Big Bradley Falls (3-20-16)
UPDATE: Floods in 2018 reportedly did extensive damage to the trail to Big Bradley Falls, particularly the section right along the cliffs just before the falls. I've even read that in places it's all but impassible. I have not been back since the floods to verify these reports so be prepared to find much different conditions than what are depicted in this album! Be safe!
Big Bradley Falls is tucked into a narrow, rocky gorge in the eastern portion of the Green River Game Lands, just east of the town of Saluda. I had attempted to visit this waterfall previously, along with nearby Little Bradley Falls, a couple years prior. At the time I only knew to access Big Bradley from upstream, along the top of the cliffs which surround it. The mile hike to the overlook of the falls was quick and easy but, as anyone who has visited will tell you, a bit lacking as the largest portion of the falls is hidden from view.
Since then I had planned a return trip that would hopefully get me closer to the base of falls. One option I discovered was to head in from above (as I did before) and rappel/scramble down the steep rock ledges into the gorge beneath the falls. As I often undertake these trips solo, free-climbing to a waterfall didn't seem all that wise a plan. I was therefore pleased to discover that there was another way into the base of Big Bradley...one that, aside from a short creek wade and a bit of narrow trail at the end, offers a fairly safe approach. I made my plans.
The hike would begin from the large pull-off along Green River Cove Road, directly across from the entrance to 'Wilderness Cove Tubing'. The road into Wilderness Cove is an access road for the adjacent Game Land so it's OK to walk along it. Following the dirt road along the Green River for perhaps a quarter mile I reached a large parking area for the Game Land and a gated trail road ahead. I later found out that one could just as easy park here rather than along Green Cove Road and save about a half mile total of walking. Passing the gate I followed the access road into the Game Land for about a mile until the surrounding landscape opened up into some old fields and a couple old log buildings appeared ahead. First passing an old barn, the main road hooks a hard left...to continue to the falls I would instead follow a lesser-traveled road straight ahead past an ivy-covered cabin. From this point the path follows Cove Creek up the increasingly narrow valley to the falls. I found the route to be fairly easy to follow, with a couple exceptions.
All in all, my return to Big Bradley was everything I hoped it would be. The falls was beautiful and rugged, the trail was just enough of a challenge to make you feel like you earned it, and the early spring wildflowers were really starting to pop! So, come on along with me on my return journey to Big Bradley...its quite a place...
Trailhead GPS Coordinates: 35.275158, -82.302663
Mileage Hiked: 5.0 miles Hike Duration: 2:30
Trailhead Temp: 50'F Trail Traffic: None!
Min. Elevation: 1,000' Max. Elevation: 1,440'
Total Vertical Gain: 620' Avg. Elevation Gain / Mile: 124'
Trails Used (blaze color): Game Land Trail Road (unblazed), Big Bradley Falls Path (unblazed/unofficial)