New White Squirrel Hiking Challenge launched

Published 10:47 am Wednesday, October 18, 2023

The popular White Squirrel Hiking Challenge is back! Participants are invited to take on eight hikes, four of which are in Polk County, all on lands that Conserving Carolina has helped protect, enhance, or open to the public. 

Hikers who take the challenge will get to experience eight special places, including some that only opened to the public in the last few years. They will discover hidden gems away from the crowds, experience lovely waterfalls and mountain views and connect on a deeper level with our natural world. They can also earn their White Squirrel Hiking Challenge 7 patch as a badge of honor and perks from Mast General Store.   

The eight hikes are Alexander’s Ford in Bradley Nature Preserve, the Foothills Equestrian Nature Center Trails, the Green River Game Lands Loop to Stairstep Falls, World’s Edge in Chimney Rock State Park, Gravely Falls in Headwaters State Forest, DuPont Loop: Quarry and Rocky Bald, Strawberry Gap Trail and Bearwallow Mountain Trail.

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Each of these hikes is a testament to how land conservation can enrich all of our lives. For example, when Headwaters State Forest opened to the public in 2018, it created a new 6,730-acre wonderland to explore. Bearwallow Mountain and Strawberry Gap are both part of the Hickory Nut Gorge State Trail that Conserving Carolina is spearheading—a growing network of trails that will ultimately span over 100 miles. Other hikes are on public lands that Conserving Carolina has expanded with recent projects.

White Squirrel Hiking Challenge 7 is sponsored by the conservation-focused real estate firm Witherspoon Platt + Associates (WPA)

John Witherspoon, broker-in-charge, says, “At WPA, we are avid supporters of Conserving Carolina and their mission to protect our environment and facilitate experiences with the natural world. We are excited to be an active part of this year’s Hiking Challenge because it will provide people with an incredible opportunity to be outside and to enjoy the beautiful place we are lucky enough to call home.”

This challenge is free and open to all. However, to earn your White Squirrel patch and perks from Mast General Store, you must also be a Conserving Carolina member. Individuals who donate $35 or more, or households that donate $60 or more, annually are Conserving Carolina members. Conserving Carolina members can take pride as they hike, knowing that they are helping to protect amazing places like these for everyone to enjoy, forever

To learn more about the Hiking Challenge and get started, go to


Submitted by Rose Jenkins Lane