Explore Historic Places with Historians

Sometimes the best way to learn is to see and experience the places we discuss. Partnering with local historians and researchers, WNCHA frequently leads outdoor hikes (and occasional paddles) to and along historic places and routes within western North Carolina. These range from easy, 2-mile walks to strenuous 6+ mile hikes. These programs include forests, cemeteries, forgotten roads, high peaks, storied rivers and more! We often follow our book or lecture events with these outdoor excursions, giving guests and members opportunities to explore subjects in multiple ways. We hope to see you at these outings!

Prices vary for these events (paddles may cost more) with WNCHA members receiving discounted rates. No-cost community funded tickets are also available thanks to donations.

See our event calendar for more specifics and registration links.

What To Expect:

  • Outings are led by a guest historian/speaker or the WNCHA public programs director.
  • Participants are asked to fill out a liability waiver and provide emergency contact information.
  • Outings sometimes require cooperative shuttling in vehicles.
  • Groups abide by Covid-19 precautions including masks and social distancing as much as possible.
  • We love pets, but not all events allow for them.
  • Occasionally parking arrangements and dates change due to weather or other factors. We stay in contact with registrants and notify them of any changes prior to the event.

Past Events

Juneteenth Hike

June 19, 2022

In this special outing, WNCHA partnered with Chimney Rock State Park to lead a hike exploring the history of slavery and emancipation in WNC as well as the Hickory Nut Gorge. In this free public hike, participants learned about the development of slavery across the region as well as the self-emancipation of numerous individuals before the Civil War, including the oral tradition that the Gorge served as an Underground Railroad route. We explored how freedom came to those enslaved in WNC during the war, and the fight for rights, equality, and safety afterward. Lastly, we traced the history of Juneteenth and other emancipation celebrations from Texas to WNC. 

Rumbling Bald Hike

May 7, 2022

On this 1.5 mile hike, the group explored the 1874 rumblings underneath several mountains on the eastern end of the Hickory Nut Gorge. We traced the media coverage of the event, the route of an investigating geologist, and the wild speculation, rumors, and stereotypes that emerged from what many believed was a volcano set to erupt. We were also permitted to see evidence of the geologic activity common to this part of WNC, exploring fissures and rock falls at “Rumbling” Bald Mountain. A big thanks to Chimney Rock State Park for their assistance!

Big Ivy Outing

September 25, 2021

On this early-fall day, WNCHA led a tour of the Big Ivy Historical Park in Barnardsville. We climbed the restored Little Snowball Mountain lookout tower and toured restored early-1800s log cabins which once belonged to the Carson family. After a quick lunch, WNCHA public programs director Trevor Freeman also delivered an interpretive presentation to the group looking at Big Ivy in terms of Appalachian stereotypes, and exploring the competing trends of forest commons and outside land holding which are crucial to understanding this historic community. We were lucky enough to also meet the local man responsible for saving the tower and restoring it to its former glory.

French Broad Paddle with Montreat College

September 11, 2021

We revived our interpretive paddle trip down one of the most historic sections of the French Broad River, paddling from the mouth of the Swannanoa River to the Woodfin Dam. This 7-mile outing passed by several bridges, many of which were destroyed during the Flood of 1916. Led by WNCHA’s public programs director, the group discussed Cherokee and early settler activities along this stretch, the Mountain Lily steamboat, idustrialization, floods, pollution, and activism to protect this vital river. Montreat College’s Outdoor Recreation Studies were instrumental, providing rafts, canoes, and safety/paddle guidance.

Buncombe Turnpike Hike

August 7, 2021

On this beautiful day, we were joined by Lauren May of the Vance Birthplace State Historic Site who interpeted the history of the pivotal Buncombe Turnpike on this 2-mile hike. We travelled along the Palmetto Trail to the NC/SC state line, where the Buncombe Turnpike began in the Saluda Gap. Trevor Freeman of WNCHA then addressed the two other famous events at this site: the 1827 Vance-Carson duel and the establishment of the Happy Land Kingdom after the Civil War. We saw plenty of flowers and mushrooms along the way.


Hickory Nut Gap Hike
May 22, 2021

In this special hike, we partnered with Conserving Carolina, a local land trust, who allowed us to use a special section of their trails in the Hickory Nut Gorge leading up to the beautiful Blue Ridge Pastures. WNCHA Public Programs Director Trevor Freeman interpreted the natural and cultural history of this famous gorge, exploring Native Americans, early white settlers, slavery, tourism, livestock drovers, and the incarcerated laborers who constructed the winding road. The hike was strenuous, but the views were well worth it.


RAIL Hike on the Point Lookout Greenway

Sat/Sun April 17&18, 2021

In two hikes along the Point Lookout Greenway, historian Dan Pierce and Marion Mayor Steve Little interpreted the history of the Western Carolina Railroad and the incarcerated larborers who toiled to complete the winding loops leading to the Swannanoa Tunnel. Both men are part of the RAIL Memorial Project raising funds to erect a monument to those predominantly African American laborers at nearby Andrews Geyser. 

DuPont Forest Hike with Danny Bernstein

March 20, 2021

Author and hike Danny Bernstein, who literally wrote the book on DuPont State Recreational Forest, led participants on a 7-mile hike along the cutovers, creeks, waterfalls, and numerous lakes of this special place. We saw three lakes, the spectacular Bridal Veil Falls, and the abandoned airstrip as Danny discussed the people who both created and saved this popular area of public land.