Meet Our Hiking Guides

Learn About Our Guides

Jennifer Gruhn, Ph.D. 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 found that I most enjoy an easy hike with others as we discuss Appalachia’s natural and historical wonders.

As a North Carolina native, I’ve cherished learning about local plants and wildlife since I was young, including during my biology degree at UNC-Chapel Hill. For over three years, I researched tropical plants of South America, during which time I spent almost a year abroad in Ecuador, Colombia, and Peru.

It was a personal dream come true when I joined other biologists of Missouri Botanical Garden in finding several tropical plant species new to science! I then completed a Ph.D. at Washington University in Saint Louis on the conservation biology of Rocky Mountain and Sierra Nevada pine forests. After these pursuits, I am happy to be back in my home state, designing fun and educational tours for guests from around the world. I have training in Wilderness First Aid and Leave No Trace principles, and I became a Certified Interpretive Guide in 2016. I look forward to every Asheville Hiking Tours adventure, which brings novel experiences and wildlife sightings each day!

Randy Sarton 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.

Amanda Hastings Naturalist & Tour Guide

As a resident of western North Carolina since 2009, I hold deep reverence for our Blue Ridge Mountains and their diverse flora and fauna. My passion for ecology began at a young age but truly blossomed when completing my ecology and evolution degree from Appalachian State University.

I have worked in aquatic conservation, researching and monitoring southern Appalachian salamander populations. I also researched and propagated endangered freshwater mussels– some of the most imperiled animals on Earth! All the while, I became a certified yoga teacher in 2014 and bodywork therapist in 2015.

I spent a year traveling the backcountry of New Zealand and most recently have been exploring new passions: 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!