436-439 – Fall Creek Falls

Accessibility – Moderate+

Height – Upper Falls 50′ (2 drop), Main Falls 40′, Third Falls 15′, Final Falls 15-20′

Distance – 3.4 miles (out and back)

Beauty – 10

Photo rating – 9

Solitude – 8

GPS Info: LAT 34.82280 LONG -83.25157 (Upper Falls)

GPS Info: LAT 34.81889 LONG -83.26679 (Main Falls)

GPS Info: LAT 34.81947 LONG -83.26818 (Third Falls)

GPS Info: LAT 34.82031 LONG -83.26872 (Last Falls)

Last Updated – 02-16-2019


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The Fall Creek Falls hike begins at Fall Creek Road and ends almost two miles later at the Chatooga River. Along the two mile one-way hike there are four major waterfalls and a bunch more small ones, along with a lot of very scenic cascades. Much of the hike is flat as you make your way from the upper waterfall, which is essentially roadside to what I call the main waterfall, nearly 1.4 miles from the road. I would probably rate the hike as easy but there is one very sketchy part where the trail skirts the top of the main falls.

Coming from NC, take NC281 South to Wigington Road and turn right. When this ends at NC107, make a left. If you’re coming from Cashiers you can take NC107 south from the intersection with US64. From Wigington Road and NC107, follow NC107 South for 13.5 miles until it meets US28. Make a right onto NC28 and take this for 2.5 miles to Chatooga Ridge Road. Turn left onto Chatooga Ridge Road. Remain on Chatooga Ridge Road for 7.2 miles then make a right onto Fall Creek Road. Fall Creek Road (FS722) is unpaved but in good shape. Follow it for 0.3 of a mile and make a left to remain on FS722. From the turn it is 0.4 miles until the road crosses Fall Creek. There is parking both before and after the bridge on the left hand side.

Coming from SC, starting from the intersection of SC24 and US76 at the Ingles, take US76 West (East Main Street) for 1.3 miles. At the traffic light, turn right to stay on US76 West. There is a big brown sign before the traffic light that indicates Chatooga River Access and Waterfalls! From the traffic light it is 15.3 miles to Chatooga Ridge Road on the right. From this end of Chatooga Ridge Road it is 2.0 miles to Fall Creek Road. Make a left onto the unpaved road and take it to the trailhead as indicated above.

If you parked before the bridge, walk across it and head up the hill toward the next pullout. At the lower end of the pullout you will see a trail descending into the woods. You will also hear the upper part of the upper waterfall. Take the trail down and after crossing a fallen tree, you will see the uppermost portion of the upper falls. Don’t climb down by the fallen tree but take the trail to the right to a better place to head down to check it out. I think it was worth the effort.

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The uppermost drop of the upper falls – February 2019

From the point where you left the main trail to get down to the upper cascade, continue heading downstream. If you look through the trees and shrub on your left you can see the lower section dropping over the brink. The trail will swing to the right slightly before a steep path heads down toward the base of the falls. It isn’t a terrible climb down but it is steep in places so you want to use caution. When you get to the creek there is a large log lying parallel to the creek. Unfortunately you can’t see anything from this side of the creek. The water was too deep for a dry crossing so it was boots off for a barefoot wade to the other side. The water wasn’t deep and for February it wasn’t too cold.

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The lower part of the upper falls – February 2019

After you return to the trail heading downstream, make a left. Initially it will descend steeply but before long the grade will moderate as the trail snakes through the forest. At times the trail follows old roadbeds. There are no markings (unless you count a string of Mich Ultra cans placed on small trees as official blazes). The trail isn’t hard to follow but there was places where it is seems to go away. There are also stretches through fields of dog hobble.

The Fall Creek will always be on your left but for some stretches you won’t be able to see or hear it. Between the upper falls and the main fall there are also three small creek crossings, all of which can be done without getting your feet wet. If you are like me, you will get to the point that you feel like you’re on a fools errand. The creek is slow and meandering and it will make you feel like you somehow got off course. Press onward. I had this feeling but as I studied the terrain, I noticed a steep ridge cutting down from the right heading toward the creek. This is when I knew we were close.

The trail rounds the ridge and leaves you at the top of the falls. The trail seems very narrow here as it passed over a sheer drop of easily 30 feet. The trail will swing right and follow the steep hillside around a steep drop. Once you get to the apex of the left hand turn, the trail is slightly less intimidating. Keep heading down the trail past the falls until you see a trail that cuts back to the left toward the creek. There are more than one way down to the creek so pick the one best suited to your eye. I ended up on river right but the view from the bank wasn’t very good. The water was up so there wasn’t a dry place for me to set up my tripod so for this one I shot from the middle of the creek. I don’t know if this is my favorite SC waterfall but it is definitely in my top 3.

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The main attraction – February 2019
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A closer view – February 2019

After climbing back to the main trail, make a left and resume the hike downstream. It is not far at all to the next waterfall. The trail is again flat and easy to follow below the main falls. It is just over 0.1 of a mile to the third waterfall. It was thick getting down to the base and with time running short I didn’t have as much time to enjoy this one as I would have wanted. I approached the falls from below, passing the drop and coming back upstream to get to a creek-side vantage. It wasn’t the biggest waterfall on the hike but the setting was awesome and in the summer I think this would be a great place to hang out. I also love that in February it was so green. Looking at these pictures you would never know it was the middle of winter!

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The third waterfall on the hike – February 2019
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Not the most impressive but such a cool spot – February 2019

To get to the last waterfall on Fall Creek, resume the trek downstream. It is less than 0.1 of a mile to the waterfall and there is no danger of missing it since the trail ends at the Chatooga River! With about no time and the Chatooga River raging there was no way to get to the mouth of Fall Creek to take a picture of the final waterfall. I could see the drops through the trees but there wasn’t a photo-worthy vantage to be had that didn’t involve wading the Chatooga, which wasn’t an option. In normal flows I would have done it but the river looked angry on this day.

With sunset at nearing and last light somewhere in the neighborhood of 6:20, I knew it was time to go. My wife Jen and daughter Alana had already tuned back after the main falls. Normally almost two miles on an unofficial trail could take hours but with only the tricky part near the brink of the main falls to content with, and it was much worse on the way out because of how you were forced to look at a split in the rock you had to climb over, it was smooth sailing.

 

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