To the east of Asheville, stretching out between the mountains of Asheville and Black Mountain, lies the gorgeous Swannanoa River Valley. Through it winds the Swannanoa River, flowing west from its headwaters in Black Mountain and the slopes of Mount Mitchell to eventually become a major tributary of the French Broad River in Biltmore Village. Though it is just outside the small city of Asheville, this valley has a peaceful, rural feel and a growing hub in downtown Swannanoa.
History of the Swannanoa River Valley
For nearly 12,000 years, the Swannanoa Valley has been inhabited. The Cherokee Native Americans hunted along the banks of the river for thousands of years. By the late 1700s, European settlers began to make permanent settlements. Subsistence farmers scraped together a difficult mountain lifestyle throughout the next hundred years.
Sweeping changes came to the valley in 1879 with the arrival of the railroad to Western North Carolina. Logging and development of major religious retreats such as Montreat changed the landscape of the valley greatly. In the 1920s, E.W. Grove, developer of the Grove Park Inn, built Lake Eden near Black Mountain which was to have a country club built around it. He passed away before the project was completed, but it became the site of Black Mountain College in 1940, and many of Grove’s original buildings are still in use today.
Farmland and manufacturing played important roles in this area in the past century, but these are diminishing presences today, and many of the residents in the valley now commute to Asheville for work.
Hiking along the Swannanoa River
Warren Wilson College, located in the heart of the valley, is a nationally renowned liberal arts college with an emphasis on work and service. Many Warren Wilson graduates have become successful entrepreneurs in the Asheville area. They also host several wonderful farmer's markets throughout the year.
The college has been kind enough to welcome the public to enjoy some of its many beautiful and well-maintained hiking trails. They are a short 15 minute drive from Asheville and feature both easy hiking trails with entry points along the river and trails with significant elevation gain. A map of the trail system may be found here.
On the Western end of the valley, the Blue Ridge Parkway crosses highway 70. The Mountains to Sea Trail runs along the Parkway here, providing another easily accessible hiking experience. You can also check out the Blue Ridge Parkway Visitors Center and Folk Art Center after your hike.
Activities in the Swannanoa River Valley
Swannanoa Valley Museum and History Center is a fantastic resource for Buncombe County history. It is open seasonally but events continue year round. The museum is located on West State Street in Black Mountain in a building built in 1921 by famous architect Richard Sharp Smith. Find history tidbits there and join in their hiking programs with gorgeous vistas and invaluable historical information.
Pisgah Brewing Company is an organic microbrewery located in the heart of the valley. It has a large outdoor stage and field, perfect for hearing music with children. Music and beer appreciators bring blankets and chairs for a festival-style listening experience in warm weather. Enjoy the indoor stage and tasting room in cooler weather. This venue not only has some of the best microbrews in the region, they also draw nationally touring bands.
Just off of 70, near the old Beacon Mill Village homes of the 1920s, is a downtown area of Swannanoa that is ripe for revitalization. The Native Kitchen and Social Club are two local businesses that have started to pick up steam in the area and become community hubs. The Root Bar has become a favorite of locals as well. With the smattering of mom and pops businesses along highway 70, easy access to I-40, and gorgeous natural surroundings, this area is becoming increasingly popular.
For more information on our community or on real estate in Asheville, please contact Mike Figura at Mike@MyMosaicRealty.com or call him anytime at (828) 337-8190.
Sources and Further Reading: Swannanoa Valley Museum