Warren Wilson River Trail

Posted By on December 3, 2020

Warren Wilson River Trail

6.26 miles; 94 feet total ascent; Asheville and Swannanoa, NC

Today’s hike was a kinder gentler jaunt on a mostly flat river trail, which may have technically been illegal, as the trail, which is on the property of Warren Wilson College, is closed to the general public due to COVID considerations.

Charles D. Owen Park Walking Trail

This hike started and ended at the Charles D. Owen Park in Swannanoa (it was an out-and-back—I know!). Weird entrance, though. You kind of have to drive through a windshield wiper factory parking lot. Seems random. I missed it the entrance the first time by and had to turn around. This part of my walk, by the way, was TOTALLY legal. The park is open for walking, fishing, basketball and picnicking, although the covered picnic shelters are roped off. The Swannanoa River feeds the two lakes in the park, and is a hatchery-stocked fishing river, thus making the lakes nice fishing spots. The fitness trail is a lovely Easy Walk™️ in that it’s nice and wide and flat, made of crushed stone or pavement, and about a mile, total.

Bamboo Grove

Swannanoa River from the Bamboo Grove

Okay, so, the illegal part starts basically where you leave the Owen Park Fitness Trail and begin to walk along the nice single-track trail beside the river. I mean, yeah, there was signage, but it was torn down, as was the orange mesh barrier that was supposed to bar entry to the trail, which passes through a beautiful bamboo grove.

Spotted Salamander (Ambystoma maculatum)

In my defense, I was not alone on this trail, and I don’t just mean the spotted salamander pictured above. There were lots of folks using the trail, and I’m guess they weren’t all students and/or faculty of Warren Wilson College.

Warren Wilson College Farm

Speaking of which, this is an interesting school. It is a liberal arts college with an 1100-acre working farm attached, which is manned by the college students themselves, and it provides most of the food consumed on campus.


Because it crosses an actual farm with livestock, the trail passes through a couple of these stiles. Much easier to navigate for humans than the ones where you have to climb over steps or operate a double-latch. These you can just walk through. Technically. And yes, okay, so ALL the signs weren’t down. Guilty.

Lake Residents

On my return trip I walked across the causeway between the two lakes. Lotta ducks and geese. It was quite the serene scene.

You can find out more about Charles D. Owen Park from this Buncombe County website. You can learn about Warren Wilson College here, from their website. And there is a larger network of hiking trails on the campus. I only walked 3 miles out and then back on the river trail, but I had originally planned on doing it as a 1-way Lyft hike. Since, according to the above-named website, they go on Winter Break next week, maybe I’ll try it, signage be damned. As always, click the image above for details about this hike and to download the gps track.


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