Backpacking and Whitewater Rafting on the Nantahala-Pisgah National Forests

September 10-13, 2021

  • Friday, September 10 – Arrive in Asheville
  • Saturday, September 11 – Hike and camp on the Appalachian Trail
  • Sunday, September 12 – Hike out and return to Asheville
  • Monday, September 13 – Raft the Chattooga River

This fall, join the NFF for a backpacking and whitewater rafting adventure in the mountains of western North Carolina on the Nantahala and Pisgah National Forests. This excursion will provide participants with the opportunity to backpack through 20 miles of southern Appalachian forests, navigate the rapids of the Chattooga River, and experience the breweries and gourmet restaurants of Asheville, North Carolina.

This is an excellent trip for those wanting the full Appalachian forest adventure, while learning about the area’s amazing biodiversity and history and hearing trail stories from accomplished long-distance hikers.

Participants will arrive in Asheville, North Carolina on September 10th to spend the evening at a downtown hotel and get to know the NFF staff and other participants over dinner and drinks at a local brewery.

Early the morning of September 11, we’ll meet up with our guides from the Blue Ridge Hiking Company to prepare for a two-day, one-night backpacking trip along the Appalachian Trail.

Jennifer Pharr Davis, record holder for fastest AT thru-hike by a woman, will join us for the hike.

Following a one-hour shuttle to the trailhead, we’ll set out on our overnight Appalachian Trail adventure. This hike, from Max Patch to Hot Springs, is a moderate, 20-mile, point-to-point hike that will take us through vast meadows, over streams, and into lush deciduous forests. We will tent camp along the trail the night of September 11th, prepare a delicious backcountry dinner with the tools and food we carry on our backs, and share stories about how hiking trails and public lands shape our lives.

The morning of September 12th, we will breakdown camp and continue along the Appalachian Trail to Hot Springs, NC. Upon completion of our hike, and depending upon timing, the group can soak at the nearby mineral hot springs, which are located along the banks of Spring Creek and the French Broad River, or head directly back to the hotel in Asheville to clean up and rest up for the next day of adventure.

On September 13, we’ll head back up into the mountains to raft the rapids of the Chattooga River, as its headwaters, originating in the mountains of the Nantahala-Pisgah National Forest, flow south to Georgia. This section of river (Section IV), between South Carolina and Georgia, with its natural beauty, river running lore and iconic rapids, make it the South’s definitive whitewater rafting experience. This is the river’s high-adventure section, boasting Seven-Foot Falls, Raven’s Chute Rapid, and the famous Five Falls —where five Class IV-V rapids unfold in 1/3 of a river mile.

We will be guided by elite paddlers from Nantahala Outdoor Center, the largest outdoor recreation company in the nation. After a full day on the river, the group will enjoy dinner in downtown Asheville, where they can jointly reflect on the weekend’s experiences and wish their new friends farewell.

Special Guests and Speakers

Throughout this entire weekend of Appalachian fun, we will be joined by U.S. Forest Service leadership, hiking legends, Olympic paddlers, and other special guests that will help participants understand the history of the area, the values provided by North Carolina’s National Forests, and the overall importance of these wild places to us all.