Conserving Carolina’s mission is to protect, restore, and inspire appreciation of our natural world.
Inspiring People to Love and Care for Our Home
People are a part of nature—so we’re more ourselves when we can connect with the natural world. Conserving Carolina creates opportunities for people to strengthen that sense of connection. That makes conservation stronger because people will protect what they know and love.
Last year, Conserving Carolina held 421 community engagement events. That’s more than one per day! Our hope is to connect people of all ages, abilities, and backgrounds with the great outdoors.
Trails and Recreation
Conserving Carolina has helped create some of our region’s most treasured parks, trails, and greenways, creating places for people toe get outside. These include Bearwallow Mountain, Chimney Rock State Park, DuPont State Recreational Forest, Headwaters State Forest and many local parks and greenways. We’re also spearheading the 100+-mile Hickory Nut Gorge State Trail network. In addition, we are leading the way on 50 miles of new rail trails—the Ecusta Trail and the Saluda Grade Trail.
Hikes, Forest Bathing, and Outdoor Events
We offer a variety of activities to connect people with the great outdoors. We offer guided hikes with insights into our local ecology, including our spring and fall hiking series and special hikes for our members and volunteers. We also hold regular outdoor volunteer workdays. We hold the popular White Squirrel Hiking Challenge to introduce you to some of the great places you’re helping to protect when you support Conserving Carolina. We also offer the flexible Flying Squirrel Outdoor Challenge, which can be tailored to all interests and abilities. And we offer forest bathing experiences, where you can awaken your senses to the wonder of the forest.
Summer of Service
Conserving Carolina’s Summer of Service is an AmeriCorps program for local 17-to-19-year-olds. Participants explore personal growth and career directions while supporting community conservation projects, from planting a pollinator garden to building a nature playground. And, sometimes, they have a life changing experience.
We’re actively working to build relationships with new partners and serve more diverse groups in our communities, as we build on our commitment to social justice. We appreciate the energy and ideas that spark from our work with partners such as Pathways to Parks, El Centro of Hendersonville, Tierra Fértil, and the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians.
We offer educational opportunities for children and adults that inspire them to explore and protect the natural world. Our educational offerings include:
We host expert speakers on a wide range of environmental topics—from monarch butterflies to climate change to tree i.d.—in six regular speaker series, organized through Etowah Library, Hendersonville Green Drinks, Landrum Library, Laughing Waters Retreat Center in Gerton, Saluda Library, and Walnut Creek Preserve. Find upcoming events on our calendar.
Schools and Youth Programs
We partner with local schools, after-school programs, and youth programs to engage kids with nature. Among other activities, we lead popular field trips to Bearwallow Mountain where kids get to play and explore on the wide-open mountaintop.
We also provide educational materials for kids and adults to engage with nature, including non-native and invasive species scavenger hunts. We now have scavenger hunts and maps available for multiple regions and seasons, including Norman Wilder Forest, Oklawaha Greenway, and The Park at Flat Rock, with more to come in the future.
Walnut Creek Preserve
We partner with the nonprofit Walnut Creek Preserve to offer free educational programs on 1,590 acres of protected land in Polk County. The preserve features an extensive trail network, a waterfall, and amazing views of the Hickory Nut Gorge. Educational events take place both indoors and outdoors. See upcoming events at Walnut Creek Preserve.
Conserving Carolina owns this 368-acre preserve in Bat Cave, where steep slopes are home to exceptional biodiversity. The land was conveyed to Conserving Carolina by an order of Episcopal nuns, the Sisters of the Transfiguration, who have long used the land as a retreat center. The reserve is available for school groups, educational activities, mindfulness retreats, and scientific research. We also hold forest bathing walks here.
Brittain Nature Preserve
This 18-acre nature preserve at the confluence of the Mills River’s south and north forks offers a home for unique wildlife, including hellbender salamanders. It is named the Randall Francis and Velma Gillespie Brittain Nature Preserve in honor of the family that donated the land to Conserving Carolina. The preserve is used for scientific research.
Habitat at Home
Wildlife need more places to live and you can be part of the solution. Through our Habitat at Home columns, videos, and spring photo contest, we share how you can make your home a more friendly place for pollinators, butterflies, birds, and other wildlife. Get the latest tips.
We worked with Carolina Memorial Sanctuary in Mills River to protect a conservation burial ground forever, ensuring that it will remain a beautiful, natural environment. The sanctuary donates a portion of the proceeds from the sale of lots to support further land conservation. If you let them know that you heard about them through Conserving Carolina, they triple this donation and also offer you a discount. Learn more.