Accessibility – Moderate
Height – 25′
Distance – 3.0 Miles (out and back)
Beauty – 8
Photo rating – 8
Solitude – 6
GPS Info: LAT 35.04292 LONG -82.84585
Last updated – 05-14-2016
Virginia Hawkins Falls is accessed via Horsepasture Road in Rocky Bottom, SC. The falls isn’t terribly high and the creek isn’t high volume but the way the water splits and falls down the upper drop is very cool as are the smaller drops below. The only negative about the experience was several trees had recently fallen across the base of the falls. When I look at my pictures, the trees don’t bother me. There was nothing I could do about them except incorporate them as foreground objects. I compared my pics to those on other sites and I like the view better without them only because they obscure the smaller drops. Such is life in the forest.
To get to the falls you’re going to take Highway 178 either from Rosman in the North or SC11 in the South. The intersection of Highway 178 and Horsepasture Rd is on the right approximately 2.5 miles south of the North Carolina state line. If coming from upstate South Carolina, you will be making a left onto Horsepasture Road some 8 miles north of the intersection of 178 and SC11. As soon as you make the turn onto the gravel Horsepasture Rd, it’s going to split. Stay to the right and head up the hill. Like many of the gravel roads in the area, it is narrow and the drop off on the side of the road is steep. Half a mile into the drive there is a parking area on the left for the foothills trail. If you want to make this a 7-8 mile hike, you can park here and follow the foothills trail to the falls. We ran into a couple who had done the hike from this point when we were nearing the falls. More on this encounter later.
Use caution on Horsepasture Rd. It is narrow and serves two way traffic. On our visit it was also being used for ATV access. Approximately 1.7 miles into the drive, there is a small roadside waterfall. This waterfall is on an unnamed creek but it is worth a look. There is a pullout on the right side of the road as it sweeps into a left hand switchback up the mountain. For the most part Horsepature Road is steep and bumpy. If you make this drive you will see what I mean. The drive to the falls is actually much worse when you’re having to accelerate hard up the inclines which are very bumpy. Coming back down it wasn’t nearly as bad. The road will split 2.6 miles from the intersection with 178. Bear to the left, follow this road to the end, turn around and park so as not to block the road. You have reached Laurel Gap.
The hike starts by walking back to the split with Horsepasture Rd and making a left, which will take you up the hill. As soon as the road levels off, there is an intersection. Horsepasture Road continues through a gate, while another road heads to the right. A trail veers off at an angle between the two. The trail is marked with a sign for The Preserve and a large rock is in the middle of the trail to prevent ATV access. Take this trail for a short distance until it intersects with a logging grade. The trail is marked at the terminus with a sign for the return trip so you don’t miss it. The logging grade is going to head down hill for most of the 1.25 miles. At numerous points along the way it is going to cross a creek that is also flowing down the hill. All of the crossings were easy enough and the road and surrounding foliage are very photogenic.
After a mile on the road, you’re going to come to a tree that has fallen across the road. This makes a good marker for upcoming trail to the falls. Maybe 50 yards past the tree you will see a green sign nailed to a tree indicating Virginia Hawkins Falls with an arrow. The trail is on the right within sight of the fallen tree. Immediately the trail enters a campsite, which we found occupied on our visit, more on this encounter later. Follow the trail through the campsite to a bridge over the creek, which is also marked with a green sign indicating Virginia Hawkins Falls. Once across, make a right and head up the hill. The waterfall is around 0.2 of a mile up the trail on the right. You can’t miss it but in case you do, if you start up a series of rough cut steps, turn around. A side spur leads down to the left side of the waterfall where a sign directs you to find another path to the falls. There is a trail to the right that leads down to the creek. A short rock-hop will bring you to the base of the falls. There are a ton of places to take a picture and the canopy provides nice even lighting.
The hike is totally kid friendly and so is the rock-hop to get to the base of the falls. The only difficult part is the fact the entire return hike is up hill. Anyway, after our visit we were heading back to the logging road when we stopped to talk to the couple at the campsite near the logging road. They seemed surprised to see the three of us bounding along, especially my 7 year old adventurer. After the initial greeting the comment posed by the woman was, “don’t tell me there’s somewhere to park just up that road.” I explained the parking area at Laurel Gap about a mile away and they in return told us how they parked at the Foothills Parking area and hiked almost four miles to the campsite. Before saying goodbye, she offered a final comment, “so much for being out in the middle of nowhere.” As we resumed our hike back to the truck, my wife and I could only joke. More than once we were the ones who took the long way.