Hickory Nut Gorge celebrates waterfall access, trailhead into park

An impromptu appearance of a dozen hikers was affirmation for the 50 people sitting at a ceremony on folding chairs that Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy had succeeded in their goal of expanding access to the Hickory Nut Gorge’s growing trail network.

The ceremony along Highway 74-A was hosted by CMLC and Henderson County Parks and Recreation to celebrate several milestones: the development of a trailhead at the foot of the Florence Nature Preserve, which is now a county park, and the grand opening of 1.1 miles of trail up to Little Bearwallow Falls.

Both projects are part of a 15-mile loop trail through the Upper Hickory Nut Gorge that eventually will link a string of scenic landmarks — the 600-acre Florence Nature Preserve, Blue Ridge Pastures, Wildcat Rock, Bearwallow Mountain, Little Bearwallow Falls and Hickory Nut Gap. The loop is 60 percent complete.

“Many of these locations have had informal public access, but are relatively unknown,” said Peter Barr, CMLC’s director of trails and outreach. By getting more hikers out into the upper gorge, Barr said the land trust hopes people will “realize how special it is and why land conservation is such a critical need in this region.”

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