Nantahala Toil and Trek, North Carolina

Sierra Club Outings Trip # 14081A, Service/ Volunteer


  • Build and restore scenic trails
  • Stay at an historic lodge nestled in the Nantahala National Forest
  • Enjoy the beauty of emerging wildflowers
  • Savor delicious vegetarian-friendly meals


  • All meals, lodging, taxes, and tips
  • Bed and bath linens
  • Tools and equipment for projects
  • Live mountain music one evening


DatesMar 30–Apr 5, 2014
StaffRebecca Dameron

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Trip Overview

The Trip

This lodge-based service trip will center its work in the Joyce Kilmer-Slickrock Wilderness of the Nantahala National Forest. Over 13,000 acres in this area were bought in 1936 by the Forest Service. Because of this the area was spared from logging and has one of the largest tracts of old-growth forests east of the Mississippi River. In 1975, 11 years after the Wilderness Act of 1964, 15,000 acres were set aside as the Joyce Kilmer-Slickrock Wilderness. This Wilderness now includes 17,394 acres and is managed to protect naturalness and solitude.

In 2014, we are happy to be celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act and grateful we can still enjoy the wilderness. According to the definition of Wilderness in the Wilderness Act of 1964, “A wilderness, in contrast with those areas where man and his own works dominate the landscape, is hereby recognized as an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain.”

And while humans do not stay long in the Joyce Kilmer-Slickrock Wilderness, it is used heavily and we will stay busy rehabilitating trails that have a great deal of foot traffic. Conversely, we may also work to restore trails that have been largely unused due to the focus on the most used trails.     

We should see many wildflowers and budding trees on the trails at this time of year. On your day off there will be time for fishing, cycling, birding, photography, more hiking, and whitewater activities. A favorite off-day hike is the Twentymile Trail up to the Shuckstack Fire Tower -- though no worries, it’s only 10 miles.

The Project

Supervised by U.S. Forest Service personnel, we will develop, maintain, and enhance trails. Work may involve digging and widening the trail, installing log waterbars, removing deadfall, and trimming trailside vegetation. As of this writing, the exact projects we will be working on are not known. Over the last 24 years, this group has repaired trails in the Joyce Kilmer Forest, recut a 2.5-mile section of the Appalachian Trail, created a handicapped accessible fishing path, and cleared the interpretive Cable Cove Trail near Lake Fontana.   

NOTE: The leaders will make every reasonable effort to meet the goals outlined in the itinerary. Please keep in mind that weather or other conditions beyond our control may cause us to modify the itinerary in order to ensure the safety and well-being of the group. 


Arrival is on Sunday in time to unpack, enjoy dinner, and have an introductory meeting. Our group will eat breakfast together daily and then head out (with volunteer drivers) to our worksite. One day will be free for you to do as you wish. We hope to have evening programs that include a conversation with a ranger, a talk by a member of the Eastern Band of the Cherokee tribe, and some good local mountain music. The trip ends after breakfast on Saturday.



Getting There

Fontana Village Resort is located in western North Carolina, 20 miles north of Robbinsville on Highway 28. Transportation to the Resort will be on your own. Nearby airports include: Knoxville (65 miles) and Chattanooga (132 miles), Tennessee; Atlanta, Georgia (190 miles); and Asheville, North Carolina (95 miles). Driving directions will be provided to registered participants. An email will be sent to all participants to see if folks want to coordinate transportation.

Accommodations and Food

We'll be staying at Fontana Village Resort, whose original lodgings were built in the late 1930s to house the Fontana Dam construction workers. Beautifully situated among the lush mountains of the Nantahala National Forest, the Lodge rooms have baths, air conditioning, and a few other amenities. The Lodge caters to all of our food needs with delicious family-style vegetarian-friendly meals.

Trip Difficulty

The trip can be considered moderate, though there may be strenuous hikes to our work sites or strenuous work activities. No one is expected to exceed his/her capabilities, but everyone should be able to hike two to three miles on possibly uneven terrain with work tools. Participants will be asked by the Forest Service to sign an additional liability waiver for activities undertaken during the outing. Having bed and board prepared for us lessens our workload and allows much more time for other activities.

Equipment and Clothing

Temperatures may be cool in the evenings, but warm during the day; expect a range of 60-80 degrees. The average rainfall here is 80 inches per year, so be prepared and bring good rain gear. A rain suit is far superior to a poncho, especially on windy days. You will need leather gloves to protect your hands and safety glasses to protect your eyes. Sturdy shoes or boots should be well broken-in and thoroughly waterproofed. You'll need a day pack for your lunch, a water bottle or two, etc. You may want to bring a camera, binoculars, scope for birding, fishing equipment (license required), bicycle, or watercraft. If you have favorite tools (pruners, loppers, bowsaw), you may wish to bring them. A gear list will be sent to registered participants.



We will discuss the life of the forests and the waterways of western NC, especially with the devastating decline of the hemlocks and pines and the effects of neighboring coal mines. We will also discuss wilderness and what it means to each of us.

"The love of wilderness is more than a hunger for what is always beyond reach; it is also ... an expression of loyalty to the earth (the earth which bore us and sustains us) the only home we shall ever know, the only paradise we ever need, if only we had the eyes to see. ... No, wilderness is not a luxury but a necessity of the human spirit, as vital to our lives as water and good bread.” - Edward Abbey, Desert Solitaire

In 2014 America celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act. The Sierra Club, various other organizations with a wilderness focus, and the four federal wilderness management agencies are vigorously planning this celebration. The goal of the effort is to assure that a broader public knows about the concept and benefits of wilderness. Sierra Club Outings is a vital part of the celebrations for wilderness.

While the Act was far in the future when our outings program started, we were already promoting the principle behind it: to forever set aside from human developments certain special places, by civic agreement. This is the basic principle on which the Sierra Club was founded. The wilderness anniversary gives us an opportunity to highlight our organization’s leading role—in publicizing this principle, in passing the 1964 Act, and in achieving more designated wilderness since then.



Rebecca Dameron grew up in North Carolina, went to summer camp in the beautiful NC Appalachian Mountains and loves to return there when she can. She has been a Sierra Club member since 1986 and a Sierra Club leader since 2008. Rebecca and has led service, kayaking, hiking and skiing trips in NC, FL, VA, AK and in England. Rebecca enjoys service trips both for the hard work and knowing that the benefits continue long past the work.

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