Wildcat Rock Trail

At A Glance


3.9 mi one-way

Difficulty Rating: 8.35
Steepness: Climbs Steeply
Tread Condition: Moderately Rough
Lowest Elevation: 2365 ft
Highest Elevation: 4232 ft
Climb Total: 2100 ft
Blaze Color: Red-orange


Note: The trail is now officially open all the way to Bearwallow Mountain! GPS recordings and our GIS data show the hike to be just under 4 miles one-way, excluding the short out-and-backs along the way (to wildcat rock, through the pastures, etc). Official descriptions say 5 miles one-way or 10 miles round-trip, which is a safe bet if you go up to Wildcat Rock or leave the trail at all for exploring.

This (for the most part) newly-constructed trail climbs the side of Little Bearwallow Mountain in the upper Hickory Nut Gorge, then climbs up Bearwallow Montain. Passing over private property, it starts as a walk skirting the edge of an orchard (follow the signed route and please stay on the trail). It descends to a crossing of Hickory Creek on a sturdy bridge.

Bridge over Hickory Creek
Bridge over Hickory Creek

Though the main flow of the creek is bridged, a side channel requires a rock-hop before you reach the bridge. This one can be tricky in high water, or with kids. If the water is too high to safely cross, you may have to turn back!

On the other side of the creek, the trail turns downstream for a short distance, swings right in a patch of doghobble, and then starts decidedly uphill on a well-constructed, newly-built segment of trail. The trail has log and rock steps in places, but is generally well groomed and free of major obstacles. The trail passes through a mixed hardwood forest with an understory of less-common (in the mountains) Carolina rhododendron, rhododendron minus, in places.

As it ascends, the trail clings to a steep mountainside before rock-hopping a small tributary - the same one the waterfall is on upstream. Look uphill in winter when the leaves are off the trees for a glimpse of it. It then passes through a series of switchbacks before entering a boulder field. The boulders, and a set of rock steps, are signs that you that you're nearing the base of the falls.

Remember, this is private property. Stay on the trail and don't try to access the waterfall by going straight up the mountain like some folks have been seen doing. The trail comes out at a rocky area below the cliff over which the tiny stream flows - maybe no more than a trickle or seep during dry periods - to form the falls.

Little Bearwallow Falls in wet weather
Little Bearwallow Falls in wet weather

From the base of the falls, the trail swings right, ascending along the base of the rock face. You'll pass over an outcrop with a great view back down toward the falls, before passing under an overhang, where the trail levels out somewhat. It ascends and descends slightly over a rough course along the cliff base, then begins an ascent toward Wildcat Rock. A spur trail on the left climbs to the top of the rock, with panoramic 180 degree views of the upper Hickory Nut Gorge area.

As of November 2020, the trail extension from Wildcat Rock to Bearwallow Mountain is complete! The trail continues its climb up past Wildcat Rock, entering the pastures near the saddle between Little Bearwallow and Bearwallow mountains. It then swings toward the summit of Bearwallow, which it reaches after a few switchback sections.

Intersecting Trails

  • Bearwallow Mountain
  • This trail is located in the Hickory Nut Gorge area. For a list of all the trails in that area, see the Hickory Nut Gorge trails list page.

    This trail also crosses into these trailhead areas:

    All Photos from the Trail

    Gallery Permalink

    GPS Map

    Map Information

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    Data Formats

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    About the Map


    Base Layers

    Base layers provided by OpenStreetMap, the US Geological Survey, the US Forest Service, and NC OneMap. Base layer images are subject to the respective copyright policies of their owners. Base layers may not be available at all times due to system maintenance or outages.

    WNCOutdoors Base Layer

    The WNCOutdoors Base layer is provided by WNCOutdoors.info. It is licensed by Creative Commons Attribution 3.0.

    Trail and Marker Overlays

    Trail layers and downloadable data are all original works created by WNCOutdoors with guidance from a variety of sources, including ensembles of our own GPS tracks, user contributed GPS tracks, official maps and GIS data from government agencies, and field observations. WNCOutdoors data is made freely available under the Open Database License - you are free to copy and use it for any purpose under the terms of that license (summary).


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    Trail Segments

    Trails are often made up of several connecting paths which may have different characteristics, allowed uses, and seasons. This trail is divided into multiple segments as follows:

    Wildcat Rock - Parking to Little Bearwallow Falls

    • Allowed Uses: Hiking
    • Length: 1.07 mi

    Wildcat Rock - Lower Bearwallow Falls to Wildcat Rock Spur

    • Allowed Uses: Hiking
    • Length: 0.43 mi

    Wildcat Rock - Spur to Rock

    • Allowed Uses: Hiking
    • Length: 248 ft

    Wildcat Rock - Rock Spur to Little Bearwallow Ridgeline

    • Allowed Uses: Hiking
    • Length: 1.06 mi

    Wildcat Rock - Little Bearwallow Ridge to Bearwallow Summit

    • Allowed Uses: Hiking
    • Length: 1.43 mi

    Total Calculated Length: 4.04 mi

    This value is derived from our underlying map data, and it may not match officially published information.



    Average Rating: 3.5 (rated 2 times)

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    [Site Admin] Jordan M. said: @Vince - we've updated the description, stats, and map to include the newly extended trail!

    Wednesday, December 2 2020 2:14am

    Vince said: The trail is considerably longer than 1.1 miles now. It goes on past the waterfall and continues climbing. Look for the trail running off the main run, taking you out to Wildcat Rock overlook, for a spectacular view. This is about 2 miles up the trail, and is well worth the moderately difficult climb.

    Saturday, May 20 2017 11:00pm
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