Bearwallow Mountain in Henderson County is one of the more prominent 4,000-foot peaks near Hickory Nut Gorge. It makes for a nice warm-up hike if you're in that area, and the top of the mountain affords grand views of the western North Carolina high country, and of the area leading down toward Lake Lure.
The top of the mountain seems to be clad in old growth white oak. The trees
there receive the brunt of the winter weather and are quite stunted, but retain all of the qualities of old growth trees, if not the expected size of such ancient groves.
In addition to the patches of exposed rock and old trees, there are also various types of towers on the summit. This is to be expected on almost every prominent southern peak that is in private hands. Corporations pay to nab such real estate where they can construct their various towers. Bearwallow is no exception in this respect, and there are several types at the top, including some decrepit radio tower shacks.
In addition, Bearwallow was once the site of a live-in fire tower location. The forty-seven foot tower, which was erected in 1933, is still intact and in relatively good shape. The tower is now off limits and is surrounded by a chain link and padlocked fence. The most interesting aspect of the facility is the ranger cabin that accompanies the tower. This was a very nice permanent residence. One can even see that the resident ranger had a nice back yard, a garden, a large fenced area, a shed, and what appears to be a small livestock paddock. Someone even planted a short row of red spruce trees along the cabin which now appear to be about forty years old, maybe older (due to the severe weather at the summit). These are the only red spruce trees I've ever seen in the area.
Old Ranger Residence.
Alas, this facility was made obsolete by satellites and GPS. No one seems to need fire towers anymore, and so this one and its accompanying cabin sit locked and almost forgotten.
If you have an hour or two, the one-mile hike (elevation gain about 600 feet) is well worth the trip. The "trail" is a well-maintained and gated gravel road. This road also passes through an active pasture, so you will likely encounter livestock along the hike.
From Lake Lure, take Highway 74A to the village of Gerton. Pass Nita's Country Store and the Upper Hickory Nut Gorge Community Center on your right, and soon you will see Bearwallow Mountain Road on the left. Turn here and follow this road for just over 2 miles as it winds its way up Bearwallow Mountain. You'll come to a high gap with two gravel roads to your left; one of the roads has a gate across it with a sign that says, "Do not block gate." Go just past these roads and park on the gravel shoulder to the left of Bearwallow Mountain Road. If you come to the new Grand Highlands "development", which is impossible to miss, then you've gone too far. To get to the top of the mountain, you'll walk 1 mile up the gated gravel road.
None. However, this is private property with public access due to conservation easements. Respect private property rights. Don't be an asshole.