Little Bearwallow Falls

CMLC continued its storied conservation of the dramatic landscape of the Upper Hickory Nut Gorge (HNG) in 2013 with the fee-simple acquisition of the rugged northern slopes of Little Bearwallow Mountain. The tracts are 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).

In addition to the impressive rockfaces, the properties also host rare natural community types as determined by the NC Natural Heritage Program, including Rich Cove Forest, Montane Cliffs, and Carolina Hemlock Forest. More than 100 acres of the project 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 lone day link multiple conserved lands in the region. Once built, the Little Bearwallow Trail will connect CMLC’s Florence Nature Preserve with locally-beloved and also protected Bearwallow Mountain.

CHALLENGE: Hike to Little Bearwallow Falls

Primary Route: Hike the newly opened Phase 1 of the Little Bearwallow Trail to a 100-foot cliff and waterfall.
Hiking Distance: 2.2 miles round-trip
Elevation Gain: 650 feet
Difficulty: 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 & Rec 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 to the left of a paved driveway. The trail descends a set of log stairs to enter an orchard and turns right to follow its perimeter as it descends to the creek.

Hiking Directions:

From the trailhead, cross to the opposite side of the highway and descend a log staircase just to the left of the entrance to a paved, private driveway. Arrive in an apple orchard with a good view of the cliffs of Little Bearwallow Mountain on the mountainside above and in front of you. At the base of the steps, turn right and follow temporary signs that walk the perimeter of the orchard and lead downhill to where the trail resumes at the far corner of the orchard. Descend another set of log stairs, cross a small stream, and reach a wooden bridge over Hickory Creek at 0.1 mi. After crossing the bridge, turn left (please respect private property; the trail that goes right is not open to the public) and follow the trail as it curves into a rhododendron tunnel and climbs gently on an old roadbed. After a short climb, the trail turns off the roadbed by veering left and climbs several more stairs at 0.2 mi. It switchbacks sharply to the left at 0.3 mi. and climbs steadily on the lower north slopes of Little Bearwallow Mountain. At 0.6 mi., cross an unnamed stream with an easy rockhop. After the crossing, the steepness of the trail intensifes and the climb is aided by switchbacks at 0.7 mi. and 0.8 mi. The trail curves around the nose of a narrow ridge and leaves private property to enter the CMLC-owned Wildcat Rock tract at 0.9 mi. Reach the base of a stone staircase at 0.9 mi. at the edge of a boulderfield and climb steeply up the rock stairs to reach the base of Little Bearwallow Falls at 1.1 mi. Return the way you came back to the trailhead after enjoying the view of the 100-foot cliff and narrow waterfall.


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