in for this trip, you will walk over with the entire group. The gym is within walking distance from the Nature Tent.

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  • 809: WCU climbing gymLimit 18

    See Trip # 808 for details. A waiver is required.

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  • 500: Birds of Western North CarolinaLimit 14

    We will join Ellen and Jim Shelton of the Franklin Birding Club to explore the sights and sounds along the Little Tennessee River Greenway. These folks are local birding enthusiasts who meet each week for greenway walks. Perhaps we'll see an Indigo Bunting, Northern Parula, Cliff Swallow, or an Eastern Towhee. Previous SUUSI folks have seen or heard all these and more: 36 unique species! The path is a combination of pavement, earth, gravel, and some stairs and is uneven in places. Bring your binoculars and let's go birding! Drive time: 20 mins one way

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  • 503: Wildflowers South on the ParkwayLimit 13

    Join retired Virginia State University Professor Ernie Wilson and drive south on the Blue Ridge Parkway to Waterrock Knob. We will stop and get out at 5 overlooks to see what is growing. The stops will allow us to see a waterfall in one place and a rock wall wet with water flowing from springs and covered with rare plants in another. At Waterrock, we will walk into a spruce-fir forest similar to those found in northern New England or Canada, which is a very different experience than walking into a southern forest. Drive Time: 35 mins to the parkway.

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  • 507: Creating SUUSI Campfire MemoriesLimit 13

    Join us for a campfire right on campus! Bring your songs and stories as we just let the fun happen. There's nothing like a campfire circle for creating community. It's BYOC: bring your own chair. This is an adult event. Look for the child-friendly campfire earlier on Monday evening.

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  • 502: Mushroom ForayLimit 14

    There will be a short informational session of fungi facts on campus, followed by a foray into the wild for learning about the way to observe and collect mushrooms. Finally, retired Botany and Microbiology Professor Ernie Wilson will help us identify the specimens collected. Drive Time: 15 mins one way.

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  • 615: Service Project: Mountains to Sea TrailLimit 13

    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.

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  • 604: Trail Marker Trees at the Swag (Family Friendly)Limit 10

    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.

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  • 610: Bartram Trail to William's PulpitLimit 13

    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.

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  • 821: Little Tennessee River BikeLimit 13

    Little Tennessee River Greenway is a five-mile, mostly flat, 13-foot wide, hiking and bicycling path that is quiet and friendly. The meandering path will take us through the Suli marsh, a butterfly garden, a historic steel suspension bridge, and a variety of wildflowers and wildlife. Bikes and helmets will be provided. An additional waiver is required for this trip. Please print the waiver, fill it out, and bring it to registration. For participants under the age of 18, a parent or legal guardian's signature is required. Drive Time: 60 mins one way.

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  • 804: Wildwater ZiplineLimit 15

    What an adventure! Ziplines are a spectacular way to experience flight and enjoy the outdoors with an added element of adventure and excitement. A combination of trees and platforms with 13 zips and eight sky bridges combine for over 1/2 mile of high-flying fun. Waivers are required - please print the waiver, fill it out, and bring it to registration. For participants under the age of 18, a signature by a parent or legal guardian is required. The amazing experience is provided by Wildwater, Ltd in Bryson City, NC. Drive Time: 75 mins each way. This trip requires reservations 2 weeks in advanced, You can only signup for this trip ONLINE.

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  • 811: RappellingLimit 12

    At 4880', Picken's Nose stands high above the Standing Indian Basin. The mountain’s multiple overlooks offer outstanding, sweeping views of the surrounding Southern Nantahala Wilderness. A moderate 3/4 mile hike leads to the rocky summit where we will set up several rappelling options. Bring a pack you'll need 2 quarts of water and lunch will be provided by WCU. Drive Time: 75 mins one way.

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  • 517: Waterfall Horse Trail Ride Tuesday (Family Friendly)Limit 16

    Horseback Riding at its finest! This 2.5-hour trail ride climbs up a mountain trail with beautiful scenery and a waterfall. Smokemont Riding Stable is located in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park just outside of Cherokee. There is a weight limit of 240 lbs per person. A waiver is required. Drive Time: 60 mins one way. This trip is also offered on Monday.

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  • 706: Stand-up PaddleboardLimit 10

    Would you like to learn the basics of Stand-Up Paddleboarding? Our participants will learn some basic paddle strokes and skills, paddleboard & equipment care, as well as other safety information. After a little instruction, we will put our newly learned skills to use on the lake. For those who are interested, we will conclude with some relaxing yoga postures and time for reflection and gratitude while enjoying the peaceful waterfront. Join us as we spend an afternoon taking part in one of the fastest-growing outdoor paddling activities on the water. Drive Time: 45 mins one way.

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  • 711: Intro to River Recreational KayakLimit 12

    Come pick out your favorite type of kayak and paddle with a friend on another relatively easy section of the Little Tennesse River. Basic instruction will be provided; this trip will explain the necessary kayak paddling skills. There are a few easy Class I rapids, flat water, and lots of beautiful scenery. We will stop to play and swim if we have time. This is an excellent trip for beginners, as well as seasoned paddlers. Having some fundamental water & paddling skills is a plus. Drive Time: 45 mins one way.

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  • 527: Cherokee Ruby & Sapphire Mine (Family Friendly)Limit 14

    Under new ownership, this promises to be an enhanced experience and kid-friendly! Two pre-filled buckets of dirt are included in the price and they hope to have a fill your own option from their mine. This educational trip is to an authentic mine where you will learn about the geology and history of the gem mining trade in western North Carolina. You will mine for gems only found in the Cowee Valley. An array of gems have been found at this mine. Keep your eyes open for pigeon blood-colored rubies, star rubies, star sapphires, star garnets, rhodolite, and pyrope garnets, rutile, sillimanite, kyanite, corundum, quartz crystals, and moonstone. Note: the location of this trip is weather dependent may cause the trip to be cancelled. That said, storms are unlikely in the morning. Drive Time: 45 mins one way.

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  • 520: Great Smoky Mountains Railroad (Family Friendly)Limit 28

    Departing from Bryson City, this 4 ½ hour excursion carries you 44 miles by train to the Nantahala Gorge and back again. Travel along the Little Tennessee and Nantahala Rivers across Fontana Lake and into the magic of the Nantahala River Gorge. Enjoy a layover at Nantahala Outdoor Center for sightseeing, having lunch by the river from one of the many eateries or just plain relaxing. Consider picking up a box lunch from cafeteria before leaving if you don't want to purchase lunch at the NOC (bring $$ for purchase on site). Drive Time: 45 mins one way.

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  • 822: Introduction to Mountain BikingLimit 13

    This trip will be in the Tsali Recreation Area. We do either the Mouse Loop or Thompson Branch Loop.

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  • 529: Explore Highlands: Shop and StrollLimit 14

    Shopping, Shopping, Shopping! Starting with a stop at Reclamations, a salvage yard to beat all salvage yards. Want a Cupola for your house, a 1967 Airstream trailer, antique hinges, bread mixing bowls, yard sculptures made out of hubcaps, and so much more? Just go to Reclamations. Then we move on to Highlands N.C. for a luxury shopping excursion with lovely outdoor restaurants for afternoon tea. On our return, we will stop for a few minutes at Bridal Veil Falls, which is stunning AND right off the road! Drive Time: 45 mins one way.

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  • 702: Am Canoe & Waterfall HikeLimit 13

    This is an excellent trip for paddlers that like to hike. We will paddle south to an island on Bear Lake, then to a cove by a wooded shore surrounded by rhododendron and other beautiful flora where we will land our canoes. Then we will take a short 30-minute hike (mostly uphill ) to a 100+ foot pristine waterfall. We will eat lunch on the island or by the waterfall (your choice). Bring shoes suitable for both water & hiking. Drive Time: 45 mins one way, depending on rural road conditions.

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  • 506: Campfire Fun (Family Friendly)Limit 27

    Great for the entire family! Join us for a campfire right on campus! Bring your songs and stories as we just let the fun (and marshmallow roasting) happen. There’s nothing like a campfire circle for creating community. It’s BYOC (bring your own chair). Bring the kids!! Walk or ride in van to this campus location. Children under 8 must have a car seat or booster seat, and bring to nature tent 15 minutes prior to departure.

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  • 603: Silent Black BalsamLimit 14

    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.

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  • 612: Waterrock Knob and Soco FallsLimit 13

    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.

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  • 504: Wildflowers North on the ParkwayLimit 13

    Bring your camera with you as we drive north on the parkway from Balsam Gap. We will stop at and explore for wildflowers at five overlooks. There are at least 35 species of wildflowers to be seen, some in as great abundance as you would see in travel brochures. At one stop, we will use a guidebook, Newcomb's Wildflower Guide, to give you a chance to identify flowers yourself. Retired Botany and Microbiology Professor Ernie Wilson, who currently runs wildflower identification programs in Richmond, VA, will also be available for help. Loads of photographing opportunities! Drive Time: 40 mins one way.

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  • 600: Silent WalkLimit 14

    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.

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  • 613: Wayah Bald and BreweryLimit 13

    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.

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  • 601: Tunnel to Nowhere and Noland Creek (Family Friendly)Limit 14

    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.

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  • 550: Forest BathingLimit 14

    New this year! Refresh in the middle of the week for a deep, sensory immersion in the forest. Enjoy the outdoor mindfulness practice of Forest Bathing on a relatively flat trail where we can commune with the living earth. Learn how to walk like a fox, listen like a deer and see like an owl. We will spend the morning in slow movement, silent meditation, and acute observation of the forest flora and fauna. We will conclude with a circle sharing and tea ceremony made from the bounty of our surroundings.

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  • 609: West Fork Moses Creek TrailLimit 13

    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.

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  • 510: Fly Fishing for BeginnersLimit 10

    Fly fishing is an angling method in which an artificial "fly" is used to catch fish. The fly is cast by using a fly rod, reel, and specialized weighted line. Casting a nearly weightless fly or "lure" requires casting techniques significantly different from other forms of casting. SUUSI’s resident expert Mark Harris has offered to teach the basics of this technique. Join him on the river for an afternoon of adventure. The water temperature will be cool. Be advised that there can be potentially challenging wading if water levels are high, and be prepared to swim if necessary. If you drop the trip after registration closes, the fishing license fee is non-refundable. Drive Time: 25 mins one way.

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  • 608: Three Falls Hike (Family Friendly)Limit 14

    This is the same hike as Trip # 607 but held on Friday morning. Note that a lunch is NOT provided.

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  • 621: Sylva PinnacleLimit 13

    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.

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  • 606: Andrew's Bald (Family Friendly)Limit 13

    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.

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  • 602: Gribble Gap Loop on WCU Trail System (Family Friendly) Limit 14

    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.

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  • 826: Zipline in AshevilleLimit 12

    Come swing with us! Enjoy climbing, swinging, rappelling, and other challenges such as zip lines in a wooded setting. Asheville's Treetop Adventures is an hour's drive from WCU. A special waiver needs to be signed and brought to the trip. Anyone under the age of 18 is required to have the waiver signed by a parent or legal guardian. Drive Time: 60 mins one way. THIS TRIP REQUIRES NON-REFUNDABLE RESERVATIONS 2 WEEKS IN ADVANCE.

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  • 546: Glenville Lake Waterfall Boat Cruise ThursdayLimit 12

    Experience a private cruise with the only licensed and insured, US-Coast Guard, Master Captain aboard the largest luxury pontoon yacht on the highest alpine lake in the oldest mountains on earth! Guests will enjoy a 2-hour boat cruise along 15 miles of water. You will see some of the fantastic hidden waterfalls, which are only accessible by boat because they are surrounded by private property. Bald Eagles nest on the lake and we hope to see them. Lunch on campus. Drive time: 30 mins one way.

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  • 820: KOLO Bike ParkLimit 2

    Want to mountain bike at SUUSI? Let’s go to KOLO at Treetops Adventure in Asheville, where you can push yourself at your own pace. Your fee includes the rental of a single-suspension bike and helmet. Here you’ll find about 4 miles of purpose-built mountain bike trails and features on rolling terrain. We like to think of it as a mountain-bike sampler pack. Designed for all rider levels, whether you’re just learning, taking it easy, or looking to push your edge a bit, you’ll find a taste of it at KOLO Bike Park. Key features include: a hand-built single track in wooded space, a machine-built flow trail with dirt berms and rollers, two pump tracks for beginner and advanced, wooden balance features and bridges, wooden step-down and gap jumps, a dirt jump area with jumps (ranging from easy to difficult), and a 180-degree wood berm. All of the trails and features at KOLO Bike Park are designed to be progressive. That means there are multiple ways to ride them, depending on your skill level, encouraging developing riders to advance their skills in a controlled environment. Please fill out the REQUIRED online waiver form at http://bit.ly/KOLOWaiver and bring it to check-in. Drive Time: 60 min one way.

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  • 511: Foraging at Home Limit 20

    Join us for a Nature trip with no van ride! We will walk on campus and explore the bounty of wild edibles found most anywhere. Foraging for wild edible plants is possible in your yard. If you are curious about foraging or want to learn if you have anything edible in your yard or local park (likely, yes), then join Jennifer Sanders as we explore the world of edible wild plants. We'll learn about some common weeds you can eat and have time to share what's in your yard and ask questions.We"ll end the trip by enjoying a beverage prepared from Mother Nature's garden!

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  • 549: Asheville Music History Walking TourLimit 14

    Join us for a cultural immersion in Asheville's eclectic music roots. Expect fun facts and insider insights from a longtime Asheville resident and arts/music journalist. Asheville is known for its history of bluegrass, country, folk and other forms of mountain music. The city’s legacy, though, goes well beyond that, says our local host, Alli Marshall. “People are surprised about the eclecticism of Asheville’s music scene — how many genres are represented,” says Marshall, former Arts & Entertainment editor for Mountain Xpress. “But that’s always been the case. For more than a century, Asheville has been at the intersection of innovation and sophistication as well as deep-seated tradition.” The two hour, 1.5-mile stroll winds its way through several downtown areas such as Lexington Avenue and The Block-Asheville's historic African-American business district. We'll stop by the Moogseum, Black Mountain College Museum + Arts Center, famed music venue The Orange Peel, and more. There will be plenty of photo ops and an accompanying soundtrack. Lunch provided.

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  • 101: Under the Wisdom Tree: What Are These Rocks? Geology of SUUSI-landLimit 99

    First of four theme talks given by Charlie Grymes who's shared his wisdom on nature trips for many years. He will engage us with the wonders of nature and our surroundings. Grab your lunch and join us under the Wisdom Tree and be enthralled. Drop in as you can!

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  • 102: Under the Wisdom Tree: Who Lived Here? Native Americans of North CarolinaLimit 99

    Second of four theme talks given by Charlie Grymes, discussing the wonders of nature and our surroundings. Grab your lunch and join us under the Wisdom Tree and be enthralled. Drop in as you can!

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  • 103: Under the Wisdom Tree: What Makes Trees Happy/Grumpy?Limit 99

    Third of four theme talks given by Charlie Grymes, discussing the wonders of nature and our surroundings. Grab your lunch and join us under the Wisdom Tree and be enthralled. Drop in as you can!

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  • 104: Under the Wisdom Tree: The Inner Life of FlowersLimit 99

    Fourth of four theme talks given by Charlie Grymes, discussing the wonders of nature and our surroundings. Grab your lunch and join us under the Wisdom Tree and be enthralled. Drop in as you can!

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  • Mandatory Van Safety MeetingUnlimited

    Mandatory meeting for anyone who will be driving a SUUSI van during the week. You MUST arrive on time and attend the meeting in order to be able to drive a van during SUUSI. No work-arounds! No kidding. Late? You'll need to attend another meeting.

  • Mandatory Van Safety MeetingUnlimited

    Mandatory meeting for anyone who will be driving a SUUSI van during the week. You MUST arrive on time and attend the meeting in order to be able to drive a van during SUUSI. No work-arounds! No kidding. Late? You'll need to attend another meeting.

  • 551: The African American Experience in the SmokiesLimit 14

    An initiative of The Great Smoky Mountain National Park, the African American Experience Project is a collaborative effort with the National Park Service, park partners and the community to document and share the untold stories of African Americans in and outside the Smokies, The goal of the project is to add the stories of African Americans to the stories of the early white settlers and Cherokees who lived in the area, This trip will take us to Mingus Mill and the access trail head to the Enloe Cemetery site where enslaved African Americans are known to be buried. A project facilitator will lead an open discussion on the history and current research, including a partnership with WCU who performed ground-penetrating radar at the Enloe Cemetery. There is a very short but steep, natural and rooted trail to the site. Something to sit on is recommended. Trip departs and ends at Oconaluftee Visitor Center where there are bathroom facilities.Time permitting, some additional exploration of area is possible. Drive time 40 minutes on way.

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  • 552: Cherokee Bonfire and Storytelling (Family Friendly)Limit 28

    We'll go to the Qualla Boundary at the Oconaluftee Islands Park near downtown Cherokee, and join this popular community and family friendly event. Gather around a crackling fire and hear the Cherokee people tell their story. The program is designed to inform, enlighten and entertain. Guests are encouraged to ask the storytellers questions as part of this cultural experience. Benches are positioned around the bonfire circle, and during the break, marshmallows are handed out for roasting! Be advised this is a public event, and crowd size varies and can't be determined. Please arrive early to nature tent if you are bringing a child requiring safety seat. Just in case, ground cloth to sit on recommended. Drive time 30 minutes one way.

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  • 553: Karaoke Anyone?Limit 14

    Loosen up for dancing at Serendipity, and join us for Karaoke night at the Paper Mill Lounge in downtown Sylva! Located within the beautiful McGuire estate, the lounge is elegant and eclectic with a relaxed vibe. Don't want to sing? Relax in one of the outdoor spaces and enjoy one of their thoughtful, fresh handcrafted cocktails or delicious food offerings. Visit the gardens! This is a good opportunity to get off campus for a night out.

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  • 554: Glenville Lake Waterfall Boat Cruise WednesdayLimit 12

    Experience a private cruise with the only licensed and insured, US-Coast Guard, Master Captain aboard the largest luxury pontoon yacht on the highest alpine lake in the oldest mountains on earth! Guests will enjoy a 2-hour boat cruise along 15 miles of water. You will see some of the fantastic hidden waterfalls, which are only accessible by boat because they are surrounded by private property. Bald Eagles nest on the lake and we hope to see them. Lunch on campus. Drive time: 30 mins one way. This trip is also offered on Thursday.

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  • 555: Waterfall HorseTrail Ride Monday (Family Friendly)Limit 14

    Horseback Riding at its finest! This 2.5-hour trail ride climbs up a mountain trail with beautiful scenery and a waterfall. Smokemont Riding Stable is located in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park just outside of Cherokee. There is a weight limit of 240 lbs per person. A waiver is required. Drive Time: 60 mins one way. Horseback Riding at its finest! This 2.5-hour trail ride climbs up a mountain trail with beautiful scenery and a waterfall. Smokemont Riding Stable is located in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park just outside of Cherokee. There is a weight limit of 240 lbs per person. A waiver is required. Drive Time: 60 mins one way. This trip is also offered on Tuesday.

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