Hike the Seven Sisters peaks with the museum
The Seven Sisters Mountain range ascends from the towns of Black Mountain and Montreat. A familiar sight from Lake Tomahawk, the seven peaks form a northwestern wall between the city of Asheville's watershed and the Montreat Valley. The range leads to the summit Greybeard Mountain, which is not one of the “Sisters.”
The range is known in common parlance by one of three names: The Seven Sisters, Walkertown Ridge the Middle Mountains, as they are referred to on U.S. Geological Survey maps.
Distinguished from the seven sisters of Greek mythology or the women’s liberal arts colleges that form the seven sisters in the Northeast, the local "seven sisters" have their own unique names.
Historically, the seven peaks have been called, from west to east, Tomahawk (or alternately, Solomon Morris) at 3,680 feet, Little Piney (or Stomping Knob) at 3,960 feet, Big Piney (or Brushy Knob) at 4,180 feet, an unnamed peak at 4,360 feet, Forked Ridge Knob at 4,511 feet, Little Slaty at 5,000 feet, and lastly Big Slaty (or False Greybeard) at 5,260 feet.
While the Seven Sisters span an expanse of only three and a half miles, hiking up to and across the range is a strenuous distance of about 9 miles. On Saturday, March 25 the Swannanoa Valley Museum & History Center will lead a daylong hike across all seven peaks. The hike will commence at an elevation of 3,000 feet and follow Montreat’s Greybeard Trail to Big Slaty Mountain (aka False Greybeard) at 5,260 feet, before descending along each of the Seven Sisters.
Along the way, the museum’s experienced hike leaders will share historical anecdotes about the peaks' nomenclature, social history, geography and ecology. For instance, Stomping Knob’s name derives from the mountain’s purported connection with moonshining. Solomon Morris was the name of a dairy farmer on the eastern slope of the mountain, on property now owned by Billy Graham, who owns much of Little Piney Cove to the east. Indeed, much of the landscape surrounding the Seven Sisters is privately held.
The Asheville Watershed encompasses the western side of the range, while the Mountain Retreat Association, the parent organization of Montreat Conference Center, owns the east side. The hike will afford 360-degree panoramas of these areas, including the North Fork Valley on the northern side of the range and the Craggy Mountain Range and the Swannanoa Valley on the south side.
From the summit of Little Piney at 3,960 feet, the hike will proceed across the ridgeline to the Tomahawk’s peak before descending into Montreat.
Although many recognize the Seven Sisters, few have hiked the range due to the difficulty of terrain and distance. But the hike is personally gratifying and bucket list-worthy for locals.
"The ridge is rugged, wild, scenic, and challenging," one hike leader, Marilyn Kaylor, said. "On my first Seven Sisters hike, we scared a bear off its mid-trail resting place. It will take all day and at the end, you will be ready for a hot shower. You will also know that you have hiked the ridge that you see every day on your drive through Black Mountain.”
The hike is recommended for experienced hikers and all hikers will be approved by the hike’s leaders during registration. The cost of the hike is $30 for museum members and 45 for nonmembers. Advanced registration is required. Proceeds benefit the nonprofit museum. Participants should wear sturdy hiking boots, dress in layers, and pack a lunch, snacks, and plenty of water. The hike will meet at the Swannanoa Valley Museum at 8 a.m. To register, visit swannanoavalleymuseum.org, email email@example.com, or call 699-9566.