Birding, Bear and Wild Flower Hikes, Storytelling, Songs, Art Classes and a Cooking School will be Featured at the North Carolina Mountaintop Hideaway

Waynesville, NC (2/17/2017) — The Swag, a 14-room rustic mountain hideaway in North Carolina, kicks off its 37th season on April 20th with a roster of programs featuring some of America’s foremost experts on Great Smoky Mountains wildlife and nature.  Hikes, storytelling, cooking classes and art classes are designed to celebrate the area’s stunning attributes through a variety of programs.

Recognized as the #2 Resort in the South  in Conde Nast Traveler’s 2017 Readers Choice Awards, The Swag was also named “Most Romantic” under Hotel Standouts  in the January 2018 Grand Awards special edition issue of The Hideaway Report, Andrew Harper’s member-exclusive monthly publication.

Created from 200-year-old logs, The Swag, a rustic hideaway combining two main lodges and separate cabins, rests on 250 acres where nature hikes, ponds and waterfalls reside.  All special event programs are included in The Swag’s all-inclusive price with the exception of the “Sunset Elk Experience”.

The Swag’s special event schedule includes:

Bear Hikes – The Great Smoky Mountains is home to a steadily growing black bear population, according to noted bear expert Dr. Michael Pelton who has been studying and compiling research on the area’s black bears for more than 30 years.  A professor emeritus at the University of Tennessee, Pelton leads guests on bear hikes from October 28-November 3 and November 18-24.  He will be joined by his wife Tamra Willis who specializes in “unhuggables” and will speak about the area’s bats, snakes and insects.

Birding Hikes– Spotting and identifying birds in the wild has long been a passion for Dr. Bob Collier, an expert birder and nature columnist who hails from Tennessee.   Collier presents a before-breakfast birding on the lawn program and leads afternoon birding and wildlife hikes.   He will be at The Swag from May 6-11, July 1-6, September 2-7 and October 14-19.

 Cooking School – Led by The Swag’s Executive Chef Jake Schmidt, The Swag offers a two-day “hands-on” seasonal cooking school.  Two morning and two afternoon classes highlighting a select food course take place on Monday and Tuesday.  All equipment is provided, including a complimentary Swag Chef Apron. Guests are encouraged to check in on Sunday and depart on Wednesday following the noon time picnic extravaganza on Goose Berry Knob.  The Cooking School is included in The Swag’s all-inclusive price and takes place from June 3-5; August 19-21 and November 11-13.

Elk Experience – September marks the annual rutting season for elk.  During mating season, the male bulls engage in a piercing sound called bugling and enter into antler wrestling matches with other males. The Swag has teamed up with Esther Blakely, master naturalist and elk expert who will lead the tour and provide information on the area’s rich history, wildlife and the reintroduction of elk in 2001. Available twice in 2018, September 13th and 27th, the two-night package, is priced for two people and includes the four-hour sunset journey to Cataloochee Valley, luxury accommodations, all meals, including a snack and beverage followed by a dinner basket upon your return. The package starts at $1280 per room plus tax and service charge.

Painting & Printmaking – Using nature as the subject, artist and hiker Gay Bryant invites guests to record their memories through an artistic medium.  Bryant conducts morning hikes and afternoon instruction in beginning-level water color and relief printmaking.  A painter, print maker, hiker and art instructor for more than 25 years, Gay’s work can be found in regional galleries and international collections.  She will be at The Swag from July 8-15, August 5-12 and September 16-23.

Songs & “Hikes & Hollers” – So enchanted is singer and songwriter Doug Peters with the Great Smoky Mountains and The Swag, he wrote songs depicting the place.   Peters leads nature hikes and is known to break out in song on his “Hikes & Hollers” walk through the woods.   He has authored and recorded “Song of The Swag:  Part Fact/Part Fiction” and will at The Swag from April 20-29, June 21-24, August 26-September 2 and November 4-11.

Storytelling – The art of storytelling has been handed down through generations.  Guests delight in hearing local lore from two renowned storytellers.  Born and raised just a few miles from The Swag, Donald Davis has received international acclaim as a master storyteller.  Davis, who is featured at festivals throughout the U.S. and the world, is a guest host for NPR’s Good Evening and is a prolific author and producer of books and CDS.  Davis will lead hikes and tell stories each evening.  He will be at The Swag from May 20-27 and October 8-14.  Author of Blue Ridge – Ancient and Majestic, Charles Maynard leads hikes during the day and tell stories at night from May 15-18.  Maynard who hails from the Chattanooga, Tennessee area has spent his lifetime hiking the Appalachian Range and loves to share stories of the area’s natural wonders.

Wildflower Walks – Dainty and bold wildflowers come alive each spring and summer.  Discover nature’s fragile beauties on hikes with Master Naturalist Esther Blakely.    A certified interpretative presenter for the National Park, Blakely guides guest through the Park pointing out both hidden gems and other wonders of nature.   She will be at The Swag from July 22-29 and August 12-17.

Rates at The Swag start at $520 per night, with a two-night minimum, and are available through November 25th.    All prices include a hearty breakfast, picnic lunch, and evening social hour on the front porch with hors d’oeuvres, four-course dinner and welcome gift.   Suite and Cabin accommodations also available.  Single rate, less $50 per night.   For reservations or more information visit or call 800-789-7672.

About The Swag

Entering its 37th season, The Swag is owned by Dan and Deener Matthews.  A 14-room romantic hiking hideaway bordering Great Smoky Mountains National Park, The Swag sits on 250 acres of private property 5000 feet high.  Just 50 minutes from Asheville, North Carolina, guests enjoy inspired dining, luxury level accommodations, world-class hiking, and a rotating schedule of speakers and programs.  For more information visit or call 800-789-7672.

Media contact:  Rebecca Werner, Tel:  917-370-5005, email:

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