Little Bearwallow Trail

Little Bearwallow Trail
Local Expert's Rating:
4 / 5
The Bottom Line:

Despite rumors to the contrary, the entirety of Little Bearwallow Trail is not easy. Fortunately for those just starting out or nursing an injury of some sort, there are shorter trails that offer some of the same stunning views. You can take the full hike if you want to feel your heart pound or the mini version for a different, but highly satisfying, experience. The entire hike should take you less than two hours.

- The Local Expert Team

Little Bearwallow Trail is located approximately 17 miles outside Asheville, near Gerton, North Carolina. The trail is rated as moderate but truth be told, these 2.2 miles of lightly trafficked trail are a mixed bag. Parts of the trail are quite easy and perfect for beginners. Other sections of the trail contain strenuous terrain with steep inclines, an occasional downed tree blocking the path, and stream crossings.

The trail is particularly popular with those who consider their dog a hiking companion. Not only do pups get to romp around in the field at the top of the trail, but they can also swim in the cool creek at the end. Owners don’t have to keep them on leash, but are required to keep them under control at all times. Also, remember to bring along waste bags as there are none provided along the trail.

Long considered a jewel in the Upper Hickory Nut Gorge, Little Bearwallow Falls is protected by the Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy. For hikers with less experience, there is a small trail (just a bit over a mile) that runs from the Florence Nature Preserve to the base of the waterfall. If you’re with a group of mixed-skill hikers you will appreciate having more than one option. Moderately skilled hikers don’t have to take the slow and easy path and beginners don’t have to climb over downed trees. It’s a win/win.

Here’s what you can expect at Little Bearwallow Falls:

  • From the base of the trail, look up and across the highway. You will see a huge open cliff. That’s your destination and near where you’ll run into the magnificent waterfall that makes the entire hike worth the effort.
  • Shortly into the hike you will run into a large information board. Stop and read it because unless you know the trail well, you will need the information. Like most mountain trails, Little Bearwallow includes some paths leading to nowhere. If you don’t already have a printed trail map with you, take a picture of the information board with your cell phone (although a recent printed map is always your best bet for accuracy).
  • At the 0.3 mile mark you will experience a moderate ascent. Make it a point to enjoy the rhododendron tunnels.
  • You will cross a small tributary of Hickory Creek at the 0.7 mile mark.
  • At the 1.1 mile mark you will be at the bottom of Little Bearwallow Falls. While the 100-foot waterfall is impressive, take in the sheer enormity of the cliff face.
  • By the time you hit the 1.3 mile mark you will already be making your descent.
  • At the 1.7 mile mark there is another waterfall, known as The Cascades. Rest for a moment and listen to water crash into bedrock. This, after all, is one of the payoffs of hiking.
  • Your hike ends at the 2.2 mile mark and you will find yourself near U.S. 74A.

Insider Tips:
-For easiest access, park across the street at the Upper Hickory Nut Gap trailhead. Once you’re across the road, follow the path down the stairs to Little Bearwallow Trail.
-If possible, do print out a map just prior to your trip. One complaint hikers have is that the information board is not always up-to-date.