Gravley Falls. Photo by Jamie Martin /

A Wonderland to Explore

Just opened in 2018, Headwaters State Forest created 6,730 acres of new public land, featuring unbroken forests, beautiful waterfalls, and pristine trout streams. While much of this state forest is rugged, remote, and even trail-less, this hike gives you an opportunity to reach a beautiful waterfall with only a two-mile easy hike.

As you visit this waterfall, it is awe-inspiring to reflect that this new state forest adjoins over 100,000 acres of protected land in North and South Carolinaa vast conservation corridor for wildlife. The forest is open for hiking, hunting, and fishing. It is home to numerous rare or endangered plants and animals and the headwaters of more than 50 miles of crystal-clear streams that flow into the French Broad River.

Conserving Carolina is thrilled that we were able to play a role in protecting this mountain wonderland, along with our conservation partners, notably The Conservation Fund. 

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: South of Rosman, NC

Length: 2 miles round-trip

Difficulty: Easy

Elevation Gain: 250 feet

Great For: Waterfall, Wildflowers, Wildlife

Headwaters State Forest_Gravley Falls trailhead_Jamie

How to Get to Gravley Falls parking area

The trailhead is a small gravel parking lot off of Glady Fork Road, in Transylvania County. GPS users may enter N35.083594, W-82.767072 in their units. Or use this dropped pin in Google Maps.

Click the map for a link to Google Maps

Hiking to Gravley Falls

The Gravley Falls trek is an easy, approximate 2-mile round-trip, out-and-back hike in Headwaters State Forest with an approximately 250-foot elevation gain.

Please be prepared. Bring water and snacks. You will be under tree shade 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 in Headwaters State Forest.

Start at the parking area off of Gladys Fork Road. From there, follow the trail, crossing the wooden bridge over South Prong Gladys Fork, and beyond the red gate, walking toward the kiosk. Follow the trail to the left, paralleling South Prong Gladys Fork on your left. At about 0.4 miles, the trail crosses South Prong Gladys Fork and continues northwest for about 0.1 miles before turning to the right/east and paralleling South Prong Gladys Fork on the right. Once paralleling South Prong Gladys Fork, follow the trail for about 0.5 miles to Gravley Falls.

This challenge is an out-and-back hike. When you reach the endpoint at Gravley Falls, enjoy the waterfall. Bring a picnic, a blanket, and your water gear. Use great caution around the waterfall, bearing in mind that waterfalls can be deadly and there are numerous injuries and fatalities at area waterfalls each year. When you are ready, turn around and hike back the way you came.

Headwaters State Forest. Photo by Jamie Martin /

Gravley Falls Trail Ethics

  • Headwaters State Forest is open daily from 5AM to 10PM.
  • Pets must be leashed and under control at all times.
  • Remove all waste, including pet waste.
  • Trails are for hiking only.
  • No e-bikes or motorized travel are allowed.
  • Stay on the trail at all times.
  • No camping or campfires.
  • Alcohol and illegal controlled substances are prohibited.
  • No collecting of any flora, fauna, rocks, or any other natural items.
  • Park in designated locations only.

How Conserving Carolina Helped Create Headwaters State Forest

Imagine our excitement when the owner of one of the largest private landholdings in the Southern Appalachians reached out to us! In 2009, former Congressman Charles Taylor contacted Conserving Carolina about potentially selling his family’s land for conservation. The family owned a vast tract of forest land with exceptional conservation potentialfor recreation, water quality, wildlife habitat and more. We knew we would need partners to protect a property of that size and brought in a national organization, The Conservation Fund, which became the lead partner on this project.

It took nearly a decade of persistence and dedication to complete the deal, but in 2018 we celebrated the opening of the incredible 6,730-acre Headwaters State Forest. This forever-protected land features beautiful waterfalls, pristine trout streams, and rare mountain bogs. Adjacent to more than 100,000 acres of protected land in North and South Carolina, Headwaters helps to provide an unbroken conservation corridor for both people and wildlife. The forest is open for hiking, hunting, and fishing, and it borders a nine-mile stretch of the Foothills Trail. It is home to numerous rare or endangered plants and animals, including native brook trout and hellbender salamanders. And its namesake headwaters of 50+ miles of crystal-clear streams flow into the French Broad River. Learn more about Headwaters. 



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!