Museum resumes popular Swannanoa Rim Hikes

Melanie English
Special to The Black Mountain News

Beginning Jan. 23, the Swannanoa Valley Museum will kick off its Rim Hike Series, a sequence of monthly exclusive hikes that showcase eastern America’s highest and most historic skyline.

The first hike, on Saturday, is to Weatherford Heights. Register at Hikers will meet at 8 a.m. at Black Mountain Savings Bank, 200 E. State St., Black Mountain.

Now in its seventh year, the popular series consists of 11 hikes across the peaks of Swannanoa, Blue Ridge, Black and Craggy mountain ranges that encircle Black Mountain. The majority of the hikes take place on private lands with special permission. Led by experienced local historians, the hikes provide an experiential way to learn about the social cultural, and natural history of the Swannanoa Valley while making new friends.

Held on the third Saturday of the month through November (with the exception of January), each hike explores a different section of the Swannanoa Rim beginning south of Black Mountain at YMCA Blue Ridge Assembly and continuing to Ridgecrest and Montreat, up the Blue Ridge Parkway and finishing at Camp Rockmont in the North Fork Valley to the northeast. The Swannanoa Rim measures roughly 31 miles as the crow flies, but hikers ultimately cover 55 miles while ascending elevations ranging from 2,316 to 6,462 feet at an average grade of 14 percent.

The hikes ranges from three to seven miles in length and are recommended for those in reasonable shape. The moderately paced hikes stop at many places for leaders to point out natural features and historic sites.

“For a lot of people it’s strenuous enough that when they finish it, they feel like they’ve accomplished a life goal,” museum director Anne Chesky Smith said. The museum issues each hiker a passport to track of their progress as the series proceeds. Hikers who finish all the hikes of the series are awarded with a Patagonia jacket, emblazoned with the Swannanoa Rim logo, during a celebration held after the last hike. To date, nearly 100 hikers have completed entire rim. While some hikers complete the entire series in one year, others take several years to finish.

While there are many hiking clubs in the area, the museum’s Rim Series provides more than just a chance to stay in shape. Hiking the Swannanoa Rim, grants hikers a sense of personal accomplishment.

“I viewed the Rim Hikes as a huge challenge,” hiker Suzanne Money said. “As my passport book gathered more stamps, I realized how fortunate we all were to hike with informative leadership who arranged many treks on private land.”

As participants hike together over the course of the year, the series also instills a spirit of camaraderie.

“The museum’s hikes introduced me to many special people whom I will always treasure as friends,” Money said. Participants also experience community pride. Jane Basford moved to the area three years ago and finished the series in 2015. “This experience has opened up new doors for me,” she said, “as I realize how much more I feel a part of this wonderful community and that there is so much more I want discover in our beautiful area of Western North Carolina mountains.”

The hikes help the nonprofit Swannanoa Valley Museum fulfill its mission to “preserve and interpret the social, cultural and natural history of the Swannanoa Valley” beyond the museum walls. The museum’s historic 1921 building, Black Mountain’s former firehouse designed by renowned local architect Richard Sharp Smith, is currently undergoing extensive renovations and will re-open this summer.

Half of the museum’s operating costs come from hike participation fees, which allow the museum to continue to offer dynamic programs and engaging exhibits.

Each hike costs $30 for museum members and $50 for nonmembers. Participants can purchase the entire series for $280 for members and $500 for nonmembers, and receive $50 off when they pre-register for the series. Membership to the museum is $30 for individuals and $50 for families and affords members discounts on museum events year-round.

“There’s basically no reason to pay full price,” Smith said. “If you’re going to do more than one hike, it’s a good idea to become a member.”

Space on the hikes is limited, and hikers are encouraged to register early. Each hike meets at 8 a.m. at Black Mountain Savings Bank, 200 E. State St., Black Mountain, until the museum reopens. Details are at

The museum is offering a scholarship to cover the cost of the hiking series, funded by donations from past finishers and museum supporters. To apply, applicants are invited to mail or email the museum a 500-word essay explaining why they want to participate in the program, which series they would like to hike, and how the scholarship would help them participate, along with their contact information. Entries should be sent to PO Box 306, Black Mountain, NC 28711 or

To learn more about the hiking programs and to register, visit the website or contact the museum at 669-9566 or