Hike the Trail at Bearwallow Mountain

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In the 10 years (or thereabouts) that we’ve lived in Greenville, we’ve yet to exhaust the list of hiking trails in a 1-hour drive from the city. Not only are we constantly discovering new areas through friends and various groups, but trails are being established in newly-established conservancies and preserves through the efforts of groups like Conserving Carolina. One of our favorite late spring/early summer hikes is a comparatively new trail that leads to the summit of Bearwallow Mountain.

About Bearwallow Mountain

Hendersonville-based Conserving Carolina acquired a conservation easement on the summit of Bearwallow in 2009, adding close to 400 more acres between the summit and trailhead in recent years. At 4,232 ft. this is the highest peak in the Bearwallow Highlands range that straddles the Eastern Continental Divide. The mountain is part of the Blue Ridge Escarpment and the western rim of the Hickory Nut Gorge, and views from the summit extend to Mt. Mitchell in the Black Mountains and Mt. Pisgah in the Great Balsams.

On a recent warm summer day we took Poinsett Highway out of Greenville and then turned onto I-25 to cross into North Carolina. I had a momentary lapse of memory and thought I had forgotten our lunch on the counter, justifying a stop at one of the many roadside stands to buy a bucket of freshly-picked strawberries. In another couple of months it’ll be peaches and apples… can’t wait! After jumping on I-26 towards Hendersonville, we took exit 49A for US Hwy. 64 east. For further instructions see the Conserving Carolina website, but be aware that there’s a fork in the road that intuitively leads you off on N Bearwallow Rd. when you want to stay on Bearwallow Mountain Rd….

The trailhead is at the crest of Bearwallow Mountain Rd. (Bearwallow Gap) where the pavement turns to gravel (the gravel road continues on over 2 miles to the town of Gerton, NC). Parking is along the shoulder, and the trail begins beyond the old, rusted gate. You’ll see the trail kiosk on the right, marking the beginning of a steep, 1 mile ascent up to the summit. The gravel road that heads off to the left meets the trail at the summit and continues on to the historic fire lookout tower and telephone towers.

Be prepared for switchbacks and rocky stairs almost the entire way. Rhododendron and trillium distracted us from the steep climb, but poison ivy kept us on the trail. As we neared the top we passed several rocky outcrops, before emerging into a grassy meadow which has nearly a 360 degree view of the surrounding states.

Conserving Carolina constructed the Bearwallow Mountain trail with the help of the Carolina Mountain Club, REI and community volunteers, and the hope is that eventually it will be incorporated into a 15-mile Upper Hickory Nut Gorge Trail, a loop that will link Bearwallow Mountain to CMLC’s Florence Preserve and the summit of Ferguson Peak. About 9 miles of the loop have been completed so far, including the Little Bearwallow Mountain Trail Phase 1, Trombatore Trail and Florence Nature Preserve trails. Like I said, for every trail we check off our Greenville/vicinity list, another one takes its place!

Has your family explored Bearwallow Mountain yet?

About the Author
Mother of four young boys, Liene is constantly on the move since returning to Greenville in 2012. Whether she’s exploring the state parks and natural areas of the Carolinas or teaming up with other moms to organize activities for the kids, she’s always searching for the next adventure in the Upstate. For everything from hiking, travel, cooking and crafts to multicultural & global education posts, visit her blog, http://FemmeauFoyer2011.blogspot.com.

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4 years ago

I was married there at the Lodge! It burned down last year.