This loop is a highlight tour of the Harper Creek Wilderness hitting 4 waterfalls and the epic views from Little Lost Cove Cliffs. Throw in some serious vert and 15 creek crossings (3 with swimming holes), and you got yourself a nice summer trail hiking sWEaTfest!
Be prepared to get wet. Wear good socks and well-draining shoes.
Begin your hike from the Harper Creek Trail
on Brown Mtn Beach Rd. Take the trail up for about a half mile to Yellow Buck Trail
and turn right onto it. This trail is a serious wake-up call. It's steep, extremely rutted out and also, pretty gorgeous if you can actually look around. The trail mellows out a bit after reaching the summit and making a short steep descent until it reaches Pineola Rd.
Turn left onto Pineola Rd and begin a nice gravel grinder for the next few miles until reaching Little Lost Cove Cliffs Trail
. Take this trail on your left and follow it up to its two overlooks looking out towards Grandfather Mountain. After soaking in the views and tackling the majority of you climb for the day, descend the rest of the trail back to Pineola Rd. Turn left and follow the road to the next intersection with Kawana Rd.
Turn left onto the road and after about a third of a mile enter the North Harper Creek Trail
on your left. You are now on amazing creekside singletrack for the remainder of your day and you begin the numerous creek crossings. Your first waterfall will be North Harper Falls, then followed shortly after by Chestnut Branch Falls, which is more of a big slide. Remain on North Harper Creek Trail
until reaching its junction with the MST (white dot). The two trails are now the same and continue their downstream path along the creek.
About a mile after this you'll hit the third waterfall of the day, Bard Falls. Be sure to scramble down to it and enjoy its little jacuzzi pool at the base of the falls. Continue on the MST/ North Harper Creek Trail
until you reach the junction with Harper Creek Trail
. Again, just continue downstream as now the blaze color has changed to Orange and the White Dot of the MST. After many more creek crossings and a short climb, you'll reach a hard Y-junction.
Make a hard right at this junction to head back upstream just a bit to see the mack daddy of all the waterfalls of the day, Harper Creek Falls. This beautiful 3-tiered waterfall has two large swimming holes and you can slide down the last drop. It's pretty amazing. After taking a dip, you've got 1.5 miles to go. Head back to the Y-intersection and then continue straight downstream. After a half mile, you'll reach a big camping area and the split of the MST and Harper Creek Trail
. Turn left and follow the Haper Creek Trail (orange blaze) all the way back down to your car.