North Carolina’s Little Bradley Falls in secluded Saluda is an out-of-the-way jewel that I accidentally discovered. Located in the mountains of western North Carolina, Little Bradley Falls features a 50-foot multi-tiered waterfall.
Now there are a lot of Instagram one-liners about waterfalls. One of my favorites? “I’m falling for you.” But I will have to describe my response as more awe-filled.
“As long as I live, I’ll hear waterfalls and birds and winds sing.”John Muir
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Refreshing Water Hole
Without any question, Little Bradley Falls is the place to retreat when it’s a muggy 95-degree day in July and you don’t want to fight the crowds at the local swimming pool. It is Nature’s Swimming Hole.
“one of the most beautiful waterfalls and swimming holes in the area”Blue Ridge Mountain Life
But before you can jump in feet first, grab your swimming shoes and walking poles. A dog is optional.
Little Bradley Falls Trail Head
Parking is free in the Big Bradley Falls lot but it fills up quickly on a weekend or holiday. There are limited spots off the main road. When you get out of your car, you need to cross over the road. The Little Bradley Falls trailhead is located slightly up the road. Watch for people suddenly emerging out of a grove of trees. It’s definitely wild back on the path. You’ll see fallen trees and large rocks.
My advice is to ask the first hiker to emerge out of the trees if this is the correct path to reach Little Bradley Falls. There are no signs. I make a lot of wrong turns. It is definitely confusing and you can end up hiking away from Little Bradley Falls. I recommend downloading the All-Trails map.
“A nice stream side hike under a canopy of trees, old ruins and a 50 ft waterfall.All-Trails
It is a 2.4 mile hike. You should reach Little Bradley Falls within one hour. Even during the hot days of July, it feels cool walking in the forest.
Expect to scramble over rocks, climb boulders, and cross four creeks. It really hurts to step barefoot over the rocks. Water shoes are recommended!
On my walk, the ratio seemed to be one dog to two humans. Clearly, dogs will “go with the flow.” Woof!
Watch for Snakes!
But the streamside hike did reveal a few surprises for this city girl. A hiker warns of several snakes on the path. Coming eye to eye with a snake sunbathing on a rock frightens me. I also beat a quick retreat from poison ivy. Prickly bushes leave big scratch marks on my legs. But chasing this waterfall made it all worthwhile.
I hear Little Bradley Falls before I see her. A waterfall is nature’s symphony. In fact, you can buy recordings of a waterfall as the sounds are so soothing. It’s like listening to rainfall or a thunderstorm—you get immersed.
But the downside of visiting Little Bradley Falls on a weekend is people. Lots of them. Everywhere. It gets noisy. Don’t expect to meditate or quietly commune with nature.
NC Water Park
Little Bradley Falls resembles a water park in the summer. It shocks me to see whole families climb up on the upper tiers to walk along the ridge. I choose to sit on a huge rock and dangle my feet. Kids float in the water below the falls. A cacophony of shrieks and laughter rise in the air. People also bring picnics.
Thankfully, the walk back to my car is uneventful. I choose not to explore Big Bradley Falls as it is a 4-mile trek. Due to heavy rains, parts of the trail are closed. It is located on Green River Gameland.
Six NC Waterfalls
Now if you stay overnight in Saluda, you may want to explore several waterfalls. There are SIX!
- Big Bradley Falls
- Little Bradley Falls
- Pearson Falls
- Shunkawauken Falls
- Hickory Nut Falls
- Catawba Falls
Big Bradley Falls is your natural choice if you have a full day to hike. It features a 75-foot waterfall. But it is difficult to reach. The easiest hike with the biggest payoff is Pearson Falls. The walk is less than a 1/4-mile to reach the 90-foot waterfalls. This unique botanical preserve features over 310 species of wildflowers and plants.
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