Big Bradley Falls was a pleasant surprise. I hadn’t planned to hike, but I found myself awake very early on a Sunday morning. I figured that I could try to beat the heat by getting out there early. In truth, there is no beating the heat in August in the southeast. I don’t know why I lie to myself. At least I remembered to bring another shirt to change into afterward. Anyway, this is a really easy hike with a great payoff.
Big Bradley Falls is located between Flat Rock and Tryon, North Carolina. That means it’s only about 40 minutes from Greenville. There are basically two hikes for you to do here—the overlook and the falls—and here’s how I recommend you tackle them. This trail is not well marked and cell reception is poor. Screenshot these instructions.
Park at the gravel pull-off. The map below will take you right to it. Walk straight on the path until you reach a fork in a field. There’s a picture of the fork above. Take the left pathway that goes up and into the woods. You will soon reach Cove Creek. Cross Cove Creek. You’ll be in shin- or knee-deep water later, so go ahead and get your shoes wet.
Continue on the pathway on the other side of the creek. It is blue-blazed, but is very poorly marked. As you walk, you’ll see many smaller pathways that lead down to campgrounds on the left. Just keep walking. The trail will be mostly uphill and soon you’ll hit a hairpin curve to the left. Next, you’ll see an English/Spanish sign about how dangerous the area is. After that, you’ll come to a steep dirt pathway that leads down on the left. A tree is spray-painted with blue paint right next to it. If you have to step over the downed tree that blocks the trail, you’ve gone too far.
This steep hillside scramble leads you to the overlook. If I had to guess, I’d say this is maybe a half-mile from the creek crossing. Do not make your way down to the overlook unless you are confident in your scrambling skills. Honestly, if you’re not confident in your skills, then this is not a good hike for you at all. You’re better of visiting Pearson’s Falls a few miles down the road in Tryon.
The overlook features a ledge that drops off into the void of Cove Creek Gorge. If you fall, you will die. There’s a piton in the rock if you want to repel down, but there are no ropes to assist you. The view from the ledge is absolutely stunning! You can see all 140 feet of the waterfall. The cascade breaks in stages and features a small pool at the top of the falls. It’s like a miniature version of the Devil’s Swimming Pool. As you can see, the sun was just starting to clear the trees on the top of the mountain.
I plan to come back in the fall when the leaves are changing and bring my monopod and DSLR. I should also point out that it’s harder to get back up to the trail than it was to get down to the ledge. I took this video to show you what you’re in for. I hope you’re not afraid of heights!
On the way back up, you’ll see other pathways that lead to the main trail. These follow the contour of the mountain more closely than the way you came down. You might find it easier to take these than to go straight back up. I like variety, so I took one of these. Once on the main trail, you walk almost all the way back to the creek crossing.
Before the creek, you can take any of the trails down to the campsites. Walk as far down on the bank as you can, following the current. Eventually, you’ll have to just get in the water. There are some other short trails on the banks, but once you’re wet, you’re wet. Splash and boulder your way to the top of the falls. It’s not far.
I was worried about my smartphone, so I didn’t get any pictures of the top of the falls. I did this hike on a whim and lacked the equipment to get down to the lower falls safely. Frankly, I don’t think it’s safe for a person to attempt that descent alone. And I hate to sound all “get off my lawn,” but I don’t think it’s safe to bring pets or small children anywhere near the overlook or the upper falls.
There is another trail across the street that takes you to Little Bradley Falls. Like Big Bradley Falls, it features an easy hike with a big payoff at the end.
You definitely want to bring some bug spray if you’re hiking in the summer. The area is filled with mosquitos and gnats that find your ears irresistible. I’ve taken to listening to audiobooks on summer hikes just to keep the bugs out of my ears. On this hike, I was listening to Larry “Ratso” Sloman’s On the Road with Bob Dylan, a chronicle of the Rolling Thunder Revue (1975–76). You can also listen to a live recording of one of the shows if you’re interested.