This part of the Hiking Challenge will have you walking in the footsteps of a Patriot militia. On October 4, 1780, a Patriot militia of around 1,600 soldiers arrived at the Green River. They made camp along its banks, at a crossing that would later become known as Alexander’s Ford. Unknown to the Patriots, it would be their final rest before fighting the Redcoats in the bloody Battle of Kings Mountain.

For two centuries, the events at Alexander’s Ford were barely remembered. But now the memory of the Patriots’ long journey and their sacrifices for a new nation are memorialized at the Bradley Nature Preserve at Alexander’s Ford. Conserving Carolina helped secure three major grants to protect this historic 162-acre property in Polk County, which is now permanently protected by a conservation easement.

This hike is a 2.6 mile round-trip trek and at times the historic path of the Overmountain Men is visible directly next to the current trail.

This hike is part of Conserving Carolina’s and WPA’s White Squirrel Hiking Challenge 7, which takes you to 8 amazing hikes on protected land. Take the challenge to discover some great places!

Location: Between Mill Spring and Rutherfordton

Length: 2.6 mile loop

Difficulty: Easy

Elevation Gain: 200 feet

Great For: History, Wildflowers, Wildlife

Reenactors at Alexander's Ford

How to Get to Bradley Nature Preserve at Alexander’s Ford

Bradley Nature Preserve at Alexander’s Ford is located off of Gray’s Chapel Road in Polk County. Use “Grays Chapel” in your GPS. Users may also enter N35.314846, W-82.038913 in their units. Here is a map to this location in Google Maps:

Click on the map for a link to Google Maps

Hiking to Alexander’s Ford

The hike at Bradley Nature Preserve at Alexander’s Ford is a 2.6 mile round-trip loop. Starting from the parking area, follow a gravel forest road for 1.1 miles, reaching Alexander’s Ford at the Green River. This trail follows the historic route of the Overmountain Men. You will note a ‘ditch’ that appears periodically on the left side of the trail, paralleling the trail. This ‘ditch’ is the route that over 1,600 men took, making their encampment along the Green River nearly 250 years ago. Upon your approach to the river, there is a field to your right that would have made a great place for all of these soldiers to camp. Continuing on the trail, there is a short spur of the trail that takes you to the bank of the river and the historic river crossing, or ford. After taking in the sights at the river, return to the trail and follow it to the right, picking up a narrow nature trail. This footpath traverses a mature forest as you make your way back to the parking area.

Please be prepared. Bring water and snacks. You will be under the shade of trees for much of the hike, but you may need protection from sun and insects, so bring layers, bug spray, and sunblock as appropriate. This hike is appropriate for pets and children, but pets must be leashed.

There are no restrooms at the site. Picnic tables are available at the trailhead and at the river.

The site is open year round, from sunrise to sunset.

Protecting American History at Alexander’s Ford

The determined march of the patriots who turned the course of the Revolutionary War might well have been forgotten, but in 2011, conservation partners took action to protect this important site along the Overmountain Victory Trail. This 330-mile trail across Virginia, Tennessee, North Carolina, and South Carolina is named for the soldiers who marched across mountains to meet the British Army at the bloody Battle of Kings Mountain.

“For many of the soldiers, Alexander’s Ford was to be the final place they lay their heads down to rest on this earth,” said Paul Carson, superintendent of the Overmountain Victory National Historic Trail.

In recognition of their sacrifice at a pivotal point in our nation’s history, Conserving Carolina (then Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy) worked with the landowner and Polk County to secure three grants to protect the land. These came from the NC Parks and Recreation Trust Fund, NC Natural Heritage Trust Fund and NC Land Water Fund. The 162-acre tract is now protected forever with a conservation easement held by the state of North Carolina.

Learn more about this history of this site and how it was protected.


Take the White Squirrel Hiking Challenge!

This hike is part of White Squirrel Hiking Challenge 7—an opportunity to explore eight great hikes, all in places that Conserving Carolina has helped to protect. Take all eight hikes and earn your White Squirrel patch!