Want to get your little ones hooked on hiking? Take them on the East Fork trail, an easy, five-mile round-trip trek through the Upstate's pristine Ellicott Rock Wilderness Area.
The mostly flat trail runs along the namesake East Fork, a natural source of entertainment for kids-and the kid in all of us. Who doesn't love wading in a cool mountain creek, rock hopping across the water and searching for salamanders hiding among jumbles of smooth river stones?
The lush East Fork gorge, filled with hemlocks, mountain laurels, winterberries, sweet pepper bushes and unusually large white pines, offers its own diversions. A myriad of woodland critters and fascinating creepy crawlies live in the 7,000-acre Ellicott Rock Wilderness.
You'll start your outdoor adventure at the Walhalla Fish Hatchery, a must-see attraction before or after your hike. The trail begins at the bridge over the East Fork just past the picnic area.
About a mile into the hike, you'll come to a creek crossing featuring big square stepping stones. In the spring and summer when the creek is cranking, there's a nice little waterfall upstream of the stones.
The trail runs along the north bank of the fast-moving, rocky stream, a tributary of the National Wild & Scenic Chattooga River. Along the way, you'll see several small cascades and areas where the water tumbles playfully over mossy rocks. You'll also pass beside a huge rock wall and a moss-covered rock face dripping with water.
The 2.5-mile trail ends at the "Forty Thousand Dollar Bridge" where the East Fork Trail meets the Chattooga River Trail. If you turn south (left) at the juncture and walk two miles, you'll come to Spoonauger Falls. Turn north and it's two miles to Ellicott Rock, the point where South Carolina, North Carolina and Georgia come together.
From beginning to end, the out-and-back East Fork Trail descends just 500 feet, making it a sweat-free walk for the most novice of hikers. For more information and directions to the trailhead, click here.