All Current News, Events and Hikes

Peter Barr, Trails Coordinator at Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy (CMLC), was honored by North Carolina's 23 land trusts as the state’s 2017 Rising Leader of the Year. The NC Land Trust Council awards are given annually to individuals and organizations that lead efforts to protect the state's streams and lakes, forests, and trails that help provide safe drinking water, clean air, local foods, and abundant recreational opportunities to North Carolina families.

Barr has served in multiple roles at CMLC since joining its staff in 2010, including Communications and Outreach Coordinator and Program Coordinator of AmeriCorps Project Conserve. He now leads the organization’s sustainable trails and recreational lands program. For five years beginning in 2011, he authored more than 60 Stories of the Land columns —highlighting the deep human connection to conserved land--which appeared in Sunday editions of Hendersonville Times-News. He has also led more than 50 hikes on the land trust’s protected locales.

Seeking to facilitate connection of people directly to the land, his current role plans, designs, builds, and manages sustainable trails in areas protected by CMLC. Nearly 20 miles of new public recreational trails have been developed under Barr’s leadership since 2010, particularly in the Hickory Nut Gorge where he is heading an effort to implement an 80-mile trail network linking protected natural lands surrounding Chimney Rock State Park, Lake Lure, and Gerton.

The awards were announced last week at the annual North Carolina Land Trust Assembly at Hendersonville’s Kanuga Conference Center. Barr was nominated by Lynn Killian, CMLC’s Development Director.

“Peter’s love of the mountains is infectious and his passion is unbridled.  When you combine that with his impressive skill set, his expansive knowledge of conservation, and his willingness to work tirelessly to fulfill conservation successes, you get a future conservation leader par excellence,” said Killian.

When it comes to our food systems, pollinators such as bees, butterflies, wasps, flies, bats and hummingbirds are true heroes. About 35% of our planet's food crops depend on insects and animals and 75% of the world's flowering plants rely on natural pollinators for their survival. That makes pollinators extremely important. Selecting native, pollinator-friendly plants not only helps increase the diversity of your garden, it adds a new splash of color and livelihood by attracting these important pollinators! Check out this list of 10 western North Carolina native plants that we recommend.

Spring Bloom

New Jersey Tea (Ceanothus americanus)

New Jersey Tea attracts butterflies with its flowers and birds with its seeds. It is a nitrogen-fixing shrub with small, white flower clusters that bloom in March and April. It prefers shade to part shade, and dry to moist sandy or loamy soils. New Jersey Tea has a high drought tolerance and easily adapts to inhospitable conditions.


White wild indigo (Baptisia alba)

White wild indigo attracts butterflies, native bees, and bumble bees. It is a legume with small pea-like white flowers that bloom in April and May. It can tolerate full sun to partial shade, and dry or moist acidic soil. B. alba can tolerate heat, seasonal flooding, and clay soils.


Purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea)

Purple coneflower is a great nectar source for butterflies and hummingbirds. Coneflowers start blooming in early to mid-summer and repeat bloom through frost. They may take a break after their initial bloom period, but they will quickly set more flower buds. They will tolerate partial shade, but plants may flop or strain to reach the sun. Purple coneflower prefers dry, well-drained sandy or richer soils.


Scarlet Bee balm (Monarda didyma)

Bee balm attracts bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds with a cluster of red, tubular flowers that can bloom from May to October, depending on elevation. It prefers full sun to part shade and rich, moist, acidic soils. Bee balm is cold tolerant and moderately deer tolerant.


Summer Bloom

Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca)

Milkweed is the only plant that monarch butterflies will lay eggs on because caterpillars will only consume milkweed leaves. It grows 3-5 feet, has fragrant pink to purplish umbels, and can have up to 100 flowers per umbel. Milkweed blooms from June-August. It prefers full sun and moist soil.


Narrow leaf mountain mint (Pycnanthemum tenuifolium)

Narrow leaf mountain mint attracts butterflies and bees with its flowers, and birds and other animals eat the seeds. It has silvery foliage and its small, white flowers bloom from July to September. Mountain mint prefers full sun to part shade, dry or moist soils, and is tolerant of drought, erosion, clay, and shallow rocky soil.


Fall Bloom

Common Boneset (Eupatorium perfoliatum)

Boneset is a nectar source for butterflies and will grow to 2-4 feet with showy, bright white inflorescences from mid-summer into mid-fall. Boneset prefers partial shade to full sun, though it is tolerant of both. Moist, rich soil will provide the best medium, although Boneset is somewhat drought tolerant during the summer months.


Purple Joe-Pye Weed (Eutrochium purpureum)

Joe-pye weed is an important source for bees, attracting them with fragrant, pink to purple flowers that bloom from July to September. It prefers full sun to partial shade and likes to be kept somewhat moist in average to rich soil. Joe-pye weed will even tolerate wet soil conditions, but not overly dry sites. Due to its large size, it makes a great background plant but also needs plenty of room to grow.


Common ironweed (Vernonia fasciculata)

Common ironweed attracts butterflies, including monarchs, with its nectar and is the larval host for the American painted lady butterfly. It has perennial purple flowers that bloom from July to September. Ironweed can grow in full sun, part shade, and full shade, and grows in moist to wet areas. Ironweed has an excellent vertical presentation in the garden.


Goldenrod (Solidago altissima / S. rugosa)

Goldenrod attracts butterflies with its yellow flowers that bloom from September to November. It prefers full sun and tolerates various soil types as long as it’s well-draining. Goldenrod care is minimal once established in the landscape, with plants returning each year. They require little, if any watering, and are drought tolerant. Goldenrod is usually blamed for seasonal allergies, but allergies are actually caused by ragweed, which has a similar bloom time.

Join CMLC (CMLC) on Saturday, May 20th, 2017, for a guided hike through the scenic Johnson Branch CMLC conservation easement in Transylvania County. This hike has been one of CMLC's most popular hikes from previous years, featuring a picturesque 68-acre property conserved by the Jones family through CMLC in 2009.

The hike will be led by the landowners David Jones, who will tour hikers on his CMLC-protected property as well as tell the story of the land and the close connection that he shares with it. This property is not otherwise open to the public for hiking.

Hikers will enjoy a short but strenuous 3.3-mile hike that includes six stunning waterfalls waterfalls, a beautiful rich cove forest, and a scenic view high above the French Broad River valley. The total elevation gain for this hike is 815 feet.  

This hike is limited to 25 participants and is open to CMLC members only

RSVP is required. To sign up: CLICK HERE.  

Once you have successfully registered for the hike you will receive an email with additional details, including meeting time and place, 2 days before the hike. 

You made a huge difference in 2016! Your dollars helped build 7.2 miles of new trails, helped treat 418 hemlock trees from the invasive Hemlock Woolly Adelgid, helped conserve more than 3,816 acres, and helped teach 28 nature-themed lessons to the Boys & Girls Club of Henderson and Transylvania Counties. Thank you for making this work possible! 

Click Here or on the image to read our 2016 Annual Report.


Group Ride with CMLC and our Friends at MountainTrue

Have you thought about trying out a new outdoor sport? Have you ever wondered what it is like to soar through the forest on two wheels? Have you been dying to try mountain biking but been too nervous to go it alone? If you answered yes to any of these questions we have an exciting opportunity for you! Join Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy and MountainTrue on Saturday, May 13, 2017,  for a group ride experience at DuPont State Recreational Forest.

Biking enthusiasts from CMLC and MountainTrue are coming together to co-lead the perfect beginner biking experience! This ride is free, family friendly and a great chance for new mountain bikers to try out the sport in a supportive group environment. In addition to biking, you will also have the opportunity to learn about how CMLC and MountainTrue work together to help protect DuPont.

Our ride will start with a gradual climb through mixed hardwood and pine forests following single track trail as well as, logging and gravel roads for a total elevation gain of 787 feet. During our climb, we will stop for water and take breaks to learn about the park and the contributions made by both CMLC and MountainTrue.We will finish out our adventure with a ride down Ridgeline trail, one of the most fun and famous trails in DuPont State Forest. The ride is 5.0 miles round trip is no-drop and features non-technical trails. 

This group ride is currently capped at 40 people so RSVP today! Registration is required to ride. CLICK HERE to sign up!

Once you have successfully registered you will receive an email with additional details 2-3 days before the event. 


Bearwallow Sunset & Full Moon Hike

Join Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy Monday, May 8, 2017, for full moon celebration! We are going to be hiking to the summit of Bearwallow Mountian for a breathtaking 360-degree view of the sunset and moon rise! This hike is a great opportunity for photography and it is family friendly!

Bearwallow Mountain is truly one of CMLC's gems. It was originally conserved in 2009 with additions being mad in 2012 and 2016. At 4,232 ft. above sea level, Bearwallow Mountain stands as the highest peak in the widely-visible Bearwallow Highlands range. Straddling the Eastern Continental Divide, it makes up part of the Blue Ridge Escarpment as well as the western rim of the Hickory Nut Gorge. Crowned with a grassy meadow at its summit, the mountain features a nearly 360-degree view that encompasses some of the southern Appalachians highest peaks including Mt. Mitchell in the Black Mountains and Mt. Pisgah in the Great Balsams range.

The hike will begin before sunset so we will arrive at the summit in time to watch the full moon rise. Total hiking distance is 2.0 miles. This hike is rated moderate with a total elevation gain of 537 feet. Attendance is free and open to the public.

Please be aware that we will be hiking in the dark! Therefore, sturdy closed-toe shoes are a requirement, and additional equipment including a headlamp and extra layers are highly encouraged.

This hike has no cap but RSVP is required. To sign up CLICK HERE.

Once you have successfully registered for the hike you will receive an email with additional details 2-3 days before the hike.

At 89 years old, Dr. Howard Norton climbs into his pickup truck and drives the rutted and narrow four-wheel drive road from his home near the intersection of Hwy 191 and Hwy 280 in Mills River to his cabin a few miles up the mountain.

His thick glasses get a little jostled on the adrenaline-inducing journey, but Norton knows the road’s twists and turns like the back of his hand. He makes this trip three or four times a week.  

The three-bedroom, pine log cabin has offered a peaceful refuge for the retired Mills River physician since the early 1970s. It houses an impressive collection of artifacts Norton has acquired over the years from his travels around the world.

“I’m a collector… or hoarder. Something like that,” Norton says with a chuckle as he shows off one of his 600 bolo ties, a silver piece engrained with the head of a moose that is as eclectic as Norton himself.

Norton’s cabin on the hillside lacks the noise of a telephone or television, just the sounds of lively conversation between family and friends mingled with chirping birds and rustling leaves.

“This whole area is important to me,” says Norton, who recently worked with Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy (CMLC) to permanently protect 91 acres of land on Allen Gap adjacent to his cabin. “When I got out of the office in the afternoon and was tired, I could go up on the mountain and relax.”

Norton would see anywhere from 30 to 40 patients a day, serving as the area’s general practice physician for 37 years until his retirement in 1994. He delivered babies, performed minor surgeries, and alleviated the aches and pains of local residents from his cozy office a stone’s throw away from his home. If someone knocked on his door at 2 a.m., he was available and eager to help.

He continues to run into old patients around town. “They are still really appreciative of me,” says Norton.

“They don’t remember how horrible they felt when they saw me, they just remember me helping them feel better,” he adds, with a smile.

Norton’s love affair with Mills River sparked at a young age. He was born in Spartanburg, S.C. in 1927, and in 1934 his parents purchased a place in Lake Junaluska, N.C. as a summer escape.      

“Going to Junaluska, we discovered we could avoid the traffic of Asheville and get there a little quicker if we went Highway 191 to Enka and over,” says Norton.

“We travelled through Mills River. The corn was higher than a man’s head here. The farmhouses were neat. This was a different place. People took care of their homes and grew good crops. At 10 years old, I decided I wanted to settle here in one of the prettiest valleys in the mountains.”

The Road Back to the Mountains

While studying chemistry at Wofford College in Spartanburg, the draft board chairman approached Norton one Sunday after church. “He said, ‘I’ve got to send you your draft notice this week,’” Norton recalls. “I asked if he could wait until Friday and he agreed.”

Norton finished his class exams by Wednesday, joined the Navy on Thursday and received his draft notice that Friday as promised. He served in the Hospital Corps during WWII, where he got his first dose working in medicine. He was hooked. 

After the war, Norton returned to Wofford and changed his major to pre-med. He went on to medical school in Charleston and worked in Philadelphia and California for brief stints before saving enough money to return to his beloved mountains in western North Carolina with his teenage sweetheart.

“This area is special to me because I raised my kids here and this was my recreational area,” says Norton. “I did not want to see it developed like you see other developments around here. I like mountains. I like trees.”

A Conservation Corridor

Norton and his family arrived in Mills River in the late 1950s, when land was still cheap. But, after living in the area for more than 60 years, he has witnessed significant changes.

“Back in the 1880s, if they built a railway through a town it became a city, if they bypassed it, it remained a little village,” says Norton. “Same happened here with the five lane highway, an airport and an interstate. It all expanded quickly. Acres are now terribly expensive and they’re getting fewer and fewer.”

Norton and his children decided they did not want to ever see their land subdivided, but wanted CMLC to conserve Hoot Owl, a 177-acre tract that borders the property to the north, first.

“I told the Conservancy if they ever got Hoot Owl I’d talk with them about my land, because Hoot Owl continues the undeveloped land on Middle Ridge, with Seniard Creek on one side of the ridge and Hoot Owl on the other,” Norton says.

CMLC successfully acquired Hoot Owl last year and transferred the land to Pisgah National Forest this past January, connecting what had been a separate island to the main body of the National Forest, enhancing outdoor recreation opportunities, protecting our drinking water, and providing critical wildlife habitat. 

“That means there is a swath from the main Pisgah National Forest, through Middle Ridge, through Hoot Owl and me that will never be developed,” says Norton, proudly. “We are thankful and appreciative to the Conservancy for all they do and all they have done for us.”

Norton’s land is part of a chain of three conserved properties. CMLC worked with the Streadwick family to conserve Grey Heaven, the northernmost property that is home to the pure, clear headwaters of Sitton Creek.

Sitton Creek flows through Hoot Owl, through Norton’s property, and into the Mills River, providing drinking water for more than 100,000 households and safeguarding the federally-endangered Appalachian elktoe, a freshwater mussel, and the rare eastern hellbender salamander.

“The quality of the water we drink relies on the people who live on the land it flows through,” says CMLC Land Protection Director Tom Fanslow, who worked on these projects.

“There is a paradigm shift happening in Mills River with these landowners. They are the torchbearers for the generations to come. Dr. Norton and Streadwick, and the other landowners we have worked with in the Mills River area, are setting the standard for conservation for the rest of us to follow.” 

With Hoot Owl transferred to Pisgah National Forest, and Norton and Streadwick’s properties to the north and south conserved and remaining in private ownership, these lands together create a larger conservation corridor and will continue to be in their current natural forested state in perpetuity.

Norton has a sense of peace that his five children, six grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren will continue to enjoy cookouts at the cabin and walks through the surrounding protected forest for generations to come.

“The area captured my heart when I was seven or eight years old,” says Norton. “And, it has kept it.” 

Little Bearwallow Falls & Wildcat Rock

Come hike with CMLC on our most recently completed trail in the Upper Hickory Nut Gorge on Saturday, April 29, 2017. This hike is hardcore so we cannot promise a leisurely walk but we can promise wildflowers, a 100-foot waterfall, a stunning view from a scenic rock perch, and an awesome workout! 

Together we will ascend the sustainably-designed and -constructed Little Bearwallow Trail to Little Bearwallow Falls before climbing to the top of breathtaking Wildcat Rock. En route, this hike traverses CMLC-conserved land that was described by a biologist as the most abundant and diverse wildflower tract in Henderson County.

This hike also offers an opportunity to learn about all that went in to protecting this land and making this new trail over the last three years--from conservation easements and land acquisition to digging tread and moving boulders.

This hike is 3-mile round trip; however, it is extremely strenuous--gaining nearly 1,200 feet in only a mile and a half features technical challenges. The trail utilizes more than 300 log-and-rock stairs to reach its exciting destinations. We will encourage you every step of the way, but the challenges this hike present should not be taken lightly. We encourage those that join us on this hike to be in excellent physical condition.

There is currently no cap for this hike, but carpooling is highly encouraged due to limited parking.

This hike is free and open to the but RSVP is REQUIRED! To sign up CLICK HERE.

Once you have successfully registered for this hike you will receive additional details 2-3 days before the hike.

Lady Slipper Speaker Series at Brevard College

“Why is There Such High Biodiversity in the Southern Appalachians?”

Presented by Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy and Brevard College

Featuring: Dr. Jennifer Frick-Ruppert of Brevard College

Date: Tuesday, April 25      Time: 5:30 - 7:00 p.m.

Location: Brevard College, Brevard, NC: McLarty-Goodson 125

Did you know that our Southern Appalachians are considered a biodiversity hot-spot?  The Southern Appalachians boast some of the highest biodiversity in the world and are legendary for their magnificent variety of spring wildflowers.

Dr. Jennifer Frick-Ruppert of Brevard College will describe some of the diversity that exists in the region among both plants and animals and will explain which factors contribute to the region’s biodiversity. You'll be glad to learn that all that rain is good for something!

Dr. Frick-Ruppert is the Dalton Professor of Biology and Environmental Science at Brevard College, where she has taught since 1997 and is the current chairperson of the Science and Math division. She earned her Ph.D. in Zoology from Clemson University in 1995. In addition to teaching a full load, she is a well-published author! Her works are known for their quality and lively writing style. In 2010, she published “Mountain Nature: A Seasonal History of the Southern Appalachians”, a finalist for the Phillip Reed Memorial Award for Outstanding Writing about the Southern Environment. She followed that up in 2015 with “Waterways: Sailing the Southeastern Coast”, which tells the story of a sailing expedition she and her husband made from Charleston, SC to Lake Worth, FL and finally to the Bahamas before sailing back to Beaufort, SC!

We are excited to welcome such a well-traveled and locally active writer and professor to our podium! Find out, “Why is There Such High Biodiversity in the Southern Appalachians?” with us on Tuesday, April 25 at 5:30 p.m.






You can also RSVP online here!

This is a members-only event. Not a current member?

Join now!

Camp Pinnacle has a covered facility and the Land Lovers Picnic will be held rain or shine.


Finding your Way:

Directions to the Land Lovers Picnic at Camp Pinnacle in Flat Rock.                                   

Address for GPS devices:  1 Wolfe Lake Dr. Flat Rock NC 28739

From Hendersonville (about 10 minutes):  Turn right onto Kanuga Rd. off of Church St. After about 4 miles turn left onto Little River Rd.  Turn right into Camp Pinnacle’s main entrance after about a half mile. 

From Flat Rock (about 10 minutes):  Turn onto Little River Rd off of Greenville Hwy (225).  After about 3.5 miles turn left into Camp Pinnacle’s main entrance.

From Brevard (about 35 minutes):  Take 276N to 64E.  After about 3.5 miles turn right onto Crab Creek Rd and follow for about 11 miles.  Then turn right onto Little River Rd.  Turn right into Camp Pinnacle’s main entrance after about a half mile. 

From Lake Lure (about 40 minutes): Take 64 into Hendersonville and turn left onto N Church Street.  Turn right onto Kanuga Rd. off of Church St. After about 4 miles turn left onto Little River Rd.  Turn right into Camp Pinnacle’s main entrance after about a half mile. 

From Asheville (about 40 minutes):  Take 240 to 26E.  Take exit 49B towards Hendersonville.  Take 64 into Hendersonville and turn left onto N Church Street.  Turn right onto Kanuga Rd. off of Church St. After about 4 miles turn left onto Little River Rd.  Turn right into Camp Pinnacle’s main entrance after about a half mile. 

Map of Camp Pinnacle 

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