Reece Place Falls
Reese Place Falls

4-7-23  Outdoor lovers now have another 6,730 acres to enjoy in Transylvania County! Headwaters State Forest officially opened to the public on September 8, 2018 and is adjacent to over 100,000 acres of other conserved lands in both North and South Carolina. It provides a vital link between these lands for wildlife movement. The preservation of this valuable property had been almost 10 years in the making and is the result of forward thinking land conservation groups and people who also saw this large parcel of land as extremely important to preserving the water quality of the headwaters of the East Fork of the French Broad River. Numerous creeks originate and flow through this property - all feeding into East Fork. The forest is home to numerous waterfalls, rare mountain bog and rocky cliff communities and provides habitat for federally endangered plant species and well as other plant and animal species of concern. The southern strain of the brook trout as well as brown and rainbow trout can be found in the numerous miles of the forest's classified trout streams. Headwaters SF lies in southern Transylvania County near Rosman and a portion of it borders South Carolina. There are 8 access points along East Fork Rd, Glady Fork Rd, at Gum Gap which can be accessed from Happy Acres Rd, and at Sassafras Mountain in South Carolina. As you are driving in this area, look for Headwaters SF diamond-shaped small signs on poles and trees which indicate the land behind the signs is state forest property. There is a lot of private property in this area also. Don't drive down any private roads or drives that have 'No State Forest Entry' signs. More information about the forest can be found at the North Carolina Forest Service site here. Be sure to read the FAQ page and check out the newest map!

Thankfully, Headwaters State Forest won't become another DuPont State Forest with overcrowded trails and parking lots. The property will be managed as a working forest by the NC Forest Service and will be open to hunting as public game land managed by the NC Wildlife Resources Commission. You should know when all hunting seasons are and should wear blaze orange during that time. Information about hunting in NC can be found here. This land has been closed to public hunting for years and I'm guessing a lot of hunters are eager test their skills in new territory. All waters will be designated as Public Mountain Trout Waters and classified as Wild Trout Waters. No special permit will be needed beyond the required NC Wildlife Resources Commission license(s). The mission statement of Headwaters State Forest is "The Mission of Headwaters State Forest is to protect, manage, and promote the lands encompassing the French Broad and Savannah River headwaters to provide high quality water, natural resources, forest products, dispersed recreation opportunities, and education for the residents of North Carolina." 

The land for this new State Forest was purchased from former NC congressman Charles Taylor and family. It was previously leased and maintained by the Headwaters Hunt Club, and is crisscrossed by numerous old roads and foot trails. The only map of the area is on the NC forest service web site. It shows the main public roads in the area, the 8 access points, and a few of the closed roads that can be used as trails. None of these roads are marked which should limit visitation to those skilled in reading a topo map or those who have GPS or similar phone app skills. This is not an area where you want to just go wandering around if you don't know what you are doing. Cell phone service in this area is almost non-existent. The emphasis of recreation management at Headwaters will be low-impact, dispersed recreation with the goal of providing visitors an undeveloped, primitive setting. Recreational activities include hiking, wildlife viewing, hunting, and fishing. The forest is open to foot travel only - no mountain bikes or horseback riding are allowed! Dogs are allowed, but must be on leash at all times. You are allowed to park along paved public roads that run through the property, but your vehicle must be completely off of the pavement and you must not block any gates, driveways, or park on any private roads. One thing I found particularly interesting while researching info on the forest is that it includes 6 acres in South Carolina and Sassafras Mountain - the highest point in SC. Nine miles of the Sassafras Mountain to Caesar's Head State Park spur of the Foothills Trail passes through Headwaters State Forest.

When plans for the forest were first announced, the press releases stated the land contains 25 waterfalls! If it does, they are very well hidden. The best known ones up to this point are East Fork Falls, Reese (Reece) Place Falls, and Gravley Falls (aka Graveley Falls and Gravely Mill Falls). Previous reports and maps indicated the forest would be 8,000 acres and showed a parcel of land across from East Fork Falls that has a Laurel Falls on Laurel Branch. Unfortunately, that part of the purchase fell through and is now posted. I've added directions to the 3 known waterfalls and have also included a couple of hikes I've done so far. I'll post more as I continue to explore.

Below are links to destinations I have visited (or revisited) since the forest officially opened.


Bursted Rock Hike - a 5.2 mile round trip hike to an excellent view - this is also access for the Sassafras Mountain to Caesars Head State Park spur of the Foothills Trail

East Fork Falls - a really nice small waterfall only about 100 yards from the road

Gravley Falls - another small waterfall that is definitely worth a visit - I've also added a 2.5 mile loop hike on some of the unmarked roads that includes the waterfall

Reese Place Falls - the premier waterfall in Headwaters - I had been spelling it Reece Place Falls which is incorrect

some info on hiking from the Glady Fork Rd access points - There are several hikes that can be done from this area if you use your imagination including a hike up to the Sassafras Mountain tower.