During selected weeks throughout the season, The Swag provides unique guest speakers and other events of special interest.

Each program is optional and there is no additional charge for participation unless otherwise noted. These events are a memorable addition to any vacation in western North Carolina.

Event Details

Please note that the first date listed below is when the event leader(s) arrive, and the second date is when they depart. Their activities for those days may not be scheduled due to their arrival/departure time.

Songs from the Hearth

Doug Peters: April 29-28; June 20-23; September 22-29; November 3-10
Join singer/songwriter Doug Peters and his hiking partner and wife, Kathy, for an unforgettable experience at The Swag. Doug has authored and recorded “Songs of the Swag: Part Fact/Part Fiction” in CD and Song Book, and since 1986, has delighted guests at The Swag with his original songs about life, love, and adventure. According to Deener and Dan Matthews, “Doug’s unique lyrics capture the history, beauty, and special character of The Swag and the Smoky Mountains in ways that will both tickle your funny bone and tug at your heart strings.” Doug and Kathy are both passionate outdoor enthusiasts and have traveled extensively in pursuit of their love of backpacking, hiking, biking, and camping. Join them on the trails by day and by the fire at night.

Birding & Wildflowers

Bob Collier: June 30-July 5; September 1-6; October 13-18
Dr. Bob Collier, a nature writer and avid birder for more than 30 years, will offer pre-breakfast birding on the lawn and half or full-day nature hikes focusing on birds and wildflowers of the Great Smokies. Bob and his wife, Louise, have been with The Swag since 2002, and they look forward to sharing their knowledge and love of the Smokies with you.   .

Black Bears & “Unhuggables”

Michael Pelton & Tamra Willis: August 17-31; November 24-30
Since 1999, this popular husband and wife team has led daily hikes. Dr. Pelton is the foremost authority on the North American black bear. Dr. Willis has a Ph.D. in Science and Environmental Education, and she has a special love for the “unhuggables” (snakes, bats, and insects). At day’s end, they will conduct a presentation on Southern Appalachian mammals such as black bear and bats, natural history and ecology.

The Swag’s Cooking School

The Swag Executive Chef Jake: June 4-5; August 6-7; September 30-October 1
Join us as our Executive Chef and The Swag culinary team lead four informative cooking lessons to cover a range of foods. Classes will be informal and hands-on with plenty of opportunity to interact with Chef. All equipment will be provided, including a complimentary Swag Chef Apron to take home with you. By popular demand, The Swag’s Cooking School will be offered three times in 2018! There is no additional charge for Lodging Guests.

Walk and Talk

Donald Davis: October 7-13

Renowned storyteller Donald Davis hails from Western North Carolina. Featured at festivals throughout the U.S. and the world, Davis is also known as a prolific author, producer of books and CDs, and as a guest host for NPR’s Good Evening. He will take hikes and tell stories about the uniqueness of the place and the people who have lived in these mountains. Folks love their Dutch Oven cooking during the hors d’oeuvres time in the Dogtrot. Donald and his late wife, Merle, have been a part of The Swag family since 2006.

Smoky Mountain Nature

Charles Maynard: May 7-11
Outdoorsman, author, and storyteller Charles Maynard returns to The Swag for more fun than seems possible. Charles will lead hikes in the day and regale us with his fabulous storytelling each night. His newest book Blue Ridge – Ancient and Majestic is a must for mountain lovers. This is a wonderful event for those who seek to expand their knowledge of the Smokies.

Walks in the Woods

Esther Blakely: May 12-17; July 14-19; August 11-16
Esther has a thing about birds, wildlife, and wildflowers…and her enthusiasm is contagious! Her “Walks in the Woods” will have you laughing, crying, and thinking. Esther is a master naturalist, elk expert, and certified interpretative presenter for the National Park. Most of the year, you can find her leading hikes and eco-tours in Cataloochee Valley, representing her business, Cataloochee Valley Tours.

Explore and Enjoy

Joel and Kathy Zachry: April 28-May 3; June 9-14; September 8-13; October 20-25
With more than 50 combined years of backcountry experience, Joel and Kathy Zachry joined The Swag as Special Event Leaders in 2013. Authors of Bears We’ve Met, they completed the 2,175 mile Appalachian Trail in 2005. The Zachrys are instructors and  directors of the University of Tennessee/National Park Service Smoky Mountain Field School. This energetic couple will lead Swag guests on daily hikes and conduct evening presentations on the culture, history, wildlife, and vegetation of Western North Carolina and Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Walks – Painting – Printmaking

Gay Bryant: May 19-26; November 10-17
Artist and hiker, Gay Bryant, will lead Swag guests for morning hikes on various trails, sharing her knowledge of wildflowers, plants and Smoky Mountain lore. In the afternoons, you can explore your creative side with beginning-level lessons in watercolor painting and relief printmaking to create original paintings and take-home art that will document your stay at The Swag. Gay’s experience includes having been a studio painter, printmaker, hiker, and art instructor for the last 25 years and her work is represented in regional galleries and international collections. Gay has hiked all 900 miles of trails in the Smokies and enjoys creating work that focuses on the unique, natural beauty of the forests. Children must be at least 12 years old and under the supervision of an adult to participate in the Painting and Printmaking class.

Hikes & Photography Lessons

Steve Yocom: May 28-June 2; September 16-20; October 1-7; November 17-24
Outdoor adventure photographer, Steve Yocom, will lead Swag guests on guided hikes and share photography skills.  Whether a guest brings a nice camera or is using their iPhone camera, Steve will share tips that will make anyone a better photographer and enable them to capture some of The Swag’s great moments:  the Smoky Mountains, wildflowers, sunrises, autumn leaves, and more.  Steve’s work has been featured in a number of publications and websites including the cover of BACKPACKER Magazine, Visit North Carolina, and Blue Ridge Outdoors.


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Scheduled Events for 2019

For more information regarding any special event, please call (828) 926-0430 or (800) 789-7672. Our off-season business hours are Monday – Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Eastern Standard Time or you can email us.


April 19-28: Songs from the Hearth

(Doug Peters)

April 20: Easter Celebration

April 28-May 3: Explore and Enjoy

(Joel and Kathy Zachary)


May 7-11: Smoky Mountain Nature

(Charles Maynard)

May 12-17: Walks in the Woods

(Esther Blakely)

May 19-26: Walks – Painting – Printmaking

(Gay Bryant)

May 26: Memorial Day Celebration

May 28-June 2: Hikes & Photography Lessons

(Steve Yocom)


June 4-5: Swag Cooking School (Chef Jake)

June 9-14: Explore and Enjoy

(Joel and Kathy Zachary)

June 20-23: Songs from the Hearth

(Doug Peters)

June 30-July 5: Birding and Wildflowers

(Bob Collier)


July 4: Independence Day Celebration

July 14-19: Walks in the Woods

(Esther Blakely)


August 6-7: Swag Cooking School (Chef Jake)

August 11-16: Walks in the Woods

(Esther Blakely)

August 27-31: Black Bears & “Unhuggables”

(Michael R. Pelton & Tamra L. Willis)


September 1-6: Birding and Wildflowers

(Bob Collier)

September 8-13: Explore and Enjoy

(Joel and Kathy Zachry)

September 16-20: Hikes & Photography Lessons

(Steve Yocom)

September 22-29: Songs from the Hearth

(Doug Peters)

September 30-October 1: Swag Cooking School (Chef Jake)


October 1-7: Hikes & Photography Lessons

(Steve Yocom)

October 7-13: Walk and Talk

(Donald Davis)

October 13-18: Birding and Wildflowers

(Bob Collier)

October 20-25: Explore and Enjoy

(Joel and Kathy Zachry)

October 31:Halloween Celebration


November 3-10:Songs from the Hearth

(Doug Peters)

November 10-17: Walks – Painting – Printmaking

(Gay Bryant)

November 17-24: Hikes & Photography Lessons

(Steve Yocom)

November 24-30: Black Bears & “Unhuggables”

(Michael R. Pelton & Tamra L. Willis)

November 28: Thanksgiving