Conserving Carolina continued its storied conservation of the dramatic landscape of the Upper Hickory Nut Gorge (HNG) in 2013 with the acquisition of the rugged northern slopes of Little Bearwallow Mountain. The tract is spanned by a scenic band of cliffs and rock outcrops—including the prominent crag known locally as Wildcat Rock—that are highly visible from the Drovers Road Scenic Byway (US 74A).

Additionally, the property also hosts rare natural community types including Rich Cove Forest, Montane Cliffs, and Carolina Hemlock Forest. More than 100 acres of the tract are within the designated Little Bearwallow Mountain Significant Natural Heritage Area.

Gerton landowners John Myers, Jane Lawson and Mary Beth Brock partnered with Conserving Carolina to complete this especially significant conservation project. Myers and Lawson worked with Conserving Carolina twice before—first on a conservation easement in the adjacent Hickory Nut Forest Eco-Community in 2006 and later to facilitate public ownership of the new Upper Hickory Nut Gorge Trailhead in 2012.

The tract not only boasts widespread conservation value for preserving biodiversity and natural scenery, its acquisition made possible the construction of a critical segment in the developing Upper Hickory Nut Gorge Trail, a hiking circuit that will one day link multiple conserved lands in the region. The nearly three-mile Wildcat Rock Trail, completed in its entirety in summer 2016, ascends 1.1 mi. to the 100-foot Little Bearwallow Falls, 1.9 mi. to scenic Wildcat Rock, and 2.8 mi. to near the summit of Little Bearwallow Mountain.

The Wildcat Rock Trail was constructed over a period of three years by an assemblage of Trail Dynamics, Vermont Youth Conservation Corps, North Carolina Conservation Corps, Carolina Mountain Club, American Conservation Experience, and the Conserving Carolina Trails Crew. In the future, this trail will link Conserving Carolina’s Florence Nature Preserve to protected Bearwallow Mountain.