Big Bradley Falls

Big Bradley Falls - 2

With the recent cooler weather and the recent rains, I've been craving waterfall adventures. One waterfall that's been on my list for a while is Big Bradley Falls. Big Bradley Falls is a 75 foot waterfall located in the Green River Gamelands a few miles north of Saluda, North Carolina. The overlook is a popular destination for hikers, and I've visited the overlook myself a few years ago. I've been wanting to visit the base since then, but the path down from the overlook is dangerous, and people have died attempting it. I nope'd that idea, until I found out you can visit the base from a much safer path. That's better! I put out an invitation to my hiking friends to come along for this trip, and on this trip Eric and Ed were able to joined me for a visit to the base of Big Bradley Falls.

On the way, I picked up Eric at his house, stopped by Skytop to pick up some Granny Smith apples (yummy!), and made our way down the curvy, steep Green River Cove Road to a parking area across the road from a tubing business where Ed was already waiting.

We headed down an access road that passes by cabins, tents, and buildings belonging to the tubing center.
Road past the tubing center Private property
A short distance down the road is another parking area, with an information board and map.
Parking areaInformation sign
The road followed a slowly curving course around Cove Mountain. At first, we could hear Green River to our left, but that sound would fade as we curved toward Cove Creek. The early fall view was rather scenic with a view of Long Ridge fully lit by sunlight.
View of Long Ridge - 1 Corn field for deer Ed at the corn field Eric heading down the road
Down the road we came across a barn and a cabin.
Barn - 1 Homestead - 1
At this point, a road heads left toward Little Cove Creek, while the road we were following becomes a trail mostly staying close to Cove Creek. While the path is more overgrown now, it's still easy to follow.
Beyond the cabin, this lonely sign grabbed our attention for being full of bullet holes.
Waterfall warning
The path eventually descends down to Cove Creek where path crosses the stream.
Stream crossing
We tried to find an easy way across without luck. Eric and I crossed over in our sandals, but Ed had to take off his shoes and socks before crossing. That current was deceptively strong, but we all made it without incident.
Ed crossing the stream
A yellow trail marker let us know where were heading in the right direction.
Yellow trail marker
From here on the trail become narrower. The farther along we went, the markers became more sparse making us unsure we were on the right path at times. We also had to dodge a few fallen trees.

Along in here, we spotted some waterfalls that would make interesting side adventures. As tempting as they were, I had to say "eyes on the prize" and keep going. Perhaps we could visit them on the way back if time allowed?

The two campsites we encountered were rather reassuring though.
Campsite #1 Campsite #2
From campsite #2, the path heads steeply uphill. We had to hold onto roots and trees during this part so we didn't get ourselves hurt. Speaking of that, I put my camera and tablet away for a while to keep all hands free.

We encountered a securely tied rope the lead down to the creek where there was enough space to drink some water and some snacks. The waterfall was now just around the bend, and we could either go back up the ropes and continue on or wade up the creek around the bend.

Eric spotted two people walking around the rocks taking pictures, and we headed toward where we saw them, wading knee high up the creek but staying near the creek edge. After navigating a few rocks, our prize finally came into view. The people we had seen had already gone, likely headed back up the dangerous path back toward the overlook.

With our prize now in sight, we got broke out the gear and got to work. I took some photos of the waterfall without Ed or Eric in them....
Big Bradley Falls - 2 Big Bradley Falls - 9 Big Bradley Falls - 11 Big Bradley Falls - 12
... but in others I included them to help give the waterfall a sense of scale.
Big Bradley Falls - 3 Big Bradley Falls - 8 Big Bradley Falls - 10
I put up a video of the waterfall doing its thing on YouTube, for your viewing pleasure (or ridicule).

This time we took the easy path out this time, bypassing the creek. The trek back was uneventful. It was unfortunately too late in the day to visit those interesting waterfalls we spotted, and the uphill trek was a bit tiring too. However, that does leave something to come back for next time. Now that we've visited once, we'll have a better sense of where to go next time.

That and we'll have our GPS tracks we all recorded. Eric posted his GPS track to AllTrails as Bradley Falls - Lower Trail. I added mine to OpenStreetMap by adding and naming the path, and tweaking the parts already added to match the satellite view. You can view the path on a map and download it in GPX format from Waymarked Trails with the name Big Bradley Falls Base Trail.

Ed posted a blog about the adventure under the title Eyes on the Prize where Ed does a nice job of documenting our struggles during the tricky part of the journey. More of his photos are also on Flickr, but aren't in an album.

Eric's photos are on Flickr in the album Big Bradley Falls.

My photos are on Flickr in the album Big Bradley Falls - Oct 2015 and on Google Photos in an album also called Big Bradley Falls - Oct 2015.

You may also want to read over other recent trips by hikers to the waterfall. Chris Berner did a nice job documenting the path, and taking photos along the way, in this post Big Bradley Falls – Hiking Into The Gorge From The Bottom. Dan Goodwin documented his journey in early 2015 in his post Big Bradley Falls - Lower Approach. I also liked the photo album from mid-September on Smug Mug Hike with Boy Scout Troop #703 by Brenda J. Wiley.

Thanks to Eric and Ed for coming along! Also thanks to the folks calling themselves "Team Waterfall" who've done much to increase awareness of this safer alternative just by posting their trip photos.

P.S. If you lost a sock at the Cove Creek crossing, we found it for you. Thanks and you're welcome!
Sock left behind


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