Hike to Upper Bearwallow Falls at Gorges State Park near Cashiers, NC

Bearwallow Falls Trail at Gorges State Park

Hike to Upper Bearwallow Falls at Gorges State Park near Cashiers, NC, a half mile, kid-friendly hike to a beautiful, cascading waterfall.

trail info

.5 miles
(round trip)
easy
Dog-
friendly

LOCATION:near Cashiers and Highlands, NC in Gorges State Park (maps & directions)

GEAR: Osprey Stratos 24 Backpack w/ our favorite day hike gear and Canon 6D Camera

OFFICIAL MAP: Nat Geo 780 Trails Illustrated Map

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 along its short distance, the trail meanders through some exceptionally beautiful forest, especially in summertime months, when scores of rhododendron burst into bloom. And the hike’s main attraction, Upper Bearwallow Falls, is a beautiful sight: a tumbling river slides down an angled 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.

Hike the Bearwallow Falls Trail to a tumbling waterfall at Gorges State Park in Western NCAbove: Upper Bearwallow Falls tumbles down a tall, angled overlook at Gorges State Park near Cashiers, NC.

Gorges State Park is one of North Carolina’s newest state parks, located near Cashiers, NC, just 45 miles south of Asheville, and near Lake Toxaway, a popular summertime lake destination. Gorges is home to the ultra-popular Rainbow Falls Trail, a 3.9-mile adventure 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 excellent hike to one of the most beautiful waterfalls in North Carolina.

Upper Bearwallow Falls NC: the hike

The adventure 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 travels 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 the kid-friendly Bearwallow Falls Trail at Gorges State Park to a beautiful, tumbling waterfall near Lake Toxaway, NC

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 the waterfall, 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.

Hike North Carolina's Gorges State Park in springtime through a forest of blooming rhododendron and wildflowers on the Upper Bearwallow Falls Trail

Leafy ferns 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.

Hike to Upper Bearwallow Falls at Gorges State Park, a half-mile, kid-friendly waterfall hike near Cashiers, NC

The hike departs the waterfall and 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 adventure.

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 waterfall adventures at Gorges State Park

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 Trail, 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.

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Gorges State Park Bearwallow Falls Trail Map, Directions & Details

Gorges State Park Bearwallow Falls Trail Map
Gorges State Park Bearwallow Falls Trail Map
This map is not a substitute for official trail maps or topographic maps.

Driving Directions


Parking

Free parking is available at Gorges State Park.

GPS Coordinates

35.101333, -82.945383     //     N35 06.080 W82 56.723

Elevation Profile

Bearwallow Falls Trail Map
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Please Remember

Always leave no trace, tell someone where you're going, pack safety and wayfinding essentials, don't rely on a mobile phone to find your way, and follow these trail etiquette tips.

 
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.