The two waterfalls on Cove Creek can’t be much different. While Bradley Falls is big and bold, Little Bradley Falls is just plain beautiful.
Trail guides put this hike at just under a mile with water crossings and elevation changes; however, what is described here is only about 0.3 miles. It does have a difficult stretch but, overall, this is a lovely walk alongside one of the best mountain streams you will find.
To get there, take I-26 West from Spartanburg toward Asheville. After you cross the North Carolina state line, you will be looking for the 2nd exit, #59, which is the Saluda exit. Turn right onto Holbert Cove Road and go 2.1 miles. It may be easier to find the trailhead for Bradley Falls then backtrack for 0.5 miles. At this point, you will find areas where the road has been straightened out resulting in several wide turns with rip-rap used to stabilize the slopes. Just before the one at the 2.6 mark, there is an pulloff on the right side that is big enough to park a couple of cars.
Walk back down to the rip-rap area and carefully navigate down the 100 foot slope toward the creek. These rocks are loose with lots of crevices that can grab an ankle or hiking stick. Once at the bottom, you’ll find the trail running alongside the stream. Walk upstream for about 0.2 miles and you’ll find a couple of stone fireplaces from an old homestead. It sits in the middle of a fork in the trail. Stay to the right and continue for another 0.1 miles. You’ll cross a small tributary then the trail will swing around to the left and bring you face-to-face with Little Bradley Falls.
It is 35’ tall with the water coming over 4 distinct ledges. The top one, about 12’, and the 3rd one, about 8’, are both vertical plunges. If you work your way up the right side of the falls, you can get some views of this verticality.
Because the creek makes a hard right out of the base pool, you are presented with a face-on view of the waterfall and its large base pool. Large rocks around the base pool make this a nice place to rest or have lunch.
When you head back, you may have decided not to try coming up the rip-rap, but be alerted that the road edge in other places tends to be heavy with briars. Just a few feet downstream from the rip-rap, you will see a large boulder about 3/4s of the way up the slope. You can work your way around this boulder and on to approach the roadway without all the briar thickets.