Little Bearwallow Falls - Hickory Nut Gorge
Little Bearwallow Falls

 4-1-16  Many thanks to the Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy for making the hike to this waterfall possible! In 2013, the conservancy acquired what's known as the Wildcat Rock tract on the north slopes of Little Bearwallow Mountain. The beginning of the trail to the waterfall needed to be across private property, so a permanent public trail easement was purchased from the property owners. The trail is listed at 1.1 miles (one way), but it is steep in places. I've seen it rated at medium difficult to difficult, but on the day we did it, a family with 3 smaller kids and one bigger kid made it without any problems. (Dad was carrying the smallest when they passed us shooting wildflowers). In early April, the slopes of the steep sections just before the waterfall are covered in wildflowers which will give you a good excuse to stop and rest if needed. The low volume creek spills over a massive 100' rock wall. During dry times, there may be no flow at all so be sure to go after a period of decent rainfall. Here's some video I shot along the last half of the trail showing some of the wildflowers along the trail and the waterfall.

Directions:  From the intersection of US64 and US74A near Lake Lure, drive west on 74A towards Gerton for 3.8 miles and park on the right where you see a big new sign for the Upper Hickory Nut Gorge Trailhead. There's also an info kiosk and old chimney here. If you are coming from the Asheville area, drive about 14 mile west on US74A from I-40 and look for the parking area on the left. This is also the parking for hiking in the Florence Nature Preserve. The hike to Little Bearwallow Falls begins across the road.

Florence Nature Preserve and Little Bearwallow Falls parking
Little Bearwallow Falls parking area

The trail begins just to the left of the private paved driveway across the road. Look for the convex mirror and orange diamond on a tree. A set of log steps leads down towards the orchard and follows the wooden fence towards Hickory Creek. This section of the trail is through private property, so please show respect and stay on the trail! Just before the trail descends to the creek, an interpretive sign shows trails that were already here plus the new section of trail (in orange) built by CMLC. This is the one you will be taking. After crossing the creek, take the Creekside Trail to the left. In a short distance, the new section of trail bears to the left while the less traveled Creekside Trail keeps more straight. You may notice a faint yellow blaze and round trail marker on a tree ahead, but do not take this trail. Stay left on the unmarked (on my visit) trail to the left. This section of trail stays straight for a short time, then heads right at a set of log steps and begins a steady uphill climb. At 0.7 miles from the parking area, cross an unnamed creek. This is the same creek that the waterfall is on. There were a lot of spring wildflowers here, so we took a photo break before continuing up the steepest part of the hike.

From here the trail continues heading up with winter views of the surrounding mountains. In a short distance, the trail switchbacks to the left, heads up some more, then switchbacks to the right. There's a view of the rock wall though the trees here. At the next bend to the left, a less traveled trail comes in from the right and down the mountain from the Hickory Nut Forest eco-community. You may begin to notice blue blazes from here up to the waterfall. The spring wildflower blooming really picked up in this area with sections of the slopes next to the trail blanketed with Dutchman's Breeches and different varieties of trillium among others. This section of trail ends at the base of the waterfall and rock wall, but work has begun laying rock steps up the right side of the rock wall for the trail to continue. A long steel cable with a pulley hook was strung between trees to aid in the movement of the heavy rock and this will be taken down once the work is completed. I'm really looking forward to that and will be back to check on the progress. I'd really like to see this waterfall after some heavy rain also!

Little Bearwallow Falls

Little Bearwallow Falls
Little Bearwallow Falls

back to Chimney Rock State Park page

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