We get out about once a week to hike usually in central to western North Carolina. We hike slowly and stop often to enjoy the views and the little treasures that nature offers. We enjoy waterfall, river, and mountain hikes frequently visiting The Blue Ridge Parkway, the Great Smoky Moutains National Park, and Pisgah National Forest.
Little Bradley Falls and Big Bradley Falls 2/26/2011
Another beautiful Saturday so we headed out for two short hikes to waterfalls on the same creek. The parking for both hikes was on Holbert Cove Rd. Since we were coming from the east we exited 74 at Route 9 and went north to Mill Springs where we made a quick stop to find a geocache then took Silver Creek Rd. to Holbert Cove Rd. We proceeded to the parking coordinates given for the Little Bradley Falls geocache and went down the trail to the first stop of this multi-cache. We easily followed this unmarked trail to the small cave but were unable to find the trail beyond this point. We returned to the van and drove down the road to the parking by where the creek crosses the road. From here there are marked trails to both falls.
The trail for Little Bradley falls is the one that leads upstream. There is a short trail right along the creek but the trail to the falls climbs the hill and then levels out. The trail to the falls has sections that appear to be old roads and narrower sections. There are occasional obstacles in the trail including fallen trees, rocks, and water crossings. The first tributary crossing is soon after starting the trail and is easily stepped over. You will come to what looks like a fork in the trail with a smaller creek on your right in a few minutes . Take the trail to the right and make your second tributary crossing. This one is a little wider then the first one but is easily crossed.
You will follow the main creek for a while before reaching the crossing. There are some pretty little cascades in this area. At the crossing we didn't like the looks of the rocks where you can see the trail on the other side. We crossed about 50 feet downstream where it looked easier and ended up with wet feet. On the return we crossed where the trail came down to the creek and found it easier. If it hadn't been February we probable would have taken off the hiking boots and enjoyed wading across. Continuing down the trail we passed some stone ruins of an old building.
Once we reached the falls we had time to enjoy the views, take some pictures, find the geocache, and settle down to have a snack before another group of hikers arrived. These were the only other hikers we saw on this trail which is about a mile long. I suspect it will be busier in the warmer months since there is a nice pool area at the base of the falls. There are some large rocks for stretching out and relaxing on. below the pool. The creek is easily accessible from the trail and you can get views from several different angles without climbing on dangerous rocks. This would be a falls that children could enjoy with proper supervision. I would not be afraid to bring my Grandchildren to this falls.
On the way back from the falls I spotted this one flower blooming beside the trail. It was about the size of a violet and on first glance I thought that was what it was. When I moved in closer to take the picture I realized it wasn't a violet. Does anyone recognize this flower?
After returning to the van and repacking the backpack with lunch we took the trail past the orange gate and through a field. There was a fork in the trail and we chose the right side. It led through more of the field then up a short hill. We discovered on the way back that the left side entered the woods and followed the edge of the field to where the other trail joined it. After a short walk in the woods we reached the creek crossing. There was a small waterfall here and a geocache to find. After looking at some rocks that would require hopping we crossed a shallow area getting our feet wet and continued up the trail.
It a few minutes we could hear the falls but could not see them. We had read that one of the side trails on the left led down to the the base of the falls. It is a very steep trail and requires using a rope to get down a rock face. We decided to continue to the geocache that was about a half mile past the falls at the top of the hill and then look for views of the falls. We passed a total of four side trails and decided to try the third one on our way back. There was nice mountain view just before this trail started downhill. Perhaps another day we will investigate where this trail leads.
We went back past the highest side trail and took the next one down. Straight down there was a large rock at the edge of the gorge that you could climb down to. There was a view of the falls here partially blocked by a tree. A false step would have meant a vertical drop of several hundred feet into the gorge. There are no guardrails or fences anywhere in this area. Climbing back up from this ledge we took a right turn and followed the narrow side trail along the edge of the hill to another view of the falls. This view was not blocked by a tree but was at a different angle and didn't seem to show the full height of the falls. Continuing on we realized that this side trail came back out on the main trail at what had been the second side trail that we passed.
We returned back to the creek crossing area and found a big rock to have our picnic on. This trail was busier then the Little Bradley Falls trail so we watched several groups cross the creek as we relaxed. The young groups easily rock hopped across the stream while the mature hikers chose to cross upstream where several trees had fallen. We saw one group sit on the logs and scoot across and another group walk across on the lower logs while steadying themselves on the upper logs. I ended up using a combination of both and didn't get wet feet this time. I would bring the Grandchildren to this spot to play in the water but would not take them to the overlooks for the falls.
We enjoyed both of these falls but if you only have time for one I would recommend Little Bradley Falls. The trail was more interesting and the pretty falls were much more accessible. If you are looking for an extreme adventure then Big Bradley Falls in the trail for you.