View of Table Rock from Bursted Rock - Headwaters State Forest
View of Table Rock, SC from Bursted Rock Mountain - Headwaters State Forest

9-23-18 -  The hike to Bursted Rock is the hike to do if you are looking for a fantastic view in Headwaters State Forest. You can double your viewing pleasure if you continue on up to Dolves Mountain. Bursted Rock Mountain is the only spot I know of where the average person can get a view of the north side of Table Rock Mountain in South Carolina. This hike has been on Conserving Carolina's White Squirrel Challenge for some time now, but I don't think too many people visit this special place. The hike is 5.2 miles round trip to Bursted Rock and 8.3 miles if you include Dolves Mountain. The hike is considered difficult, but anyone in fairly good shape shouldn't have a problem with it. The only problem is getting to the trail head at Gum Gap. You don't necessarily need a 4x4, but you better have a high clearance vehicle. There are a couple of spots where you have to clear rocks sticking up out of the road. Here's a video I did driving to Gum Gap this last time. This trail is foot traffic only - no mountain bikes or horses. This is also gamelands and you need to wear blaze orange during any hunting season! Information about hunting in NC can be found here.

Directions: From the center of town in Brevard at Broad and Main Streets, turn on to East Main St (US276 south). Drive 7.3 miles on 276 and turn right on East Fork Rd. This is also the back entrance for the Connestee Falls development. Drive 1.1 miles on East Fork Rd and turn left on to Happy Acres Rd. From here it's 3.3 miles to the road's end at Gum Gap. Happy Acres Rd is gravel / dirt the entire way and it gradually gets narrower and rougher as you approach Gum Gap. The first part of the road is residential, so be sure you stay on the road and don't veer into someone's driveway. At 1.6 miles, stay straight on Gum Gap Access - don't bear left on Happy Acres. At 2.0 miles, cross into SC and enter the Watson Cooper Heritage Preserve. Past this point, there are a very few places to pull over or park. At 2.7 miles, there's a red gate on the right at an old road that leads into Headwaters SF. At 3.1 miles, there's a lesser trail that also leads into the forest. Once at Gum Gap, park without blocking any of the gates.

Parking is somewhat limited, so please try to be considerate of anyone else that might show up. There's a new info kiosk at Gum Gap, but on our visit there was no info about the area. If you are standing looking at the kiosk, the red gated road with the blue blazes to the immediate left is the trail you want. You'll be hiking on the Sassafras Mountain to Caesars Head State Park spur of the Foothills Trail - towards Sassafras Mountain. To the very far left you'll see another gate. If you know where you are going, you can access the foot bridge over Raven Cliff Falls in Caesars Head SP from here.

Begin the hike on the other side of the red gate. The trail is on this road the entire way - except the spur trail up to Bursted Rock. The road is in decent shape for the most part, but is rocky in some places and can be hard on the ankles and knees. The trail begins with a gradual uphill climb. At 0.6 miles into the hike, pass another red gate. In another 0.1 miles, come to an open area on the left. I'm guessing this might have been used as a staging area during the fires of 2016, but I'm not sure. Past this and for quite a bit of the rest of the hike, you'll noticed burned areas on the left. Also notice that there are no burned areas on the right. At 0.9 miles, the trail is beginning to head downhill and you may notice an obscured view through the trees on the right. The trail continues to head down for the most part and at 1.8 miles comes to Slicking Gap. Continue to follow the road up and down some more and at 2.4 miles, look for a green carsonite stake on the left with nothing on it. This is the side trail up to Bursted Rock.

Bursted Rock side trail
side trail to Bursted Rock

base of Bursted Rock through the trees

If you were to miss this somehow, the road continues to head down, but the base of the massive Bursted Rock will be visible through the trees ahead as you can see in the photo above. All of that light area in the background is rock! The trail up to Bursted Rock is not blazed. It begins on the 2 track lane shown above and soon comes to a tree with a do not enter the Greenville watershed sign. There's also an old sign here that the tree had grown around. Turn right at this tree and head straight up. The trail is less defined here and you'll pass through some burned areas. It's less than 1/4 mile up to the view, but there's a gain of about 250' in elevation. The big section of rock that is the viewing area is on the left and I'll dare say "You can't miss it!"

Cindy and me on Bursted Rock
Cindy and me on Bursted Rock

I had seen a couple of pictures online of the view and it's more impressive than a photo can show. Table Rock Mountain is 3 miles away - due south. Photographers will want to get there early to mid morning for the light coming from the east and hitting Table Rock. We got there around 2PM and the light wasn't that great - plus it was hazy. The fire killed some of the trees around the rock, but from a picture I saw from before the fire, it really opened up the summer time view. Be sure to look for the Bench Mark that has 'Bursting Rock' on it - not Bursted Rock.

Bursting Rock Bench Mark
Bursting Rock Bench Mark

To continue up to Dolves Mountain, come back down to the road and turn left. The road goes down for a very short distance, then it's 1.2 miles of up with an elevation gain of about 520'. The view is on the right on a very small outcropping, but it's an excellent view looking north out over Headwaters SF and on up to the Blue Ridge Parkway and the Pisgah Ridge. The photo below is only part of the view.

view from Dolves Mountain
view from Dolves Mountain

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