NORTH CAROLINA: Big and Little Bradley Falls

An easy hike in the Green River Game Lands off Hwy 26 just over the North Carolina line and right up the road from Saluda, this hike rewards you (usually) with just a single fall. Read on to find out why…

Is it goat approved? You could take a goat if you wanted, but the hike in is pretty short. 

How you get there: Parking is located at 35.262304, -82.284552 or you can Google “Little Bradley Falls”. There are numerous pull offs in the general area to take advantage of. 

Parking pull off

Time for hike: The trail to the little falls is visible on Google and is about 0.6 mi one way with 2 water crossings.  The trail to the big falls is placarded as hazardous, and with the river up I had to turn around at the first water crossing.  However, the trail to the big falls is scenic, and worth walking down to the ridiculous water crossing that requires swimming to cross. 

Best season to do this hike: Winter and preferably NOT in ice or after a heavy rain as the the water flow at the crossings you have to do is substantial. Significant down trees and signs of flood damage suggest this area is prone to catastrophic flooding after periods of prolonged rain and landslides. 


Trails to Take

Start off at the pull over. If you came in from Hwy 26 you want to cross over the river and the trail (RED BLAZE) goes up on the side of the mountain on the other side to your right. It is a bit hard to see the start – the trail climbs up the side of the mountain, it doesn’t run through the small flood plane at the base.  Once you are on the trail though it is easy to follow. 

Trail maintenance? Pah, we don’t have money for that!

The trail winds out through the woods. During my visit there were numerous fallen trees and significant ground subsidence and slides, probably from the heavy rain. While this area was protected, much of the route in had ice on the trees and the power lines were low over the road – visiting in winter storm advisory periods may not be advisable.

Beautiful stretches of scenic river

Anyway, the trail continues following the red blazes till you reach an intersection. The red blazes do in fact cross the stream – the trail that goes off to your left is an interesting (if covered in fallen trees) route out to more scenic and wild river. However, it doesn’t go to the falls – it appears to be the remains of an abandoned road given it’s width and the wild roses growing on it, which probably ran from the old home site at the parking area up to possibly another home site, though I turned around before reaching anything definitive. In any case, it won’t take you to the falls, go across the river to continue. 

First water crossing to Little Bradley. Don’t go left! 

You continue onwards, crossing another river and passing an old chimney stack at another home site, before ending at Little Bradley Falls at about 0.6 mi. Now turn around and head back!

Little Bradley Falls

Big Bradley Falls is on the same side of the road as the majority of the parking, and the trail begins behind a big wooden sign. It enters a wildlife opening, passing an old home site marked by periwinkle and day lilies. Follow the biggest trail through the wildlife opening and over to the mountain side.

Consolation falls before the impassable crossing to Big Bradley

The trail is wide, obvious, and  for a trail placarded as a death trap every twenty feet, surprisingly downed tree and deadfall free. There are numerous warning signs about the number of people who have died, how there are no safe viewing locations for the falls, and in general “abandon hope all ye who enter here” type signage. On this trip I didn’t even get to see the falls because the water crossing was flooded. Even when it is not flooded the center of the crossing is probably a good 4 to 5 foot deep, necessitating a swim rather than a wade. The trail continued beyond it and was well trodden, but it will have to wait for summer before I try swimming to the falls! If you happen to go in winter though, the river is beautiful, and a small consolation falls is worth a visit on this section of trail if it has recently rained. 


TRAIL MAP

Trail map – there is an unmarked trail to Big Bradley Falls

BE WARNED

  1. Not a lot of parking.
  2. Tends to be popular.
  3. You will have to cross water TWICE to reach Little Bradley Falls.
  4. Numerous signage indicates Big Bradley Falls may be a somewhat dangerous area to visit and the Forest Rangers are tired of fishing dead bodies out of the falls from people falling to their deaths. 

In sum: 

Good day out in an ice storm! 

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