Located between Gorges State Park and DuPont State Recreational Forest is the newly formed Headwaters State Forest (opened in 2018). It is a working forest with rugged back country recreation such as fishing, hiking and hunting on public game lands. There are no developed parking areas, visitor center, restrooms or other facilities yet. Headwaters will also become a teaching center for forest stewardship. The top place to visit is East Fork Falls.
After a heroic 10-year effort, 6,730 acres of land were purchased for the protection the rich headwaters of the East Fork of the French Broad River with waterfalls, mountain bogs and 25 miles of trout streams. Thanks to Conserving Carolina, Conservation Fund and the NC Forest Service for great teamwork to create a conservation corridor for wildlife that connects to 100,000+ acres of surrounded protected land.
East Fork Falls
The small-but-beautiful East Fork Falls near Brevard is a short walk from the road. There are no road signs for the 18-foot tall waterfall, but the pull-off is easy to spot and the short trail is easy to follow. After you park, look for a blue trash can tucked under some trees for the start of the trail. The trail follows the river downstream and ends with a steep section that takes you just below the falls. It's probably just a tenth of a mile.
There's a refreshing pool for a dip on a hot summer's day, but watch for jagged and slick rocks under the water. Near the start of the trail, a side trail goes to the top of the falls. Don't get in the water above the waterfall. It's a great place to hang a hammock and read a book. No camping is allowed.
East Fork Falls Directions: Find the waterfall along East Fork Road, about halfway between US 276 and US 178. The pull-off has space for 2-3 cars.
- From US 276, it's six miles on East Fork Road on the left. From downtown Brevard, drive 7.4 miles on US 276 South. Take a right onto East Fork Road.
- From US 178 (about 1.5 miles south of US 64), it's 6.3 miles on the right.
More to Explore
Headwaters State Forest is managed by the N.C. Forest Service and N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission. They plan to teach and lead research forest management techniques for the schools, forest managers, industry and general public.
Most of Headwaters State Forest is open to the public for hunting as part of the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission’s Game Lands program. All waters are designated as Public Mountain Trout Waters and Wild Trout Waters. No special permit is needed beyond the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission license.
In addition to East Fork Falls, here are a couple of options to enjoy Headwaters from the South Carolina side:
Foothills Trail: The 77-mile Foothills Trail snakes along the state line through Upstate South Carolina and southern North Carolina mountains with several connecting spur trails. To hike through Headwaters State Forest, hike the Sassafras Mountain to Caesar's Head State Park spur (14.2 miles long). The first nine miles from Sassafras is in Headwaters.
Sassafras Mountain: The best view over the Headwaters State Forest will be from a new 15-foot-tall observation deck atop Sassafras Mountain. Located just across the state line, Sassafras Mountain is the highest point in South Carolina at 3,553 feet high elevation. It's about 7 miles from East Fork Falls and 15 miles south of Brevard. GPS Address: 1399 F. Van Clayton Memorial Highway, Sunset, SC 29685
Since East Fork Falls in the "Land of the Waterfalls" near Brevard, find many other waterfalls nearby. Connestee Falls & Glen Cannon Falls are along US 276. Catheys Creek Falls is near US 64 between Rosman and Brevard.