By Emma Castleberry
Two of the most popular trails in Hickory Nut Gorge, the Bearwallow Mountain Trail and the Wildcat Rock Trail, are now connected by a new two-mile section of trail. The new section runs from the summit of Bearwallow to the ridgeline pasture on Little Bearwallow Mountain, passing through ferny boulder fields, a stand of old-growth forest and a rare mountain bog. “At the halfway point, this trail passes through the saddle between Bearwallow Mountain and Little Bearwallow Mountain, which hosts a small wetland including a rare southern Appalachian bog as well as a seep,” says Conserving Carolina trail specialist Peter Barr. “Here, water rises from the ground and pools on the ridgeline of the mountain despite its high elevation. In addition to creating an environment abundant in biodiversity, this miniature wetland is also the source of the mountain’s name, as historically it has been the location where area bears go to ‘wallow,’ cooling off in the wet mud.”
The new section of trail can be accessed from both the Bearwallow Mountain trailhead and the Upper Hickory Nut Gorge trailhead on Gerton Highway. Funding for this section of trail was provided by a number of donors, including Fred and Alice Stanback, David and Daryl Nelms, REI Asheville, the TD Charitable Foundation, the family of Fletcher Ward and the Donald C. Jones Foundation. Sustainable trail construction was provided by Shrimper Khare, Singletrack Trails and Conserving Carolina’s Rock Crushers volunteer trail crew.
The Wildcat Rock Trail extension brings together more than 13 miles of trails in the gorge. It is part of Conserving Carolina’s effort to complete the Hickory Nut Gorge State Trail system, which will be more than 130 miles when finished. Thirty seven miles of this trail are now complete, with two additional sections currently under construction. “Once complete, the Hickory Nut Gorge State Trail will create connectivity with other scenic, forever-conserved lands, including those protected by Conserving Carolina like Florence Nature Preserve, Buffalo Creek Park and the Weed Patch Mountain Trail, as well as Chimney Rock State Park and Lake Lure,” says Barr.
“Whether users wish to seek out a picturesque waterfall or scenic cliff-top viewpoint in a few hours, or spend several days linking protected parklands and nature preserves on an overnight expedition, this ambitious State Trail network will offer endless options to explore and experience the beautiful and dramatic Hickory Nut Gorge.” Many portions of the trail network will be open to mountain biking, as well.
Conserving Carolina is a local land trust that has protected more than 45,000 acres, primarily in Henderson, Polk, Transylvania and Rutherford counties in North Carolina and the Landrum, South Carolina area. The mission of Conserving Carolina is to protect, restore and inspire appreciation of nature. Learn more and become a member at ConservingCarolina.org.