DATE:
8-1-2021

Out & Back
~ 1.8 miles

ELEVATION GAIN:
~ 164 ft

LOCATION:
Saluda, North Carolina
(Near Asheville)

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We typically try to keep our day hikes to a two hour or less drive from home. Sometimes the trail is worth the drive, sometimes we chalk it up to a fun day but decide it’s not worth driving back to. Little Bradley Falls was without a doubt worth every minute of the 1.5 hour drive with three rambunctious boys and their cousins. We were pleasantly surprised by how well maintained the trail was with a stunning pay off at the end. There are three water crossings, so be sure to bring shoes that you don’t mind getting wet. This trail is great for kids or new hikers. I will warn you that the reviews on “All Trails” are all over the place in terms of directions to the trail head and the fork early on in the trail. So, I’m going to try to make this as clear as possible so you don’t end up on the wrong route like we did!

The GPS directions will take you to the parking area for BIG Bradley Falls. Big Bradley trail was closed when we went, however this is the correct place to park. Once you are in the parking lot and looking toward the sign for Big Bradley Falls, you will turn to your right and walk toward the end of the parking area. The trail head to Little Bradley Falls will be across the street to your right. There was not any signage there but it is easy to see the trail. There was a “no camping” sign at the beginning when we went.

Almost immediately after you enter the trail, there will be a fork. We went to the right which is apparently the more challenging route. This required us to negotiate some questionable spots where the trail had thinned out along the creek. This route will eventually meet up with the other side of the fork in the trail and take you to Little Bradley falls. If you are going with small kids, I would definitely recommend to go LEFT at that initial fork. We came back that way when we left the falls and it was much smoother. The path to the right/along the creek was doable, but more of a challenge than we were expecting. It was helpful that we had older cousins with us to help our boys navigate. I would definitely recommend one adult or big kid to one child ratio if you choose to go right at the initial fork. 

We did not realize that was the better route to take, so we went right. Below are pictures of the more challenging route.

You will reach a point in the trail where the two sides of the fork meet. There is a small creek crossing shortly after that. After this crossing, the trail mostly winds along near the creek all the way to the falls.

There are red circles on trees periodically along the trail. The trail is pretty well maintained. We did not see a lot of trash or a ton of people. We went on a Sunday in August. In our experience, trails near Asheville can be very crowded on the weekends. This one had people that you would come across regularly, but it was by no means busy or crowded. Soon you will come to another much larger water crossing. There were a few different routes that people used to cross the water, some harder than others. Any way you choose, your feet are going to get wet. It is not one that you could really jump rocks to get across.

There is a neat rock structure and one more small water crossing shortly before you reach the falls.

The falls are incredible. I am not sure that pictures do it justice.

There is a large open area below the falls that is perfect for splashing around. We played down there for a couple hours before heading out. Toward the end of our time there, we did see a copperhead in the part of the creek that leads up to the swimming hole. That ended our water play pretty quickly.

⬆️This one is from the top of the falls looking down at the swimming hole.

There is also a trail adjacent to the falls that will take you up to the top. Darrell and our niece and nephew went up there while I stayed below with the younger kids. The majority of that trail requires scrambling. There is an area that has a rope to help you navigate a steep scramble. There were some gorgeous views of the falls from the top.

On our way back, we took the opposite route of the one we chose at the beginning. It was much simpler to navigate. The trail was well maintained throughout.

We will definitely make the drive out to this waterfall again. If you are looking for somewhere to cool off and splash around in the summer, this is a relatively short and simple hike with a gorgeous pay off at the end.