We did these same two hikes a mere 7 years ago (you can scroll back far enough to find it). So here we are again at Burrell’s Ford on the Chattooga River. On the South Carolina side there are two trailheads for these waterfalls as well as the Foothills Trail which comes through the area and the Chattooga River trail.
King Creek Falls is on the south side of the road or the first trailhead you reach (the big one) coming down from South Carolina. This is the bigger trailhead because there is a large hike in campground along the Chattooga River here. You can get to the falls in several ways. It’s easiest probably to get there by taking the trail next to the road. It leaves the parking area parallel to the main road and eventually veers off to the right. You’ll still come to a number of intersections with the Foothills Trail. When you get to the footbridge you are crossing King Creek. This is where you want to be, so just take the trail which goes upstream alongside it and you’ll find the falls. The top of this trail is difficult travel.
This is an attractive falls with a nice pool at the bottom.
On the way back if you want something different, cross the footbridge and turn left immediately which will take you down to the river trail where there are many campsites. The gravel road leads back to the parking area.
Spoonauger falls is about a quarter mile north of the road from the parking area slightly closer to the bridge. This trail heads into Ellicot Rock Wilderness Area but you don’t need to follow it for long. Just after a creek crossing, look for a small trail to the right with a small NF sign to spoonauger falls.
It’s a short but steep climb to the waterfall from there.
This is a more accessible waterfall if you were hoping to just basically stand in the falls itself. There isn’t much of a pool at the base here, but you passed some lovely access areas to the Chattooga on the way in (and out).
We chose the Union County area to do a bunch of a short hikes in on a random weekday because:
We had not really ever been to that part of South Carolina.
It seemed like a place people wouldn’t necessarily flock to to hike during the Coronovirus shutdowns.
So first we went to Musgrove Mill State Historic Site which is actually a battlefield themed park but has some nice nature hikes as well.
The highlight is Horseshoe falls which is actually a very short hike (maybe 0.1 miles?) from the parking area on the north side of the river. This is a pretty section of river with sandy banks and easy rock scrambling at these water levels. It is also not a horseshoe at these water levels but looks like it would be at higher water.
Next up was Rose Hill Plantation, the former home of 1860s South Carolina governor William Gist. The house was closed due to COVID-19 but the grounds were open and there are a couple nice trails behind the home through the woods (formerly cotton fields). There are in the neighborhood of 2-5 miles of trails here depending on the loops you choose.
Finally we went to Pacolet River Heritage Preserve which, for the record, is NOT in Union County but we had to choose a title for this entry and Union County won. Sorry Spartanburg.
Anyway, this is basically a small lot at the end of dirt road that will have your wife questioning if your directions are correct (mine did anyway). There is one trail here, it’s about a mile and half in length and ends along the Pacolet River at the site of a former bridge that was destroyed in a flood (interesting info on this at the trailhead).
The river area is nice, we saw a lot of turtles and there is a soapstone quarry site in the vicinity that has been used for thousands of years (literally). The trailhead also has info on that.
The Eastatoe Creek Heritage Preserve is located on the west side of US 178 south of Rosman, NC, just across the state line into South Carolina. Foothills Trail parking access A4 is the ideal parking area for this. A fraction of a mile further down the gravel road is a gated forest road which leads south into the preserve.
The trail is yellow-blazed. They aren’t frequent. There are a couple signs as you enter the preserve and then the trail follows Narrow Ridge for close to two miles before switchbacking suddenly down into the Eastatoe Gorge (which you’ve been able to hear almost the entire hike).
The switchbacks eventually even out near the river and you’ll reach a very small trail junction (completely surrounded by poison ivy). Right leads around the knob in front of you to a very small overlook of the Eastatoe Narrows. The overlook might have room for four people, and there’s a small landing below it with room for a couple more. Be wary of that landing though, it’s overhung and a considerable drop.
This is a fairly unusual rock-enclosed series of drops for the Carolinas but it’s a nice view. Back at the tiny trail junction you can go the other way (north / upstream) to a series of three primitive campsites and several nice places to hang out along the river.
There are also several more falls here as you might expect. The river has dropped almost 1000 feet in altitude from the parking lot to the narrows.
There are no other official trails in the preserve and the climb back up to the ridge is a bit of work. We saw a huge number of wildflowers on the hike, but the majority of them were after the descent begins.
This was a last minute addition to our outing in South Carolina and we didn’t really know a whole lot about it. This was apparently formerly called Pinnacle falls and was accessible from the lower level via a difficult descent. The forest service improved the trail earlier this year and added an impressive overlook clinging to the side of the opposite mountain. The trail head is just south of the NC line, or just north of the ‘town’ of Rocky Bottom on Van Clayton Memorial Highway. The parking area is the same as the Foothills Trail parking here (the FH trail is a little ways up the road). Beech Bottom leaves from the parking area, crosses a ravine and then follows a forest road for about half the distance.
At around the halfway mark, you’ll leave the forest road, cross a bridge and follow a narrow trail along the mountain. It will eventually end at a switchback to a small observation deck. This is the view in early September but it’s clear the cascades continue both above and below this section. The total height of all of it may be as much as 150 ft but it’s difficult to determine. The hike is about one mile each way, possibly just a bit over that.
This is our favorite waterfall in South Carolina and not coincidentally our favorite swimming hole too.
It’s a river wide drop of maybe 12 to 15 feet into a series of rocks and then a large friendly swimming hole with a sandy beach on the near shore of the river. A little further downstream is an area we refer to as the kiddie-pool which was convenient when Alaric was younger.
This is the view if you’re sitting under the falls on the opposite side of the river from the trail / parking area / beach. You can swim over here or walk (carefully) across the slippery rocks.
These little mossy grottos are fun too but the water feels quite cold, even in mid-Summer. This is generally a safe swimming area but just for posterity remember that high water levels can change that fairly easily.
These two falls are located a short distance apart just upstream of the confluence with the Chattooga. To reach them, take Village Creek Rd. off of SC-107, then Nicholson Ford road until it ends at the Foothills Trail parking area. It’s about a half mile west(north) along the Foothills Trail to reach the Chattooga Trail.
Pigpen Falls (on Pigpen Creek) is located right where the two trails meet. This is a nice little falls with a good safe swimming hole at the base. It was also rather full of very small trout when we visited.
Apart from the trout we also saw this crayfish in the very clear waters of the creek. Pretty impressive amount of mica as well. Licklog falls is located just downstream from Pigpen falls (south on the Chattooga Trail). It is more impressive than Pigpen but more difficult to get a view of. There is a goat path trail down to the confluence with the Chattooga, it is past Licklog falls right at the point where the trail makes a hard left turn.
If you continue just a little further down the Chattooga Trail, there is river access via a series of five or six campsite with good views and good access to the water.
Brasstown Falls is located on Brasstown Creek south of US 76. Oconee County has good signage to the waterfalls from the Long Creek vicinity. From the parking area it barely qualifies as a hike at all. There are yellow blazes on the official trail and about 100 unofficial trails leading to all sorts of campsites and unofficial vantage points.
If you stay on the actual trail, it will bring you to the middle of the three falls that makes up this cascade. It’s a pretty series of drops with a lot of access points.
Near the bottom of the middle falls, we saw a lot of people out on the ledges, there were also swimmers at the pool at the base of the middle falls. Since the roughly 40 foot drop of the lower falls is almost immediately downstream, it made us a bit nervous about swimming there (especially with a small child).
We went back upstream, waded across the side creeks and went to the pool at the upper falls, which is the nicest swimming hole (in our opinion) anyway. There are about a dozen campsites in the area as well, they do seem to be sanctioned by the forest service and they were in use when we visited.
Riley Moore Falls is located west of Westminster, SC. There are signs off of US 76 as well as some other roads but once you get back onto the forest (dirt) roads, there are no further signs. If you do not have a high clearance vehicle, don’t try to get all the way to the trail head, the road isn’t that rough but it has some substantial humps. From the trail head it’s about 1 kilometer (0.6 mi) to the river. You can roughly double that if you’re parking at the beginning of the road to the falls.
The trail is easy and it deposits you at an amazing swimming hole with a sandy beach! Not only that, it’s shaded (the beach portion) in the afternoon. The pool was a few inches deep on our visit around the edges but there are some much deeper sections.
The base of the waterfall is slippery as you’d expect but a fun place to play around within reason. We saw quite a few people climbing on the falls as well which we don’t recommend because we never recommend climbing on waterfalls (unless maybe there’s a top rope). We do recommend playing in the pool at this one though.
Oconee Station is a state historic site in northwest South Carolina. There’s an old outpost there and not really a whole lot else. The Palmetto Trail Connector comes through the park and about a mile north is a branch trail to Station Cove Falls.
There are some good rocks for picnicking here and a couple good spots to play around in the water. We came across this salamander there as well.
Eastatoe Falls isn’t really related, it’s about 15 miles east on the Foothills Parkway but we visited them on the same day. This waterfall has a bunch of names, Twin Falls on some maps, Shady Cove Falls on others. It’s not even clear to us who owns this land and maintains the trail there. Either way it’s a short walk from the parking area off of water falls road in Eastatoe Community. At the end is a viewing platform and a pretty spectacular vista.
There’s a straight drop on the left and a series of cascades on the right. There are many warnings about the dangerous rocks here but the river a bit downstream of the falls looked to have some nice swimming holes accessible from the trail.
Yes, OK this is a weird title for a post. SC 107 is a relatively short stretch of north-south road in the extreme northwest part of the state. It provides access to Ellicott Rock Wilderness Area, White Rock Scenic Area and several Chattooga River access points. We spent the weekend camping at Cherry Hill which is directly off of 107. It’s a small (20-some sites), quiet, relatively unused campground with hot showers and several creekside sites.
Just north of Cherry Hill is Burrell’s Ford Road which runs down to the Chattooga River. North of this is Ellicott Rock Wilderness, south is the walk in sites of Burrell’s Ford campground and a bit in from the Chattooga is King’s Creek Falls.
To the south from Cherry Hill is Oconee State Park and the Yellow Branch picnic area. This is Yellow Branch Falls which is about a 2 mile hike from the picnic area. There’s a small loop trail through Yellow Branch and the falls trail branches south off of it. There are several wet crossings on the loop trail.
Yellow Branch Falls has a nice sandy beach area on the far side from the trail and a couple nice pools.