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Big Bradley Falls NC

Big Bradley Falls 75 foot waterfall, located in a small gorge along Cove Creek, near Saluda NC.  The waterfall is beautiful, but difficult to reach and view.  We had headed to this area to see Little Bradley Falls, but took the wrong trail, and ended up at the overlook for Big Bradley Falls instead.

Location: Green River Game Area, near Saluda NC
Roundtrip Distance: 2.2 miles roundtrip
Difficulty: Easy – Moderate
Features:Beautiful dense hardwood forest, wildflowers, scenic views, waterfall, creek crossing, swimming hole
Directions:From Asheville, take Highway 26 South to Exit 59 (Saluda NC). Turn left onto Holbert Cove Road, and travel 3.3 miles to the parking area.
Recommended Gear: Good [easyazon_link keywords=”hiking boots” locale=”US” tag=”blueridgemountainlife-20″]hiking boots[/easyazon_link] or shoes, some water, a digital camera and some [easyazon_link keywords=”water shoes” locale=”US” tag=”blueridgemountainlife-20″]water shoes[/easyazon_link] are recommended for the creek crossing.

Big Bradley Falls

Big Bradley Falls is a gorgeous waterfall, that is difficult to reach, and somewhat dangerous to even view. The most popular trail to the base of the falls requires a hike down a steep trail, followed by a 20 foot rope decent down a cliff side.  There is another trail, that we haven’t tried, that I discuss towards the end of this article.

The Falls are also viewable from a rock overlook, that also requires traveling down a steep trail as well.

Warning: We do not recommend the overlook area for children and only for very experienced hikers. People have died both from falling over the falls and from falling over the overlook.  One man recently died while hiking with his two young daughters, by falling 100 feet off the overlook for the falls.  

There are two nice swimming/wading areas for families with children though, prior to reaching the overlook.

If you’re afraid of heights, or easily get vertigo due to heights, the second part of this hike, past the creek crossing, is not the hike for you.

Big Bradley Falls Overlook Trail

After turning onto Holbert Cove Road, the parking area is 3.3 miles down the curvy road.  We visited on Memorial day weekend, and the parking lot was about full.  Coming from I-26, the trailhead to Big Bradley Falls is on the left.  You’ll see a small wooden bridge at the beginning.  The trail has a dark blue blaze.

The trail very quickly goes into a beautiful meadow, with a few old Apple trees, and goes in two different directions.  You can take either branch, they both lead back to the main trail.  The trail to the left goes through the forest, and the trail to the right through the meadow.  We went left.

Big Bradley Falls Trail
First trail fork, you can go either left or right.

This first part of the trail leads to a 60 foot creek crossing, and is easy.  At the creek crossing is a small multi-tiered waterfall, with a nice wading pool below it.   This makes for a great place for families with small children to hang out and let their children play in the water.  There is even a nice “beach like” area here.

Big Bradley Falls Trail
Nice little waterfall at the creek crossing

To get to the overlook, and the other swimming area, you’ll need to cross the creek.  There is no bridge, and rock hoping here would be dangerous.  The best way to cross is take off your shoes and socks and go.  The water was cool and refreshing, and not deep at all, when we were there in May.

Continue on up the trail to the left after crossing.  You’ll soon reach a dip in the trail, that is a dry creek bed.  You’ll need to duck under a fallen tree here.  Soon after, a side trail will head to the left at almost a 45 degree angle.  Following this side trail down a short distance will lead you to another popular swimming/wading area.  While we didn’t travel down this side trail, we could see many families with children playing in the water here from the main trail.

We continued on up, and followed the trail as it rounded the ridge line.  You’ll reach another Y in the trail, with both trails blazed blue.  Taking either path will take you to the same place.  To the left is shorter but steeper. A little after this Y, you’ll see a steep trail heading down and to the left.  The trail is wider than the other side trails

In fact, you’ll see many side trails along this stretch of the trail, and on a tree at two of them are warning signs, showing a hiker sliding down the rocks.   The warning is serious.  These two side trails, and the other unmarked trails lead to very dangerous areas.

The first one leads down to the base of Big Bradley Falls, which you can now hear in the distance.   This trail looks easy enough, but towards the bottom requires climbing down a 20-30 foot cliff face on a rope that is there.   We did not go down this trail.  Remember too that the 20-30 foot climb down, requires a 20-30 foot climb back up the rope on your return.

Further up the trail is another warning sign, and a wider trail leading downwards.  This is the trail to the overlook rock.   Again, this trail is very dangerous, and people have died both coming down this part of the trail, and from the overlook itself.   So use your own judgement.

We went down to the overlook, which is an approximately 10×10 foot rock ledge, that provides a very nice view of Big Bradley Falls and the gorge itself.  The rock overlook requires a slight rock climb of about 8-10 feet to get to, and the rim sits about 200 feet above the gorge.

Big Bradley Falls
The view of Big Bradley Falls from the Overlook

You return to the parking lot the same way you came in.   The trail beyond the overlook isn’t marked, and we are not sure where it leads.  

If you’re looking for a longer hike, we would suggest combining this hike with the hike to Little Bradley Falls while you’re there.  

Alternative Trail to Big Bradley Falls

We weren’t aware of this until recently, and thus we haven’t tried out this trail yet, but there is an alternative and much safer trail to the base of the Big Bradley Falls, although longer.  We have this on our shortlist to do, so stay tuned.

In a nutshell though, From Exit 59 at Saluda, instead of heading 3.3 miles down Holbert Cove Rd, turn and immediate left onto Green River Cove Rd and follow this curvy road down to Wilderness Cove Tubing.  There is parking across the street.   The trailhead is a gated road running along the Green River near the tubing center.  

You follow this road down into an old farm, where the road turns into a trail.  Following the trail upstream will take you to the base of the falls.  

We’re told hikers have marked the trail using orange flagging.  Again, we have not done this hike, so your mileage may vary, but we’ve heard about this trail from multiple people.  We’ll update this article for you as soon as we do this particular hike.

Big Bradley Falls Photo Gallery

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About the author

Larry Deane is co-owner of Blue Ridge Mountain Life. He has spent more than 20 years exploring the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains and has a deep passion for nature, history, storytelling, and adventure. Along with his wife Jenn, they combined these passions to create Blue Ridge Mountain Life, a travel guide to these stunning mountains they are fortunate to call home.

Larry has more than 20 years of experience as a writer and journalist, and has established himself as a leading voice and expert for Blue Ridge Mountains. He is also an avid hiker, photographer, and videographer. He loves sharing his mountain adventures and knowledge with more than 500,000 people per month on Blue Ridge Mountain Life.


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