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Your Choice: Float French Broad or Hike Little Brearwallow
Option 1: Float the French Broad River
While not a typical trail, did you know that the French Broad River is designated as a State Recreational Trail? Float or paddle down this “blueway” to view CMLC-conserved land as well as newly CMLC-facilitated recreational access!
CMLC acquired 1.7 acres in Horse Shoe at Highway 64 along the French Broad River in order to create a new public access point for paddlers and anglers. The land was generously donated by Patten Seed Company, producers of Super-Sod turfgrass. The company owns the adjacent Horseshoe Bend Farm, on which it donated a 360-acre conservation easement to CMLC in 2003. CMLC donated the new river access tract to Henderson County Parks & Recreation in 205, which in coordination with the NC Wildlife Resources Commission constructed a boat ramp and parking area as part of the new Horse Shoe River Access Park. Previously, only two public access points—18 miles apart—existed for boaters on the French Broad River in Henderson County. This new river access in Horse Shoe will enables shorter and more manageable trips for river enthusiasts. It could also one day serve as a trailhead for the proposed Ecusta Rail Trail between Hendersonville and Brevard.
CHALLENGE: Paddle or Float the French Broad to/from the Horse Shoe River Access park
Primary Route: Variable: start or finish a river float or paddle at the Horse Shoe River Access Park
Float/Paddle Distance: 3.8 mi. Horse Shoe to Lazy Otter Outfitters; or 6.5 mi. Blantyre River Access to Horse Shoe. Both trips are one-way; shuttle required.
Elevation Gain: negligible
Trailhead: Click here to enter your address and receive turn-by-turn directions to Horse Shoe River Access Park. GPS users may enter N35.3296,W-82.5740 in their units. Turn off of US 64 and drive downhill one hundred yards to the parking area, kiosk, and boat ramp/floating pier.
Paddle/Float Directions: Click here or GPS uses may enter N35.3444,W-82.5600 in their units. Put-in at the Horse Shoe River Access Park and float or paddle 3.8 mi. down the French Broad River to Lazy River Outfitters (link: www.lazyotteroutfitters.com) on the right side of the river, just prior to the bridge over Banner Farm Road. For nearly the entire duration of your trip along this stretch of the river, the land to your right—Horseshoe Bend Farm—is protected by CMLC conservation easement. For a fee, Lazy River Outfitters offers tubing, canoe, and kayak rentals as well as shuttles to the Horse Shoe River Access Park. For driving directions to Lazy Otter Outfitters.
Horse Shoe River Put-in Map:
For a longer river trip: Click here for turn-by-turn directions or GPS uses may enter N35.2989, W-82.6217. Put-in at the Blantyre Park river access. Float or paddle 6.5 mi. down the French Broad River and take out at the Horse Shoe River Access Park, on the right just after passing underneath the Highway 64 bridge.
Blantyre Park Put-in Map
Option 2: Hike Little Bearwallow
CMLC continued its storied conservation of the dramatic landscape of the Upper Hickory Nut Gorge (HNG) in 2013 with the acquisition of the rugged northern slopes of Little Bearwallow Mountain. The tract is spanned by a scenic band of cliffs and rock outcrops—including the prominent crag known locally as Wildcat Rock—that are highly visible from the Drovers Road Scenic Byway (US 74A).
Additionally, the property also hosts rare natural community types including Rich Cove Forest, Montane Cliffs, and Carolina Hemlock Forest. More than 100 acres of the tract are within the designated Little Bearwallow Mountain Significant Natural Heritage Area.
Gerton landowners John Myers and Jane Lawson and Mary Beth Brock partnered with CMLC to complete this especially significant conservation project. Myers and Lawson worked with CMLC twice before—first on a conservation easement in the adjacent Hickory Nut Forest Eco-Community in 2006 and then to facilitate public ownership of the new Upper Hickory Nut Gorge Trailhead in 2012.
The tract not only boasts widespread conservation value for preserving biodiversity and natural scenery, its acquisition made possible the construction of a critical segment in the developing Upper Hickory Nut Gorge Trail, a hiking circuit that will one day link multiple conserved lands in the region. The nearly three-mile Little Bearwallow Trail, completed in its entirety in Summer 2016, ascends 1.1 mi. to the 100-foot Little Bearwallow Falls, 1.9 mi. to scenic Wildcat Rock, an 2.8 mi. to near the summit of Little Bearwallow Mountain.
The Little Bearwallow Trail was constructed over a period of three years by an assemblage of Trail Dynamics, Vermont Youth Conservation Corps, North Carolina Conservation Corps, Carolina Mountain Club, American Conservation Experience, and the CMLC Trails Crew. Ultimately, by 2018, this trail will link CMLC’s Florence Nature Preserve to protected Bearwallow Mountain.
CHALLENGE: Hike to the top of the Little Bearwallow Trail
Primary Route: Continue beyond Wildcat Rock (Challenge Hike #7) on the Little Bearwallow Trail until reaching its upper terminus at a scenic meadow
Hiking Distance: 5.8 miles round-trip
Elevation Gain: 1,600 feet
Difficulty: Very Strenuous
Trailhead: Click here to enter your address and receive turn-by-turn directions to the access for the trailhead. GPS users may enter N35.4734, W-82.3320 in their units. Off of US74A, a grassy parking area is most recognizable by a rock wall and stone chimney as well as a three-panel trailhead kiosk sign. The trailhead is also marked by a Henderson County Parks sign reading "Upper Hickory Nut Gorge Trailhead. Park in the gravel lot in front of the rock wall, making sure to leave space for other vehicles. The trail begins on the other side of the highway marked by a single panel trailhead kiosk. Please use the new crosswalk for a safe crossing of the busy Highway 74A.
Hiking Directions: After enjoying the view and catching your breath at Wildcat Rock, hike back down the spur trail to Little Bearwallow Trail. Turn left and continue on the Little Bearwallow Trail, descending slightly to traverse a boulderfield. After the rock hopping, begin a moderate climb that stays steady all the way to the end of the trail atop the ridgeline. Ascend rock stairs at 2.2 mi. (or 0.4 mi. beyond Wildcat Rock) where the trail switchbacks to the left. Soon thereafter, the climb enters a rhododendron thicket, ascending more stone stairs and passing a rock overhang at 2.4 mi. This rock formation usually hosts particularly sizeable icicles in the winter! A brief respite in the grade follows the outcropping; continue on for an excellent view to the left looking north at Little Pisgah Mountain and CMLC’s Florence Nature Preserve. At 2.6 mi., switchback sharply to the right and continue climbing. After several more switchbacks that ascend through more rhododendron forest, the trail finally levels out and reaches its upper terminus at a scenic grassy meadow near the Little Bearwallow Mountain summit. Explore the meadow for good views of Bearwallow Mountain to the southwest. Return the way you came to the Upper HNG Trailhead.