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Bearwallow Mountain Hike (Hiking Challenge 1.0)
At 4,232 ft. above sea level, Bearwallow Mountain stands as the highest peak in the widely-visible Bearwallow Highlands range. Straddling the Eastern Continental Divide, it makes up part of the Blue Ridge Escarpment as well as the western rim of the Hickory Nut Gorge. Crowned with a grassy meadow at its summit, the mountain features a nearly 360 degree view that encompasses some of the southern Appalachians highest peaks including Mt. Mitchell in the Black Mountains and Mt. Pisgah in the Great Balsams range. Its breathtaking vista also includes a birds-eye view of Hickory Nut Gorge, downtown Hendersonville, and the lowlands of South Carolina. A historic fire lookout tower occupies the summit, as do grazing cattle who call the mountaintop home.
CMLC constructed this new trail with the help of the Carolina Mountain Club, REI, and community volunteers. This trail will one day be incorporated into the Upper Hickory Nut Gorge Trail, a loop that will link Bearwallow Mountain to CMLC’s Florence Preserve and the conserved summit of Ferguson Peak.
CMLC acquired a conservation easement on 81 acres at the summit of Bearwallow in 2009, forever protecting it from mountaintop development. We are currently working toward the total conservation of more than 480 acres at Bearwallow Mountain.
CHALLENGE: Hike to the top of Bearwallow Mountain
Primary Route: Hike the newly opened Bearwallow Mountain Trail to the scenic mountain summit
Hiking Distance: 2.0 miles round-trip
Elevation Gain: 537 feet
Trailhead: Click here to enter your address and receive turn-by-turn directions to the trailhead. GPS users may enter N35.4607, W-82.3681 in their units. Trailhead is at the crest of Bearwallow Mountain Rd. where the pavement turns to gravel. Once at the trailhead, park on the shoulder of the road making sure not to block the gate or the road. Space is available for only a few cars at this trailhead, so multiple hikers should consider carpooling. Trail begins beyond an old, rusted gate; walk around it and look for the beginning of the trail on the right.
Hiking Directions: Once inside the gate, locate the trail to the right of the gravel road. The trail switchbacks several times to begin its climb upon entering the forest. At 0.4 mi., ascend a set of elaborate, switchbacked rock stairs constructed by the Carolina Mountain Club Friday Crew. The trail switchbacks sharply at 0.5 mi. and levels out to provide a breather as it curves around Bearwallow's western ridge. Once on the mountain's northern slopes, climb several more sets of rock stairs at 0.7 mi. At 0.8 mi., the trail emerges into Bearwallow's beautiful mountaintop meadow; in summer, you will share the grassy bald with cattle. Intersect the gravel road just beyond and walk it to its end at the summit and fire tower (N35.4610, W-82.3573) at 1.0 mi.
Alternative Routes: Hike the gravel access road to the summit (0.7 mi.), or use the trail and the road to make a loop hike (1.7 mi. round-trip).
Looking for More of a Challenge?: The Carolina Mountain Club typically leads a hike every year that begins at Hickory Nut Gap and follows the Eastern Continental Divide over Ferguson Peak (an SAHC conservation property) and up to Bearwallow Gap before continuing up the new Bearwallow summit trail to the top of the mountain. This hike is considerably more strenuous, adding more than 1,000 extra feet of elevation gain and several extra miles. Check the Carolina Mountain Club's upcoming hiking schedule to see when they are next leading the hike.