Nowhere in the Eastern United States will you find a greater concentration of waterfalls than in South Carolina's Upcountry. More than 150 of these masterworks of nature lie hidden in the wild forestlands and deep river gorges of Oconee County.
Many of them are easily accessed on well-marked trails, while others require a difficult hike through rugged terrain. Fall Creek Falls offers both kinds of treks.
A one-mile stretch of the creek features three beautiful waterfalls, ranging in height from 30 to 40 feet. The first is a 10-minute hike from the trailhead. The other two are best left to more adventurous explorers.
Starting high atop a ridge in Sumter National Forest, Fall Creek slices through the remote wilderness descending over rocky ledges and outcroppings before emptying into the famed National Wild and Scenic Chattooga River.
The trail to the waterfalls begins on the gravel Fall Creek Road (FS 722) off Chattooga Ridge Road in Long Creek. Follow the faint path leading down a steep bank into the woods. Almost immediately, you'll come to a pretty multi-level cascade.
It's another five minutes to get to the upper falls. With most of the water flowing down the left side of the 35-foot rock face, you'll have the opportunity to walk along the right side of the outcropping and inspect the mossy ledges often frequented by salamanders.
If you choose to continue to the second level of falls, retrace your steps about 100 feet and look for a path heading down creek. As you begin to descend, you'll cross through dense thickets of rhododendron.
For most of the next mile, the trail flattens, venturing away from the creek and then back again a couple of times. While the well-worn trail is obvious for most of this stretch, you could lose it in a couple of spots if you're not paying attention.
About 45 minutes into the hike, you'll begin to hear the second and much bigger set of falls. At this point, the trail takes a decided downhill turn, requiring a bit of scrambling over rocks and narrow ledges. The trail to the base of the falls is steep, so be careful!
When you see the falls, you'll be glad you made the journey. The most impressive of the three, it splits at the top into three distinct cascades, dropping over several ledges before rejoining in a pool at the bottom.
From there, it's another quarter mile downstream to the final falls located near the point where the creek meets the river. As you reach the end of the trail, you'll get a stunning view of the Chattooga.
You can find directions to the trailhead here. And here are a couple of tips to help you find your way:
- It's easy to miss the creek as you're driving along Fall Creek Road. Look for the large pipe running under the roadbed. It's most visible on the right side of the road.
- Park in a small pull off on the left side of the road just past the creek. The trailhead is a few feet behind the pull off.