Experience outdoor adventure at the Green River Game Lands

Published 11:52 am Tuesday, February 14, 2023

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POLK COUNTY–If you’re looking for a new place to hike, the Green River Game Lands near Saluda offers nearly 20 miles of trails that are not as well-known or as well-traveled as many trails in western North Carolina. 


“It really is sort of an outdoor lover’s paradise,” says John Grace of Asheville, who led an effort to build and maintain hiking trails in the game lands. “It’s steep, rugged, but just full of waterfalls and amazing country.”

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Two of the most popular trails near the game lands, off Holbert Cove Road, are relatively short trails to the 50-foot Little Bradley Falls and the 75-foot Big Bradley Falls. A lesser-known trail nearby is the Green River Cove Trail which runs six and a half miles along the Green River and has multiple places to access the water. There are other trails that connect to the Green River Cove Trail that extend deeper into the wilderness.


“So just be ready to do a little self-navigating and have plenty of water and plenty of food because you’re probably going to be out there a little longer than you think,” says Grace.


Grace is an avid kayaker and hiker who started a mountain biking and trail running event called the Green River Games in 2012 as an effort to recruit volunteers to transform old logging roads and paths created by hunters into a network of recreational trails. 


The Green River Game Lands spans 18,000 acres across Polk and Henderson counties. It’s managed by the NC Wildlife Resources Commission for hunting and fishing, but just about any other outdoor activity is allowed. Unlike a state park, there are no facilities like a visitor’s center, restrooms or campgrounds.