Sometimes the journey is as rewarding as the destination. Blue Hole Falls would fit into that category.
A half-mile trail takes you far above the waterfall where you can soak in the spectacle of Cedar Creek spilling over a granite ledge, shooting through a rocky sluice, then thundering 75 feet into the aptly named "blue hole."
You don't have to make the treacherous descent to the pool at the bottom of the falls to get your money's worth on this hike. All the action-and some of the prettiest scenery-is at the top.
Located in a remote and thickly wooded section of Sumter National Forest, the trail begins on a forest service road closed to vehicular traffic. A little more than a quarter mile down the gravel road, you'll find the beginning of a footpath that follows the creek.
It will take you another 15 minutes to reach the end of the trail. Just before you hit the stopping point is a spur trail on the left leading down a steep bank to the creek. From the rocks at water's edge you get a great view of the slow-moving Cedar Creek as it emerges from the woods and plummets over the first ledge, a wide 15-foot slanted rock face that disappears into a quiet pool.
You might be satisfied taking in the pristine wilderness that surrounds you, but there's an even better perch below.
A short way back along the main trail is another footpath leading to the water. This one puts you below the ledge on an area of flat rock that stretches halfway across the creek.
From here, you can walk downstream, following the journey of the creek as it finds its way through a maze of rocks. To continue the descent through the gorge, you'll need to scramble up heaps of boulders making your way from one large rock to another.
A word of warning: The rocks can be slippery when wet, so choose your steps carefully. If you continue, you'll reach an outcropping at the very top of Blue Hole Falls.
The view of the water surging through a narrow gap and making its dramatic 75-foot plunge is breathtaking-and more than enough reward for the moderate hike.
Getting to the bottom of the falls requires fording Cedar Creek above the cascade at the top. More than likely, you'll have to get your feet wet to get across.
The faint path downstream to the waterfall is steep and takes you over narrow ledges, a trek even the most experienced hikers may choose to skip, especially if it has rained.