Nature Programming

smoky mountain clouds

The Collins Dictionary defines Nature as “all the animals, plants, and other things in the world that are not made by people, and all the events and processes that are not caused by people.”   At SUUSI, we explore the phenomena of the local physical environment as well as humans’ ingenuity and interactions with it. We’ll forage for mushrooms and other wild, edible plants and take a tour through a historic African American neighborhood. We’ll learn to walk like a fox, listen like a deer, and see like an owl - and we’ll ride the Great Smoky Mountains Railway to the Nantahala Gorge.

New this year, we’ve added some accessible exploring and “hiking” trips with ADA pathways. You can find them listed under both the Discovery and Hiking sections of the catalog. You’ll also find trips to a bike park, exploring wild rivers by tube, raft, kayak, and canoe, treetop climbing, hikes to mountain tops, and adventures like climbing a rock wall. In addition, there are many opportunities for discovering wildlife, the ancestral home of the Cherokee Nation, The Mountain Retreat & Learning Center, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, dozens of waterfalls, and lots of smaller parks and recreation centers; many areas are close to campus. We want everyone to join in the Nature fun as much as they would like!

*Western North Carolina weather: there will be a shower or thunderstorm almost every day. Nature trips go out rain or shine, so make sure you pack a poncho or raincoat on every trip. As a general Nature rule, be prepared by having the right equipment. Please plan and bring the appropriate footwear, water, etc. Make sure to arrive at the Nature Tent 15 minutes before the trip departure time.

Much time and attention have been devoted to evaluating each trip’s requirements to afford every participant the best experience possible.  Please carefully consider trip descriptions and your own needs when choosing your schedule. Contact the Nature Directors at nature@suusi.org if you have any questions about trip descriptions or requirements.

  • 607: 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 each way, with a gain of about 400' in elevation. It passes through beautiful open, grassy and rocky mountain meadows. Drive Time: 65 mins one way.

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

    Enjoy 2.5 moderate 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.

  • 615: Rainbow Falls and Turtleback FallsLimit 13

    This 4-mile round-trip hike begins in North Carolina's 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 area near the base of the falls. The trail then continues steeply uphill to Turtleback Falls, which is an enticing 20-foot waterfall into a deep pool, which presents the opportunity to dunk, if desired!. However, SUUSI hikers must stay back from the unprotected actual falls themselves. The scenery in the gorge is breathtaking and memorable. Lunch provided, bring water. Drive Time: 55 mins one way. Elevation Gain: 900 ft.

  • 619: 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.

  • 620: Sam Knob and Flat Laurel CreekLimit 13

    Sam Knob is a prominent bald with views over the 6000+ foot Plott Balsam Range. But this hike is more than a climb - it also traverses dark fir forests and rhododendron stands, crosses mountain streams, bogs, and wide-open meadows. The sheer variety of natural features offered by this hike is 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.

  • 618: 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.

  • 612: 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. If we're lucky, we may see the peregrine falcons that nest on the cliffs below. 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.

  • 700: Morning Canoe (Family Friendly)Limit 13

    Do you want to canoe on a beautiful lake with us? Bring a family member or a friend to check out the spectacular views while paddling this mountaintop lake. Drive Time: 30 mins each way.

  • 703: Evening Canoe (Family Friendly)Limit 13

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

  • 710: Kayaking the French BroadLimit 14

    It's a great day to go down the river on the French Broad River. We will eat lunch riverside on picnic tables at our outfitter's before we launch onto this scenic river, where 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.

  • 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 instructions 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 is permitted if there are two adults in the canoe. Two children may go with one adult. Drive Time: 45 mins one way.

  • 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.

  • 712: Duck The Tuck 1Limit 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. This trip is also offered on Thursday. Drive Time: 15 mins one way.

  • 715: 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.

  • 716: 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.

  • 505: Waterfalls Tour (Family Friendly)Limit 14

    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.

  • 808: WCU Climbing Gym MondayLimit 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. In addition to top-rope climbing, participants will also have the option to try bouldering. 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.

  • 809: WCU Climbing Gym ThursdayLimit 18

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

  • 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.

  • 503: Wildflowers South on the ParkwayLimit 13

    Join us 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 from walking into a southern forest. Drive Time: 35 mins to the parkway.

  • 507: Creating SUUSI Campfire MemoriesLimit 20

    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.

  • 502: Mushroom ForayLimit 14

    There will be a short information session of fungi facts on campus, followed by a foray into the woods to observe and collect mushrooms. We’ll end by working collectively to identify the specimens collected. Drive Time: 15 mins one way.

  • 623: 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. 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.

  • 605: Trail Marker Trees at The Swag (Family Friendly)Limit 9

    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 have a trail pass to The Swag Resort in Waynesville, where we will 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 will include their famous Swag Bars. The resort's package also includes a Swag walking stick for each registrant to keep. Drive Time: 65 mins one way.

  • 617: Bartram Trail to William's PulpitLimit 13

    From the Bartram Trail's Wallace Branch Trailhead to William's Pulpit is a 4.1 mile out-and-back hike located near Franklin, North Carolina. 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 rocky outcropping. Drive Time: 40 mins one way. Note that a lunch is NOT provided, you could bring your own snack.

  • 804: Wildwater ZiplineLimit 9

    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. This amazing experience is provided by Wildwater, Ltd in Bryson City, NC. Drive Time: 75 mins each way. This trip requires reservations 2 weeks in advance and may only be added through SoLIS (not available at in-person registration). EDIT: participants under the age of 14 are required to have an adult parent/guardian in attendance.

  • 517: Waterfall Horse Trail Ride Tuesday (Family Friendly)Limit 11

    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. You MUST WEAR LONG PANTS and CLOSED-TOE SHOES, boots would be best. A waiver is required. Drive Time: 60 mins one way.

  • 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.

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

    Get back to nature and get a little dirty on this fun and educational trip to an authentic gem mine. This family-friendly trip is full of options during your visit. We will take a tour of the mine and learn about the geology and history of the gem-mining trade in western North Carolina. You may dig in their mine for gem ore to fill your buckets or select prefilled buckets. Sifting from the creek and exploring the nature trails are additional options. There is an animal rescue on site, and little ones can visit the petting zoo. The mine has a Dark Room where you can check your spoils with a UV light. Cherokee Ruby & Sapphire Mine is the International Gem Society’s #4 Pick in the "Top Places to Mine in the United States". You will mine for gems found only 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, pyrope garnets, rutile, sillimanite, kyanite, corundum, quartz crystals, and moonstone. Buckets of 100% on-site excavation gemstone ore – NOT “Salted”, “Enhanced”, “Concentrated”, or “Enriched” with low-grade, semi-precious stones from elsewhere are included in the cost of admission. This trip ranges from gentle to strenuous. If you plan to "dig your own" be advised this is a strenuous activity. Drive time: 45 minutes

  • 520: Great Smoky Mountains Railroad (Family Friendly)Limit 9

    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. A one hour layover at the Nantahala Outdoor Center (NOC) allows for sightseeing, having lunch by the river from one of the many eateries, or just plain relaxing. Consider picking up a boxed lunch from the dining hall before leaving if you don't want to purchase lunch at the NOC (bring $$ for purchase on site). Drive Time: 45 mins one way.

  • 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? Reclamations is your spot. Afterward, we will move on to Highlands N.C. for a luxury shopping excursion with lovely outdoor restaurants for afternoon tea or ice cream. 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.

  • 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.

  • 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 to this campus location. Children under 8 riding in a car or van must have a car seat or booster seat. Please bring it to the Nature Tent/Office 15 minutes prior to departure.

  • 608: 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.

  • 606: Waterrock Knob and Soco FallsLimit 13

    From the Blue Ridge Parkway, we'll hike almost 500' uphill to Waterrock Knob, a 6000' 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.

  • 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 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 least at one stop, we will give you a chance to identify flowers yourself, so if you have a guidebook or plant app you would like to use, please bring it along. Loads of photographing opportunities! Drive Time: 40 mins one way.

  • 602: Forest Bathing at Pinnacle ParkLimit 20

    We start the week with an early morning reverent immersion in the forest, at the base of Pinnacle Peak near Sylva. Enjoy the silent mindfulness practice of Forest Bathing on the Bridges Loop Trail. It’s the perfect opportunity to center yourself and begin your SUUSI week energized by the coolness of the early morning in slow movement, silent meditation, and acute observation of the forest flora and fauna. Drive Time: 20 mins.

  • 616: Wayah Bald and BreweryLimit 13

    This trip pairs a strenuous hike on the Appalachian Trail with a local brewery and food truck dinner experience. The hike climbs along a mountainous and deeply wooded section of the AT, from the Historic Site Wilson Lick Ranger Station to the Observation Tower atop Wayah Bald. The ranger station was built in 1913 as the first ranger station in the Nantahala National Forest, and the original wooden structure remains. The Wayah Bald Observation Tower was first built of stone by the CCC in 1937 at 5,360’ for forest fire detection. It burned down in 2016 and has since been rebuilt. In clear weather, the tower offers spectacular 360 degree views of the southern Appalachian Mountains in Georgia, Tennessee and both North and South Carolina. After the hike we will kick back and enjoy a well-deserved dinner, beverage, and companionship – returning to WCU after dark. (Bring money, and a driver's license if you plan on an adult beverage.) Drive time: 70 minutes. Distance: 4 miles. Climb: 1200 feet.

  • 604: 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.

  • 561: Forest Bathing at Moses CreekLimit 14

    Refresh in the middle of the week with a deep, sensory immersion in the forest, on the side of Moses Creek not far from WCU. 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. Drive Time: 25 mins.

  • 622: Mt. LeConte via Alum Cave TrailLimit 13

    This is one of the iconic mountain hikes of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, with a famous and historic cluster of rustic cabins near the top. We hike both up and down on the same day, climbing almost 2800 feet over 5.5 miles. Along the way, we hike under Arch Rock, around Inspiration Point with a view of the Eye of the Needle, along the side of Alum Cave (a massive concaved bluff), following rock ledges with hand cables to hold, and up the final incline to the no-vehicles-allowed lodge area with its vegetation a relic of Northwoods species isolated since the time of the last Ice Age. For photos and more details on the hike see https://hikinginthesmokys.com/mt-leconte-via-alum-cave-trail/ After a several year long hiatus, we bring back the most challenging hike ever offered at SUUSI from WCU. Hiking distance: 11 miles with total climbing of about 2800 feet. Drive time 70 minutes one way. Lunch provided, bring water. Recommended for experienced hikers only.

  • 510: Fly Fishing for BeginnersLimit 5

    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 online registration closes, the fishing license fee (included in the cost of the trip) is non-refundable. Drive Time: 25 mins one way.

  • 621: Sylva Pinnacle TrailLimit 13

    If a short drive, big workout, and spectacular views sound like a worthy challenge, then this 7.4-mile loop-trail is for you! The drive is only 20 minutes each way, and the high-elevation rocky pinnacle is surrounded by cliffs in three directions, with open vistas of the surrounding region, including the town of Sylva 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.

  • 614: Andrew's BaldLimit 13

    The hike starts with Clingman’s Dome at 6,643 ft. This elevation is not only the highest point in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, but has some of its most famous vistas. The 4.6-mile round-trip hike descending 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 the Clingman’s Dome trailhead. Drive Time: 70 mins each way, with spectacular views along the way. Hiking distance: 4.6 miles with total climbing of about 1200 feet. Lunch provided, bring water.

  • 613: Gribble Gap Loop on WCU Trail SystemLimit 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. Driving time to the trailhead is 5 minutes. Total elevation change of about 370 feet, with some brief but steep inclines. Be aware that the WCU hiking trails are shared with mountain bike users.

  • 826: Asheville Treetop AdventureLimit 3

    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 waiver is required for this trip, and it must be signed by a parent or legal guardian for anyone under 18. Drive Time: 60 mins one way. This trip requires reservations 2 weeks in advance and may only be added through SoLIS (not available at in-person registration). EDIT: children under 14 must have a parental escort in attendance.

  • 546: Glenville Lake Waterfall Boat Cruise ThursdayLimit 11

    Experience a private cruise with a United States Coast Guard Licensed Master Sea Captain with over 40 years of boating experience aboard a 28 ft. luxury pontoon yacht. Guests will enjoy a 2-hour boat cruise along 15 miles of water - on the highest alpine lake in the oldest mountains on earth. Captain Wise is entertaining and educational and delivers a phenomenal tour of 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 Wednesday.

  • 820: KOLO Bike ParkLimit 3

    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. Children under the age of 14 MUST be accompanied by an adult. Please fill out the REQUIRED online waiver form at https://bit.ly/KOLOWaiver2023 and bring it to check-in. Drive Time: 60 min one way. EDIT: Due to bike rental limitations, this trip is only available through SoLIS and cannot be added at in-person registration.

  • 511: Foraging at Home Limit 22

    Join us for a Nature trip with no van ride! We will stroll around campus and explore the bounty of 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 common weeds you can eat and have time to share what's in your yard and ask questions. This walk is physically accessible. We'll end the trip by enjoying a beverage prepared from Mother Nature's garden.

  • 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 our host, Alli Marshall, a longtime Asheville resident and arts/music journalist. Asheville is known for its history of bluegrass, country, folk, and other forms of mountain music - but the city’s legacy, though, goes well beyond that. “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. The Asheville walking terrain is hilly - please consider your abilities. Lunch provided. Drive time 60 minutes one way.

  • 101: Under the Wisdom Tree: Rain and WaterfallsLimit 99

    Maybe the rain in Spain falls mainly on the plain, but here we get soaked in the mountains. Why so much rain, and will a changing climate dry up the waterfalls? The first of four theme talks by Charlie Grymes, who has shared his wisdom on nature trips for many years. Grab your lunch, join us under the Wisdom Tree, and be enthralled. Drop in as you can!

  • 102: Under the Wisdom Tree: North Carolina History - Why Tar Is On the HeelsLimit 99

    Virginia and South Carolina residents highlight their proud histories. North Carolina is, in contrast, a “vale of humility between two mountains of conceit.” Why is this state’s heritage such a humble story? The second of four theme talks by Charlie Grymes. Grab your lunch, join us under the Wisdom Tree, and be enthralled. Drop in as you can!

  • 103: Under the Wisdom Tree: Rise and Fall of Our ForestsLimit 99

    Modern forestry was developed in Western North Carolina, and wood is a renewable resource – but we have practiced dumb forest management, too. What’s the “wise” way to convert trees into lumber, paper, and pencils? The third of four theme talks by Charlie Grymes. Grab your lunch, join us under the Wisdom Tree, and be enthralled. Drop in as you can!

  • 104: Under the Wisdom Tree: Panthers and Other CrittersLimit 99

    Lions and Tigers and Bears – Oh My! We got ticks, snakes, skeeters, tweety birds – and now armadillos. We got wildlife in Cullowhee, but where are the panthers? The fourth of four theme talks by Charlie Grymes. Grab your lunch, join us under the Wisdom Tree, and be enthralled. Drop in as you can!

  • 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 trailhead 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, which performed ground-penetrating radar at the Enloe Cemetery. There is a very short but steep, natural, rooted trail to the site. It is recommended that you bring something to sit on. The trip departs and ends at Oconaluftee Visitor Center where there are bathroom facilities. Time permitting, some additional exploration of the area is possible. Lunch provided. Drive time 40 minutes on way. (Photo courtesy of National Park Service)

  • 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 interact with the storytellers 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 the Nature Tent/Office if you are bringing a child requiring a safety seat. Just in case, bringing a ground cloth to sit on is recommended. Drive time 30 minutes one way.

  • 545: Glenville Lake Waterfall Boat Cruise WednesdayLimit 11

    Experience a private cruise with a United States Coast Guard Licensed Master Sea Captain with over 40 years of boating experience aboard a 28 ft. luxury pontoon yacht. Guests will enjoy a 2-hour boat cruise along 15 miles of water - on the highest alpine lake in the oldest mountains on earth. Captain Wise is entertaining and educational and delivers a phenomenal tour of 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.

  • 516: 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. You MUST WEAR LONG PANTS and CLOSED-TOE SHOES, boots would be best. A waiver is required. Drive Time: 60 mins one way. This trip is also offered on Tuesday.

  • 713: Duck The Tuck 2Limit 13

    See trip # 712 for more details. A second Duck the Tuck! Join us as we kayak the Tuckasegee River. 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.

  • 717: Messing with Boats (Middlers 12s)Unlimited

    Let's go paddle! Choose your favorite boat and paddle upstream on the Little Tennessee River and then float back down. Our Nature staff instructors will teach you how to have a safe paddling experience while you learn about boats and how to paddle them. You will need appropriate footwear (see description under Nature Aquatics), drinking water, glasses strap (if you wear glasses), swimwear, sunscreen, dry clothes, and a towel! Drive Time: 45 mins one way. // MIDDLERS - Register under age group programming.

  • 714: Teen AdventureUnlimited

    Teens will join us in nature as we begin our wonderful week together. Spend the afternoon reconnecting with old friends or meeting some new ones as we enjoy some outdoor time together. There will be several options for you to enjoy such as tubing down the Little Tennessee River, swimming, relaxing in the shade (or sun) with music and friends, playing interactive games, throwing around a frisbee, or playing some sports. We will enjoy a picnic dinner on site. If you choose to go tubing or swimming you will need correct footwear (see description under Nature Aquatics), drinking water, glasses strap (if you wear glasses), swimwear, sunscreen, dry clothes, and a towel. Drive Time: 45 mins one way // TEENS - Register under age group programming.

  • 718: Glenville Lake for MiddlersUnlimited

    This half-day trip is open to all Middlers. Be prepared for a fun-filled morning exploring nature, swimming, and enjoying snacks. Drive Time: 30 mins one way. // MIDDLERS - You will be be registered under age programming.

  • 570: Cullowee Creek Evening Dip - MondayLimit 10

    Take an easy 10-minute walk on paved sidewalks and a grassy trail from the WCU campus to a small swimming hole. The water is refreshingly very cold and there is a deep section. Footwear that you can wear in the water is encouraged as the rock surfaces are slippery and a towel is recommended. Rain and/or thunder cancels.

  • 571: Cullowee Creek Evening Dip - ThursdayLimit 10

    Take an easy 10-minute walk on paved sidewalks and a grassy trail from the WCU campus to a small swimming hole. The water is refreshingly very cold and there is a deep section. Footwear that you can wear in the water is encouraged as the rock surfaces are slippery and a towel is recommended. Rain and/or thunder cancels.

  • 600: Jackson County Greenway (Accessible, Family Friendly)Limit 20

    Stroll or roll as you are able on this wide-paved, shared-use path following the forested sides of the Tuckasegee River, very close to the WCU campus. Find creatively designed bluebird houses mounted in the trees, and watch the river. The start point has ADA restroom facilities and is continuously paved between the parking lot and the path. The smooth-surface bridge over the Tuckasegee has ramp approaches. Periodically there are sitting benches. The route is out-and-back, and a group with varying physical abilities can enjoy a nature hike together. Drive time: 10 minutes. Distance: up to 2.3 miles. SUUSI can not provide ADA transport; personal vehicles will be required.

  • 601: Little Tennessee River Greenway (Accessible, Family Friendly)Limit 20

    Stroll or roll as you are able on this wide paved shared-use path following the sides of the Little Tennessee River, near Franklin, NC. Watch wildlife and the plants along the rapidly moving water. The start point has ADA restroom facilities and is continuously paved between the parking lot and the path. A group with varying physical abilities can enjoy a nature hike together. Drive time: 30 minutes. Distance: up to 2 miles. SUUSI can not provide ADA transport; personal vehicles will be required. Time permitting and/or for those who drive separately, there is a large playground near the parking lot in Big Bear Park for small children who might like extra entertainment. A little way down the Greenway and across the road (transportation needed), there is a butterfly garden maintained by the Friends of the Greenway (FROG). FROG’s headquarters has a coffee and gift shop on Main St. as well.

  • 509: A Natural HighLimit 14

    The woods are known for eliciting a sense of awe and ecstasy in those who open themselves to the energies of these pristine natural settings. This guided meditation is especially appropriate for outdoor lovers who are open to the possibilities of a heightened connection with nature. The leader, Phoenix Putney, recommends the following book as being complementary to the spirit of this experience: "The Isle of Is: A Guide to Awakening" by Caroline Cottom and Thom Cronkite, published byThe Center Within, Koro Island, Fiji. The book also will be available in the SUUSI bookstore. Drive Time: 30 min one-way.

  • 548: Asheville Cultural Walking TourLimit 9

    The past, present, and future of African Americans in Asheville is a story of resilience and ingenuity. Learn about this powerful story and gain new insight into this mountain town in an intimate, interactive, walking tour exploring East End Valley Street in Downtown Asheville, home to shops and galleries featuring merchandise and art from African American artisans and artists, YMI Cultural Center, Stephens Lee Community Center, The Block, and significant African American architecture.Walking distance is approximately 1.5 miles and hilly terrain at times. Drive time 60 minutes one one way.

  • 530: Jackson County Greenway (Accessible, Family Friendly - Register under Hiking #600)Unlimited

    Register for this trip under Hiking, #600 // Stroll or roll as you are able on this wide-paved, shared-use path following the forested sides of the Tuckasegee River, very close to the WCU campus. Find creatively designed bluebird houses mounted in the trees, and watch the river. The start point has ADA restroom facilities and is continuously paved between the parking lot and the path. The smooth-surface bridge over the Tuckasegee has ramp approaches. Periodically there are sitting benches. The route is out-and-back, and a group with varying physical abilities can enjoy a nature hike together. Drive time: 10 minutes. Distance: up to 2.3 miles. SUUSI can not provide ADA transport; personal vehicles will be required.

  • 531: Little Tennessee River Greenway (Accessible, Family Friendly - Register under Hiking #601)Unlimited

    Stroll or roll as you are able on this wide paved shared-use path following the sides of the Little Tennessee River, near Franklin NC. Watch wildlife and the plants along the rapidly moving water. The start point has ADA restroom facilities and is continuously paved between the parking lot and the path. There is the large Wesley’s Playground near the parking lot in Big Register for this trip under Hiking, #601 // Bear Park, in case younger hikers need to be entertained. A little way down the Greenway, across the road, (transportation required) is a butterfly garden maintained by the Friends of the Greenway (FROG). FROG’s headquarters has a coffee and gift shop on Main St as well. A group with varying physical abilities can enjoy a nature hike together. Drive time: 30 minutes. Distance: up to 2 miles. SUUSI can not provide ADA transport; personal vehicles will be required.

  • 603: Forest Bathing at Moses Creek - Register under Discovery #561Unlimited

    Register for this trip under Discovery, #561. // Refresh in the middle of the week with a deep, sensory immersion in the forest, on the side of Moses Creek not far from WCU. 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. Drive Time: 25 mins.

  • 512: Foraging Around CampusLimit 20

    Can’t get enough foraging? While still on campus with no van ride, we’ll go further afield than Monday’s class, walk some more challenging paths, and seek new forageable plants to identify. We’ll end with a taste of something foraged. Jennifer Sanders started foraging over a decade ago and still geeks out over all the weeds to eat!

  • 560: Forest Bathing at Pinnacle Park - Register under hiking #602Unlimited

    Register for this trip under hiking, #602. // We start the week with an early morning reverent immersion in the forest, at the base of Pinnacle Peak near Sylva. Enjoy the silent mindfulness practice of Forest Bathing on the Bridges Loop Trail. It’s the perfect opportunity to center yourself and begin your SUUSI week energized by the coolness of the early morning in slow movement, silent meditation, and acute observation of the forest flora and fauna. Drive Time: 20 mins.