At 4,232 ft. above sea level, Bearwallow Mountain stands as the highest peak in the widely-visible Bearwallow Highlands range. Straddling the Eastern Continental Divide, it forms the part of the upper rim of the Hickory Nut Gorge. Crowned with a scenic grassy meadow at its summit, the mountain features a nearly 360° view that encompasses some of the southern Appalachians highest peaks including Mt. Mitchell in the Black Mountains and Mt. Pisgah in the Great Balsams range. Its breathtaking vista also includes a birds-eye view of Hickory Nut Gorge, downtown Hendersonville, and the lowlands of South Carolina. A historic fire lookout tower occupies the summit, as do grazing cattle who call the mountaintop home.
Conserving Carolina initiated land protection at Bearwallow Mountain when it acquired a conservation easement on 81 acres at the summit in 2009, forever protecting it from mountaintop development. An additional 85 acres along Bearwallow’s high elevation ridgeline were conserved by Conserving Carolina by another easement in 2013, with 5 more acres in 2014. An additional 300 acres was permanently conserved this year!
Conserving Carolina protects Bearwallow Mountain via conservation easements in partnership with its private landowner. A conservation easement is an entirely voluntary legal agreement between a landowner and a land trust that permanently limits uses of the land—such as building structures, commercial logging, excavation, and other rights—in order to protect its conservation values, including natural heritage, water quality, scenic views, wildlife habitat, and many more. It allows landowners to continue to own and use their land—like grazing cattle atop Bearwallow Mountain—and they can also sell it or pass it on to heirs.
In 2011, Conserving Carolina constructed a new public hiking trail to the summit of Bearwallow Mountain with the help of the Carolina Mountain Club, REI Asheville, and community volunteers. This trail was the first segment in the Upper Hickory Nut Gorge Trail, a 15-mile hiking loop that will link Bearwallow Mountain to Conserving Carolina conserved lands at Florence Nature Preserve, Little Bearwallow Mountain & Wildcat Rock, and Southern Appalachian Highlands Conservancy-protected Blue Ridge Pastures and Hickory Nut Gap. Additional segments of the Upper Hickory Nut Gorge Trail are currently under construction; about 9 miles of the loop is currently completed (including the Little Bearwallow Mountain Trail Phase 1, Trombatore Trail and Florence Nature Preserve trails).