Glady Fork Rd loop hike

9-27-18 - Glady Fork Rd has several access points for Headwaters State Forest. The best known one so far is for Graveley Falls, but there is one closer to East Fork Rd and 2 others just down the road from Graveley that can provide you with some nice hiking options that I'll discuss below. Only one of these is an 'official' parking area - the White Oak Bridge access - but it is legal to pull off the side of the road as long as your vehicle is completely off the road, not blocking any gates, and not on private property. There aren't any official trails yet either, but there's a network of old roads and foot trails that are very suitable for hiking. Remember, this is foot traffic only - no 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. You will need a good sense of direction for hiking in here as well as topo maps and compass along with a handheld GPS or phone app that doesn't require cell service to work. None of the roads are marked and it would be very easy for a novice hiker to get turned around and end up lost. Larger versions of these maps are on this page.

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 7 miles on East Fork Rd and take a sharp left on Glady Fork Rd. You can also come in the other end of East Fork from Rosman if you happened to be in that area. If so, bear right on Glady Fork Rd. Cross a concrete bridge, then look for a red gate on the left before the next bridge 0.3 miles down. This is a legal access area also, but I haven't explored it yet. You'll also begin seeing Headwaters State Forest diamond signs on poles and trees if you didn't notice the ones on East Fork Rd. The cabled road leading to Graveley Falls is at 2.6 miles on the left. The first access point discussed here is 3.1 miles down Glady Fork Rd on the left. I recently found out that this is referred to as the White Oak Bridge access point. Pull off on the side of the road without blocking the wood bridge leading to the red gate There's a kiosk with no real info on it yet on the other side of the gate. There are 2 trails that you can take here. Cross the wooden bridge and go around the red gate. The trail to the left parallels Glady Fork Rd for 1/2 mile and comes out near the beginning of the road leading to Graveley Falls. The trail is in good shape and is easy to follow, but at 0.4 miles you'll have to get your feet wet crossing South Prong of Glady Fork. There was a bridge here, but it has been washed out. Back at the kiosk, the road heading up to the right will take you up towards the Foothills Trail.

The second access point is 3.4 miles down Glady Fork Rd on the left. Pull off without blocking either of the 2 entrances. Before I found out that the access at 3.1 miles had a name, I was calling it Glady Fork Access 3.1 and the other one Glady Fork Access 3.4 for lack of better names. Maybe one day I'll get around to changing the graphic below.

 

If you begin from GFA 3.4, you will have to cross through the South Prong of Glady Fork. It's not very wide or particularly deep, but it is a wet crossing during normal flow. Maybe one day someone will add some rocks to keep people's feet dry. A clever hiker with a long hiking pole might be able to pole vault across, but I wouldn't count on it. The track shown in the above map is a 4.3 mile loop hike Cindy and I did recently. We began the hike at GFA 3.4 and followed an old road up to Whiteoak Mountain. There are several forks in the road along this section. We then connected with another road that parallels the Sassafras Mountain to Caesars Head State Park spur of the Foothills Trail for a bit. We knew this trail was close by and finally spotted a blue blaze through the woods on our right just before the road we needed to stay on headed to the NW. The road then descends to the White Oak Bridge access (GFA 3.1) at the red gate and kiosk. We completed the loop by hiking the road back to our vehicle.

Here are a few more details about the hike if you would like to try it. Mileages should be close and are from my GPS. Begin the hike at the red gate at parking area GFA 3.4. You'll probably notice the cable across another drive at the parking area first, but you want the road past the red gate that heads to the left. The road is in good shape for the most part with a few eroded parts. Continue on the road for 0.1 miles and come to the South Prong of Glady Fork. This is the wet crossing I mentioned above. After crossing, continue for less than 0.1 miles to a fork. You'll be heading right and up hill. Going left heads into an open area along South Prong, then ends in a short distance at a tributary of South Prong that you can see in the above map. At 0.4 miles into the hike, look for a lesser road on the right, but stay on the main road to the left and up. At 0.5 miles into the hike, another road heads down and to the right. (That leads to another area with more forking roads and trails.) Again, stay to the left and up. At about 0.7 miles, you'll be bearing to the right and will begin hearing that tributary I mentioned earlier. It's down below in the shrub. The first time we walked by it I didn't go down for a look, but I came back the next day and found some small cascades. For most folks it probably isn't worth going down for a look and wouldn't make a good first bushwhack. It's thick with rhododendron along the stretch of creek where the cascades are and you have to creek walk on slick rocks for part of it. Seasoned bushwhackers might have fun exploring and you should come away with some decent shots with a wide angle lens if the water is flowing good. Drop down off the road where the left side of the road is rock and you'll be near the very top small cascade over some mossy boulders shown at the beginning of the video below. The cascade pictured below is about 0.1 miles down creek and is maybe a 20' run and drop in elevation of 15'. Pick which side of the creek you think is the easiest to get down and stay safe!

Headwaters State Forest cascade

Back to the road - once you pass the noise of the cascades below, you might notice an old overgrown road bearing left towards the creek. Stay on the main road here. Just a short distance up the road you should notice another overgrown road off to the right - and then another. Please let me know what's down these if you go - I haven't gone yet. At 0.9 miles, look for another overgrown road on the left. The topo map above shows a dotted line cutting over to the creek around this point in the hike. If you have good map reading skills, you can cut over to the road you'll be on later near the Foothills Trail spur access. To continue on this hike, stay on the main road to the right and up towards Whiteoak Mountain. At 1.6 miles you'll be at the highest point in the hike and will have gained over 500' in elevation. I was really hoping there would be some views from this area, but there were none from the road and I didn't notice any side trails that might have led to secret rocky outcroppings.

Just past this area, the road begins to bear left very near the NC/SC border. As you can see from the above map, you are really close to the blue blazed spur trail of the Foothills Trail. We didn't notice a blue blaze until 2.4 miles into the hike - very near where the road begins to bear to the left away from the trail. Notice the burned areas on the right side of the road once you begin to parallel the border. I'm pretty sure this is from the fires of 2016, but don't know if it was a back burn area. The left side of the road has no fire damage at all. As the road bears away from the Foothills Trail spur, a trail off to the left leads to an old bunkhouse and outhouse from the hunt club days - I guess. At 2.7 miles into the hike, a road goes off to the right. If you were to go right and hike 0.4 miles, you would see a Foothills Trail access on the right and the road would continue to somewhere. To continue on the loop hike, stay to the left and down to the White Oak Bridge access red gate, kiosk, and parking area at 3.9 miles into the hike. Turn left on Glady Fork Rd and walk the remaining 0.3 miles back to your vehicle.

Another possible hike could be a shuttle hike between Sassafras Mountain to the White Oak Bridge access. If you look at the map directly above, note where the arrow is pointing to the Foothills Trail spur I mentioned in the hike above. If you begin the hike at the White Oak Bridge access, it's about 1.1 miles and 300' gain in elevation to the fork. Take the left road and continue an additional 0.4 miles to the access. There's no sign, but look for this Bench Mark on the right and blue blazes on the trees.

NC/SC Bench Mark

Follow the trail south to Sassafras Mountain. I haven't hiked this yet, so I don't have a mileage along the trail. To get to the Sassafras Mountain parking area, continue on Glady Fork Rd about a mile past the White Oak Bridge access to a stop sign. Turn left and continue up to the Sassafras Mountain parking area on the left. The blue blazed Foothills Trail spur trail to Caesars Head begins on the right side of the road just before you turn into the parking lot. There's an observation tower being built on top of the mountain, but it's not going to be completed until some time this fall. You can walk a very short distance from the far end of the parking lot to a nice view from a viewing platform, however.

view from Sassafras Mountain overlook
view from Sassafras Mountain overlook platform

 

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