2022 Outdoor economy conference:

Workshops and excursions

This conference is hitting the trails!

New in 2022, we are adding Excursions and a Pre-Conference Trail Planning & Development Workshop to the schedule, designed to compliment our programming tracks and support the many communities looking to develop trails and enhance their local outdoor economy. 

We’re taking advantage of our amazing conference location to gain hands on experience and see economic development in action. Plus, it’s going to be a lot of fun! You’ll have the opportunity explore WNC and connect with like minded attendees.

pre-conference Trail Planning & Development Workshop - Monday, April 4th

Photo: Visit Cherokee, NC

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Planning for Sustainability & Impact

Now, more  than ever, it is apparent that access to quality outdoor recreation infrastructure is key to a community’s quality of life, and a vital tool to help grow a local outdoor economy. The world of trails has evolved significantly, and communities across the country are leveraging purpose-built, designed, and constructed trails to help residents and visitors experience their public lands, live active healthy lifestyles, and connect with nature in exciting and intimate ways.

This full-day workshop will be held on Monday, April 4th from 8:30am-4:30pm at The Cherokee Convention Center with an optional field visit to the Fire Mountain Trails System

**Participants do not have to be registered for the Outdoor Economy Conference to attend this Pre-Conference Workshop. However, conference attendees receive a significant discount.

CEU’s: Continuing Education Units (CEU) have been applied for, and will be awarded through the McKimmon Center at NC State University. Participants must attend the entire one-day workshop to be eligible for CEU credit.

Cost: $125 for Conference attendees /
$175 without Conference registration
(includes lunch)

EXCURSIONS - Tuesday, April 5th

Let’s get outside! Our Excursions add-on menu showcases WNC outdoor businesses, communities, and experiences, while providing real-world examples and giving a much needed active break from being indoors during one of the most amazing seasons of the year.

Excursions are all happening on Tuesday, April 5th from 1pm-5pm. Check each Excursion description for participant limits, plus gear and skill requirements. Transportation details will be provided.

2022 Outdoor Economy Conference Excursions Menu

NOC Whitewater Rafting Adventure

Spend the afternoon paddling Class 2 and 3 rapids on the world-famous Nantahala River and learn how the NOC has grown from a small motel and gas station into the one of the nation’s largest outdoor recreation companies!  Offering adventure, retail, riverside dining, events, and lodging options, the NOC has had to successfully work with various federal partners on an array of policy, management, business, and fiscal issues to become a meeting place for families and friends, a practice spot for Olympic athletes and aspiring paddlers, a respite for hikers along the Appalachian Trail, and home to decades of alumni and staff. All transportation will be provided.

Limit of 42 participants.
Five miles of Class 2 and 3 rapids.
Safety gear provided.
Cost of this excursion: $35/person

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(CANCELLED) Panthertown Valley Hike

CANCELLED - With deep gorges and broad valleys, mountain bogs and granitic rock domes, tranquil creeks and plunging waterfalls, Panthertown is one of the most spectacular natural areas in the southeastern United States. Spend the afternoon exploring Panthertown Valley - a 6,311 acre Blue Ridge National Heritage Area and popular backcountry recreation area within the Nantahala National Forest that’s often referred to as “the Yosemite of the East”- with Jason Kimenker, Friends of Panthertown Executive Director.
Visit pristine waterfalls and experience long-range views while learning about the myriad of complex management, policy, and fiscal issues associated with managing and protecting such a diverse, rare, and extremely popular outdoor destination.

Limit of 20 Participants.
Rain or shine.
Participants must be able to hike 4 miles along easy-to-moderate trails.

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Great Smoky Mountains National Park African American + Cherokee Heritage

Visit an unmarked cemetery at which WCU's Program for the Study of Developed Shorelines used ground penetrating radar to identify individual graves of enslaved individuals as part of the African American Experience Research Project. Take part in a discussion of the history of African Americans in GSMNP, enjoy a tour of the Oconaluftee Farm Museum, and finish the excursion with a short hike.

Limit of 20 Participants.

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Fire Mountain Trails Bike Excursion

The Fire Mountain Trails are Cherokee’s newest source for big adventure—a multiuse trail system that’s made to mountain bike, hike, or run. The network of trails is more than 10.5 miles total, so there’s plenty of room for everyone to recreate safely, responsibly, and flowy.
That’s right—if you like your trails with a nice flow of features, with fun berms and quick hits of elevation that are manageable and fun, Fire Mountain is made for you. You’ll find tables, rock gardens, and blinds for those who know, along with single-track and wider sections, spots that are smooth and fast, and trails that invite the more technically accomplished with options for those less so. The trailhead is located about 100 yards from the Oconaluftee Indian Village in Cherokee and shares a parking lot. The trails interlace through the nearby Great Smoky Mountains, so you already know the views and terrain will take your breath away, even if your recreation of choice doesn’t!
Jeremy Hyatt, Secretary of Operations for the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, will host this excursion and be available to share his extensive knowledge of the trail system project.

Limit of 35 participants.
Must have beginner skill level (have ridden a mountain bike on a single-track trail before). Guests can bring their own bikes. Anyone who needs to rent a bike, including an e-bike, and equipment can do so through Motion Makers Bicycle Shop in Cherokee.

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Outdoor Innovation & Product Development Tour

Spend the afternoon on the campus of Western Carolina University in beautiful Cullowhee (about 30 minutes from Cherokee) and discover what the top outdoor/adventure university in the southeast US is doing to support and enhance the regional and state outdoor recreation economy/industry.
Tour the College of Engineering & Technology’s Center for Rapid Product Realization (Rapid Center), where ideas are transformed into prototypes. Learn about WCU’s innovative, outdoor-focused workforce/talent development and curricular initiatives. Visit Basecamp Cullowhee – the university’s human-powered student outdoor adventure program that supports 9,000 unique experiences every year. And, if time permits, explore WCU’s 6 miles of on-campus hiking trails!

Limit of 40 participants.
Masks will be required inside all buildings.

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Got Your Conference Tickets?

You must be registered for the Outdoor Economy Conference to participate in the Pre-Conference Trail Planning & Development Workshop and all Excursions.

Let’s get that handled!

Wildwater Zipline Tour

The original zipline canopy tour in Western North Carolina, Nantahala Gorge Canopy Tours offers 11 different zip lines and 7 sky bridges. Their two highest platforms have great views of Clingman’s Dome, Fontana Lake, and waterfalls. This gliding experience, naturally fueled by a gradual elevation change, takes participants through multiple ecosystems, past hemlocks, into hardwoods, and through a deciduous forest packed with native flowering plants.
During transportation, the actual zipline experience, and post-trip, Wildwater will present topics for discussion including 50 years of experience in the outdoor recreation business, glamping, and staffing issues in the current economy.

Limit of 50 participants. Safety gear provided.
Cost of this excursion: $45/person

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EBCI Tribal Trout Hatchery Tour

Launched back in the 1960s by what was then the U.S. Bureau of Fisheries (now U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service), Cherokee’s trout program brings almost 50,000 anglers annually to the boundary. A 2014 economic impact study conducted by the Natural Resources Department on the fishing program found that anglers brought in an average of $26 million annually, which made trout fishing the second largest revenue generator for the Eastern Band of Cherokee after Harrah’s casino. Fishing tourism additionally supported upwards of 300 part-time and full-time jobs. To keep some 30 miles waters within the Qualla Boundary stocked with trout the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians manage the Cherokee Tribal Fish Hatchery, a facility capable of raising 1-1.5 million trout. Instead of going for quantity, they aim for quality, with approximately 300,000 fish harvested every year, a quarter-million of which go into the streams to be caught in both keeper and release waters. About 95 percent of their stock are rainbow trout, with the remaining 5 percent being predominantly brook and brown trout, though they also raise golden trout from time to time. The fish spend their time in indoor tanks when they’re at their smallest, then graduate to larger concrete raceways (fed by cold mountain river water) before hitting the streams.
Visitors will tour the Hatchery with Mike LaVoie, Natural Resources Manager with the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, and learn about hatchery operations, the history of fishing in Cherokee, and the economic impact of maintaining a world-class trout fishing industry.

Limit of 20 participants.

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have you registered for the outdoor economy conference?

You must be registered for the Outdoor Economy Conference to participate in the Trail Planning & Development Workshop. Let’s get that handled!