Museum launches Valley history series with meeting

Melanie English
Special to The Black Mountain News

The Swannanoa Valley Museum will host a free interest meeting about its Valley History Explorer Hiking Series at 6:30 p.m. March 10 at the Black Mountain Center for the Arts.

Nestled in the shadows of the Blue Ridge, Black and Craggy mountains to the east of the confluence of the Swannanoa and French Broad Rivers, the Swannanoa Valley has historically served as a major pathway to Western North Carolina.

A Native American hunting ground for centuries, the area and its natural resources lured the first white settlers to Buncombe County following the American Revolution. As the population of Asheville eclipsed the rural Swannanoa Valley, the area’s agricultural fertility and abundant forests sustained small self-sufficient communities throughout the eastern portion of the county.

The arrival of the railroad buttressed an already flourishing tourism and manufacturing industry, and the Valley’s inspirational vistas led to the establishment of numerous religious conference centers. Like many frontiers and tourist enclaves, the Swannanoa Valley is replete with legends and lore, so much of it forgotten as generations pass on that residents passing a road sign for Bee Tree might wonder what a “Bee Tree” is.

In 2014, the Swannanoa Valley Museum organized the Valley History Explorer Hiking Series to showcase the region’s storied past and delve into the history behind names like Bee Tree and Swannanoa. Drawing on the popularity of the museum’s Swannanoa Rim Hike Series, this more moderate hike sequence familiarizes natives and newcomers with the natural, social, and cultural history of the Valley.

The hiking series visits seven communities that dot the landscape of eastern Buncombe County, including Riceville, Bee Tree, Swannanoa, Black Mountain, Ridgecrest, Montreat and North Fork. Each hike highlights the unique history of a specific community. Led by experienced hikers and historians, the hikes over gradual terrain range between 2 to 3 miles long.

Hikes are held Saturdays from March through September, with the exception of July. Participants can hike a single hike or complete the entire series (series finishers are awarded a prize during a hike celebration in December).

The cost of each hike is $20 for members and $30 for nonmembers. The cost of the full series is $140 for members, and $210 for nonmembers. Proceeds benefit the nonprofit Swannanoa Valley Museum, established in 1989 for the preservation and interpretation of the Valley’s history. For more, visit

To register for a hike, email or call 669-9566.