Bearwallow Falls Trail: waterfall hiking at Gorges State Park

Hike to the Upper Bearwallow Falls at Gorges State Park near Cashiers, NC – a half mile, kid-friendly, relatively easy trail to a beautiful, cascading waterfall.

 

trail info

The Bearwallow Falls Trail is rather short, spanning just less than a half mile. And it’s relatively easy – especially on the outbound hike to the waterfall, which is almost all downhill.

But in its short span, the trail meanders through some exceptionally beautiful forest, especially in summertime months, when rhododendron explode into bloom. And the hike’s main attraction, Upper Bearwallow Falls, is a beautiful sight: the Bearwallow River slides down an angled, lofty rock outcrop in a forest of hemlock, pine and leafy deciduous trees. It’s an all-around great hike for families with kids, or visitors to Gorges State Park looking to spot a beautiful waterfall without a lengthy hike.

The Bearwallow Falls waterfall streams down a tall, angled overlook at Gorges State Park near Cashiers, NCAbove: the Bearwallow Falls waterfall streams down a tall, angled overlook at Gorges State Park near Cashiers, NC.

Gorges State Park is one of North Carolina’s newest state parks. It’s located near Cashiers, NC, just 45 miles south of Asheville, and near the popular summertime lake destination, Lake Toxaway. Gorges is home to the ultra-popular Rainbow Falls Trail, a 3.9 miler that hikes to three stunning waterfalls on the Horsepasture River. If you’re visiting Gorges State Park and you’re up for a longer hike, don’t miss Rainbow Falls: it’s a truly exceptional hike to one of the most beautiful waterfalls in North Carolina.

Bearwallow Falls NC: the hike

The Bearwallow Falls Trail departs from a signed trailhead near a newly constructed picnic pavilion at Gorges State Park (view maps and driving directions), trailing east. (There’s another trail that departs from this same picnic area with a similar name. The Bearwallow Valley Trail departs west, hiking to an overlook and connecting to the Gorges State Park office and visitors center.) The trail follows blue diamond trail blazes on a well-worn, easy-to-follow trail.

Hike Gorges State Park near Lake Toxaway to a tumbling waterfall on the Bearwallow Falls Trail

The trail quickly crosses a paved park road before diving into a forest of gnarly-branched mountain laurel, young pine and deciduous trees. It’s a nearly continuous downhill trek to Upper Bearwallow Falls, and the trail begins a series of switchbacks as it descends elevation. The rush of falling water becomes audible as the trail meanders through the forest, passing a bench at just under .1 mile.

The hike continues its descent, coursing through several tight switchbacks. The trail becomes increasingly rockier as it passes through a grove of leathery-leafed rhododendron. In summer, the rhododendron blossom in copious white flowers that brilliantly contrast with the deep, blue-green hue of their leaves and the silvery gray of their twisted, gnarly trunks.

Rhododendron bloom in summer months along the Bearwallow Falls Trail at Gorges State Park in NC

Leafy fern flank the trail’s sides as it arcs northeast, making a final descent to Upper Bearwallow Falls. The hike ends at a wooden viewing platform that offers a beautiful, but distant, view of the waterfall.

Bearwallow Falls is a beautiful waterfall in Gorges State Park that's accessible by a under-half-mile, kid-friendly hike

Departing the waterfall, the hike doubles back on its outbound route, retracing the Bearwallow Falls Trail uphill to the trailhead. The hike reaches the trailhead at just under .5 mile, completing the hike.

Note: slippery rocks and fast moving water can be extremely dangerous! Please don’t climb, stand on, swim near, or jump from any waterfall.

More Gorges State Park hiking adventure

Visiting Gorges, and have sunlight and energy left to spare? Don’t miss the hike on the Rainbow Falls Trail, a hike to a trio of beautiful waterfalls including the tumbling, towering cascades of Rainbow Falls. From the Bearwallow Falls trailhead, follow the park’s main loop road to the Grassy Ridge trailhead. And check out the full list of our favorite Highlands and Cashiers hiking trails for even more adventures.

 
 
 

Gorges State Park Bearwallow Falls Trail: Directions & Details

Parking

Free parking is available at Gorges State Park.

Please Remember

Always leave no trace and follow these trail etiquette tips.

GPS Coordinates

35.101333, -82.945383     //     N35 06.080 W82 56.723

Driving Directions


Elevation Profile

Bearwallow Falls Trail Map

Gorges State Park Bearwallow Falls Trail Map

Trail data and photos © Summit19 Studio LLC. This map is not a substitute for official trail maps or topographic maps.
 
Eric Champlin is a writer and photographer who loves to hike, run, backpack, kayak and cycle the southeast. He’s the editor and founder of Atlanta Trails and Asheville Trails, online magazines that cover the South’s best outdoor adventures. His mission? To inspire others to get fit outdoors and explore the South’s incredible scenic beauty.

Eric is also a freelance writer, photographer and creative director.