Bearwallow Mountain (8-3-17)
Located just northeast of Hendersonville, outside the tiny crossroads community of Gerton, Bearwallow Mountain is a wonderful grass-covered bald which offers some amazing panoramic views from its summit. Rising to a humble elevation of 4,232' this peak isn't a giant but the eye-candy one is treated to at the top belies its modest stature. It wasn't that long ago that Bearwallow was off-limits to hikers. All that changed in 2009, however, when the Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy (now Conserving Carolina) acquired a conservation easement of 81 acres on the mountain. Soon thereafter a one-mile trail was constructed from Bearwallow Mountain Road to the summit. The hike to the top is a bit strenuous but it's still suitable for just about anyone as the trail is well-maintained and not all that rugged. It's a perfect short dayhike for anyone in the area with a few hours to burn.
I'd begin the hike from the small pull-off along Bearwallow Mountain Road. A warning though...this trail has quickly become quite popular and the few times I've visited pretty much all the parking has been taken with cars frequently lining both sides of the road far from the trailhead. That said, if you're planning on visiting on a sunny weekend I'd get an early start. The trailhead is well marked, beginning alongside the gated summit road at a large covered kiosk. The path wastes no time beginning its climb, it does after all have to gain nearly 600-feet and it only has a mile to do it in! Despite what some might find to be a fairly steep grade the trail is quite easy to travel. It's obvious that great care was taken in its construction and the hundreds of footfalls that befall it each weekend have made for a wide and fairly smooth path. Winding its way up the mountain the trail remains beneath a thick canopy of hardwoods for most of the way. Toward the top things get a bit rockier as the trail picks its way between some larger boulders before quickly breaking out onto the open summit fields.
The transition to open grasslands is as startling as it is beautiful. Emerging from the forest you might just be greeted by one of the friendly cattle which sometimes wander the summit lawn. It's a reminder that this peak is still technically a privately-owned summit. The views open up all around as the trail joins the old summit road coming up from below. Above, at the summit itself, is an old steel fire tower which saw service with the NC Forest Service up until the 1990's along with a collection of unsightly communications towers. A chain-link fence surrounds it all to keep visitors out. Despite this minor eyesore at the top it's doubtful that you'll be disappointed with the rest of the scene. An almost unbroken panorama wraps around you as hazy hills stretch away towards South Carolina and the high ridgelines of the Pisgah and Great Balsam Ranges rise to the west. I even managed to find a view I don't believe many people realize exists. Walking up to the summit I starting wondering if there might be any glimpses through the trees to the east of neighboring Hickory Nut Gorge. I headed past the old summit house and starting looking for any bit of 'thin' forest below that might provide an overlook. With surprising ease I located just such a spot. There's no trail down to it but if you cross to the back side of the summit opposite the old house and descend a short distance you might spot it. The tiny opening in the forest pointed straight at the nearby Hickory Nut Gorge providing a limited but very scenic viewpoint. After snapping all the pictures and panoramas I thought I needed the route back simply involved retracing my steps down the pleasant trail back to the car.
As I stated above I believe that, despite it being a bit strenuous, this trail is suitable for just about anyone. It can be tiring but its fairly short...no doubt the views at the top will take your breath away more than the climb! So come along with me on this pleasant little dayhike...and, as always...ENJOY!!!
Trailhead GPS Coordinates: 35.460698, -82.367873
Route Type: Out-and-back Difficulty: MODERATE
Mileage Hiked: 2.4 miles Hike Duration: 1:30
Trailhead Temp: 75'F Trail Traffic: 10-25 people
Min. Elevation: 3,650' Max. Elevation: 4,232'
Total Vertical Gain: 600' Avg. Elevation Gain / Mile: 500' (ascent)
Trails Used (blaze color): Bearwallow Mountain Trail (unblazed)