In 2012, this writer published an article on Little Bradley Falls, which included directions to the trail that reduced the hike by more than half. This was done to eliminate some elevation change and water crossings on the trail. It did require a strenuous scramble down a face of rip-rap. Now, some 18 months later, this scramble has been made even more difficult by briars and weeds growing in the rip-rap. So the full trail was investigated as an alternate to the short cut.
To get to the trailhead, take I-26 from Spartanburg toward Asheville. After crossing into North Carolina, take the 2nd NC exit, #59, the Saluda exit. Turn right onto Holbert Cove Road and travel 3.1 miles to a large pulloff on the left just before Cove Creek goes under the road in the culvert. The trailhead for the trail to Big Bradley Falls is on the left of this pulloff.
For Little Bradley Falls, walk across to the other side of the culvert. Just past the culvert on the right side is another pulloff. You’ll see an obvious trail coming out of the woods; however, you’ll see a “Camping Not Permitted” sign on the trail going straight. There is another trail heading off to the left. Take that short uphill to the main trail, which will head off to the right along the side of a ridge. You may also see some red blazes.
If you take the trail into the camping area, the creek will eventually squeeze you out and you’ll have to clamber up the slope to the trail on the ridge. The trail continues along the side of the ridge before moving down toward the creek, probably at about a half mile or so. You’ll cross a tributary coming down from the left. Rock-hopping will work fine here. Shortly thereafter, the trail makes a right for a crossing of Cove Creek itself. Rock-hopping will work here also, provided water is not high. High water means you will have to wade.
With the trail on the opposite side of the creek, continue on, passing a large placement of rip-rap on your right. Bear in mind that the road is just above you. After 2/10s of a mile, you’ll pass a couple of old stone fireplaces on your left. Another 1/10 mile and the trail crosses a small stream then swings around to face Little Bradley Falls, one of the prettiest falls in the area.
So, if you’re adventurous and are willing to deal with a short steep scramble, take the short cut but if you’re interested in about a mile hike along a pretty stream, take this longer route. Just remember that water crossing.