Meet Our Hiking Guides

Learn About Our Guides

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Jennifer Gruhn, PhD Naturalist & Owner

Welcome to Asheville Hiking Tours! It is my passion to provide an inviting and informative experience in the great outdoors. After academic years publishing scientific articles and teaching biology courses, I’m enjoying designing and leading ecotours in my home state.

Due to my early interest in Appalachian ecology, I pursued courses at Highlands Biological Station in Western North Carolina and a biology degree at UNC-Chapel Hill. For 3 years I researched tropical plants of Ecuador, Colombia and Peru and for my Ph.D. I investigated Rocky Mountain and Sierra Nevada pine forests. I am a Certified Interpretive Guide and have led nature tours for Citizen Science Programs and clubs of nature enthusiasts.

Now, I enjoy every Asheville Hiking Tours adventure, which promises novel experiences and unique wildlife sightings each day. I look forward to sharing with guests an inspiring tour in these beautiful mountains.

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Randy Sarton, MA Naturalist & Tour Guide

I have had many professional adventures over the years which have led me to the mountains.  After receiving Bachelor’s and Master’s Degrees from the University of Notre Dame, I have been an entrepreneur, an agronomic adviser, a classroom educator, and an ecotour guide.

My years as an educator have included lecturing as a college professor, instructing middle and high school students, and developing and presenting children’s nature-based, early learning programs for 5-star resorts. For the past ten years, I have led ecotours on the estuaries and beaches of South Florida as well as the mountains of North Carolina.

I work to engage tour participants by interpreting what we encounter with insight and fun.  By relating stories to show normally unseen connections and unique perspectives, I strive to welcome our guests to celebrate the wonders of nature in our beautiful mountain home.

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Amanda Hastings, BS & RYT200 Naturalist & Tour Guide

I hold deep reverence for our Blue Ridge Mountains and their diverse flora and fauna. My passion for ecology began at a young age and blossomed during my ecology training and research at Appalachian State University. I’ve worked on river conservation projects, monitoring southern Appalachian salamanders and fish. I also researched and propagated endangered freshwater mussels– some of the most imperiled animals on Earth!

I spent a year traveling the backcountry of New Zealand and most recently have been exploring my passion for bioluminescence, fireflies, and the medicinal properties of plants and fungi. Throughout my journey as a backpacker, wellness practitioner, and conservationist, I have found an essential theme: there is a direct relationship between happiness and humans getting back into nature or “rewilding.”

Each day on the trail is a celebration for me. Thank you for being a part of the adventure! I look forward to sharing the secrets and the splendor of the Southern Appalachians with you!

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Bill Sanderson, MS Naturalist & Tour Guide

As a longtime resident of Asheville, I have spent years exploring the mountains of western North Carolina. Carolina. I am a lifelong outdoors enthusiast and trained zoologist, a veteran of 30 years in the high school classroom and over 15 years in the local community college.

I have led hiking groups and participated in search-and-rescue operations in Western North Carolina for over 25 years. I am a volunteer trail maintainer, responsible for a 6-mile section of the Appalachian Trail east of Hot Springs as well as a 2-mile section of the Mountains to Sea Trail near Craggy Gardens.

Identification and natural history of local animals, trees, and wildflowers is information that I enjoy sharing on my trips with Asheville Hiking Tours. While viewing beautiful waterfalls and streams, I discuss the hidden wonders beneath those waters. Brook trout, stonefly nymphs, North America’s largest salamander and endangered mollusks are a few of the inhabitants of these fragile and precious waterways, and I look forward to telling their stories.

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David Wynn, BA Naturalist & Tour Guide

I want to welcome you to the ancient mountains and waterways of Southern Appalachia. Born unto these hills, I’ve spent my whole life playing in clear creeks and losing myself in rhododendron thickets. After a summer hiking the Appalachian Trail, I went to college and graduated from Appalachian State University with a dual degree in English Literature and Sustainable Forestry–a regular woodland poet!

My interest in Deep Nature Connection began with wild food foraging, quickly branching into friction fire, holistic tracking, hide-tanning, and much wandering. Over the last decade, I’ve worked as a whitewater river guide, ski patroller, mushroom forager, ecotherapy guide, and coyote mentor. Currently, I’m attending Western Carolina University for Counseling with the goal of bridging wellness and the outdoors. I’m certified as a Wilderness First Responder, Outdoor Emergency Care tech, and Swiftwater Rescue technician.

I love providing safe, comfortable, and FUN outdoor experiences! There is beauty, wonder, and mystery to be found in Appalachia, from the spectacular mountain overlooks to the light of the firefly. I’ll see you there!

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Mike Scow, BS Naturalist & Tour Guide

With education in biology and English, I find myself looking at the natural world through a lens of storytelling. In other words a bit more fitting, I’m a nature/science nerd that finds joy and purpose in sharing appreciation for all things Appalachia.

My curiosity and adventurous nature have led me on a nation-wide crisscrossing journey to western North Carolina. Childhood and college in Pennsylvania surrounded by rolling Appalachian Mountains led to tenure as a wildlife rehabilitator. Living in the shadow of the Rocky Mountains a few years later, I discovered my joy of teaching science in elementary classrooms. My life in the west culminated in certification as a master naturalist with the city of Fort Collins. I have happily and easily settled in the Blue Ridge Mountains, relishing any opportunity to explore and educate.

What began as an uncontrollable urge to spout off facts I gobbled up in books sprouted into a way to connect with family, friends, and anyone else who wanted to listen. My goal as a guide is to instill awe and appreciation for the unique environment we get to live in!