Headwaters State Forest

Ultimate Guide to Headwaters State Forest

Nestled between the popular Gorges State Park and DuPont State Recreational Forest lies a hidden gem – Headwaters State Forest. Established in 2018, this working forest offers a taste of adventure for those seeking a more rugged, backcountry experience just 45 minutes from Pilot Cove.

Headwaters State Forest

Untamed Beauty Awaits

Unlike its developed neighbors, Headwaters embraces a natural charm. Hikers will find miles of unpaved trails, while anglers can cast their lines in pristine trout streams. Hunters can explore the designated game lands, while nature enthusiasts can keep their eyes peeled for diverse wildlife.

A Legacy of Conservation

The creation of Headwaters State Forest is a testament to incredible teamwork. Conserving Carolina, The Conservation Fund, and the NC Forest Service joined forces to permanently protect over 6,730 acres. This includes the critical headwaters of the East Fork French Broad River, stunning mountain bogs, and a network of vibrant trout streams stretching for 25 miles. The protected area acts as a vital wildlife corridor, connecting to over 100,000 acres of conservation land.

Exploring East Fork Falls

A must-visit within Headwaters is the picturesque East Fork Falls. Located near Brevard, this 18-foot waterfall is a short and easy hike from the roadside. While there’s no designated signage, the pull-off is recognizable, and the trail is well-defined. Look for a blue trash can tucked under trees to mark the trailhead. The path follows the river downstream, with a steeper section leading you right below the cascading falls.

Cool off on a hot summer day with a dip in the refreshing pool at the base of East Fork Falls. But be cautious! The rocks under the water can be jagged and slippery.

For a unique perspective, a short side trail near the start of the main trail leads you to the top of the cascading falls. While swimming isn’t recommended above the falls, it’s a peaceful spot to relax in a hammock with a good book. Remember, camping is not permitted in this area.

East Fork Falls

Finding East Fork Falls

  • Locate the falls along East Fork Road, situated roughly halfway between US 276 and US 178. There’s limited parking, with space for only 2-3 cars at the pull-off.

Driving Directions

  • From US 276, travel for approximately six miles on East Fork Road (look for it on your left).
  • If you’re coming from downtown Brevard, take US 276 South for 7.4 miles before turning right onto East Fork Road.
  • Traveling from US 178 (about 1.5 miles south of US 64), head east for 6.3 miles and the turnoff for East Fork Road will be on your right.

Exploring More in Headwaters

Managed by the N.C. Forest Service and N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission, Headwaters State Forest offers various recreational opportunities. The Forest Service plans to utilize the area for educational purposes, teaching and demonstrating sustainable forest management techniques.

For hunters, a significant portion of Headwaters is part of the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission’s Game Lands program. Additionally, all the waterways are designated as Public Mountain Trout Waters and Wild Trout Waters, making it a haven for anglers with a valid N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission license.

Venturing Beyond East Fork Falls

If you’re looking for extended exploration, consider these options on the South Carolina side of the border:

  • Foothills Trail: This 77-mile trail traverses the state line, winding through Upstate South Carolina and skirting the southern North Carolina mountains. Several connecting spur trails exist. If you’re up for a challenge, try the 14.2-mile Sassafras Mountain to Caesar’s Head State Park section, with the first nine miles venturing through Headwaters State Forest.
  • Sassafras Mountain: Take in breathtaking panoramic views of Headwaters State Forest from the newly constructed 15-foot observation deck atop Sassafras Mountain. This peak, located just across the border in South Carolina, boasts the title of highest point in the state at 3,553 feet. Sassafras Mountain is roughly 7 miles from East Fork Falls and 15 miles south of Brevard. You can find it at 1399 F. Van Clayton Memorial Highway, Sunset, SC 29685.

Waterfall Chasing Near Headwaters State Forest

East Fork Falls is just one of many gems nestled in the “Land of Waterfalls” near Brevard. If you’re on a waterfall discovery mission, consider adding Connestee Falls and Glen Cannon Falls (both accessible from US 276) or Catheys Creek Falls (located near US 64 between Rosman and Brevard) to your itinerary.

Headwaters State Forest offers a unique opportunity to explore the wild beauty of North Carolina’s mountains. With its emphasis on backcountry recreation and its role in conservation, this new gem is sure to capture the hearts of adventurous visitors.

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