676 – Middle Rachel Creek Falls

Accessibility – Moderate+

Height – 60′ (ledges and slides)

Distance – 3.7 miles (out and back)

Beauty – 6

Photo rating – 5

Solitude – 9

GPS Info: LAT 35.01306 LONG -82.73588

Visit Date – 04-19-2020


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Middle Rachel Creek Falls is the fifth waterfall you will come to on this hike and the lowest on Rachel Creek. The Falls takes it’s name from the creek name and the brink of the falls is right where the tributary joins and Rachel Creek.

Trailhead Directions: The trailhead is located on Alewine Rd, which is no more than 100 yards long. The road is off of SC11, 1.5 miles south of the intersection with US178. It is on the left side of SC11 if you are heading toward Table Rock from the intersection US178. if you are coming from the other direction, Alewine Road is less than half a mile past the West Gate entrance to Table Rock Park. There is easily enough room for 3-4 cars without blocking the gate. If you’re not sure, put it in Google Maps.

The hike: The hike begins by following Alewine Road up the hill beyond the gate you hopefully didn’t block. The road is going to ascend moderately in places was relatively free of downfall. Remain on this road as it swings right above the gate and follow it for 0.9 of a mile. It will gain about 300 feet in elevation over this run. Alewine Road ends at Big Bottom Road at an angled T intersection. This is also signed as the Palmetto Trail. Make a right at the intersection.

The next half a mile is going to be on the Palmetto Trail which is relatively flat and pleasant to hike. Up to this point the hike has been simple but after following the Palmetto Trail for around half a mile, it is going to pass over the tributary that Yucca Falls is on. Now it is time to leave the trail. There is no good indicator of the point other than it is on the river left side of the tributary. For reference you can use 35.01532 -82.73834 as a reference point.

Initially after leaving the Palmetto Trail the woods are relatively open and flat. I would recommend staying further left just to avoid the rhodos crowding the bank of the tributary. The hike is going to follow the drainage down and the higher ridges are going to keep you on track. We ended up on an old road close to where the mountainside started to descend and from this road we could easily see Upper Yucca Falls. If you drop off the right side of the old road heading toward the creek you can get to the base of the falls. A word of caution. The brink of Yucca Falls is very close and this is not a place to take chances. Visiting the upper falls can be done safely but use your head. Upper Yucca Falls is 15 feet high and you can walk behind the curtain of the falls.

Return to the old road and resume following it downstream. You will see the ground falls off in a hurry and to avoid the steepest of the drop, you will need to swing left away from the creek. The further left you go the less chance you have of falling off. We ventured wide enough to reach a point where we could safely descend the bank to the Yucca plants and see a profile of the falls. The closer you are to the creek the higher the chance of something bad happening. The hillside moderates downstream of the falls and there are several places where you can reach the creek between the main falls and Lower Yucca Falls. The best photo opportunity and the easiest way to get to the lower falls was by crossing to river right below Yucca Falls.

The brink of Lower Yucca Falls is just below the open rock at the base of the Yucca Falls but to get to the base of this next drop you will need to work your way up the bank on river right, past an area where the ground has collapsed to the descent to the lower falls. On this short hike you can see Rachel Creek Falls across the tributary. Once you get to the base of Lower Yucca Falls you can find various vantages on the rocks on either bank but once you’re done you will want to be on river left for the hike up Rachael Creek.

The woods are fairly open once you get away from the creeks. Head up Rachel Creek on river right for less than 500 feet to an obvious crossing point. The last 100 feet will be on the other side of Rachel Creek. The ground on this side is flat and easy to navigate to the rocks across the pool from the falls. Rachel Creek Falls has two drops, a freefall and an angled ledge along with a deep swimming hole. It makes for one of the best photo subjects on the hike.

Four down and one to go. Even those not terribly adept at hiking off trail shouldn’t have had too much trouble getting to this point but getting to the base of Middle Rachel Creek Falls is going to be the hardest and most dangerous part of the hike. Retrace the route back to the tributary, cross to the other side of it making sure you are on the river right side of Rachel Creek. There is a huge cliff on river left that would have to be negotiated to access the base of the falls from this side. I don’t recommend it. Once across the tributary, angle downstream and up the hillside. You will pass an old and obvious logging grade coming down the hill. This will be the way out once you’re done.

There is a steep drop off and several small cliffs close to Middle Rachel Creek Falls so you will want to remain higher on the ridge and further from the creek on the way down to the base. I wish I could give you a play by play of the spot to descend but there is no way to tell you the exact spot. When in doubt, keep heading past the falls and the grade will get easier to negotiate. We climbed out at the top of a great sliding waterfall and the slope was easy to manage. Once you come out below the falls, make your way upstream and cross to the rock on river left at the final slide. There is a lot of clutter on the rocks from a series of fallen trees but the overall scene is amazing.

The high cliff looms over the river left side of the falls as Rachel Creek drops over the ledges and slides. Added together all of the small drops and slides descend about 65 feet but there is not a good way to capture all of it in one shot. There are several pictures of this waterfall below.

Time to go and you have two choices. You can retrace the hike back to Yucca Falls, climb the hill next to the falls and return to the Palmetto Trail the way you came or, you can do it the way I discovered. Head downstream of the falls to a point close to 35.01532 -82.73834. There is no way to define the point other than it looks like the easiest way to get up the mountainside without scaling a cliff. The route you want to take is going to follow the obvious ridge up the hillside. A good waypoint on the way up is a huge tree trunk that is lying on its side. Aim for this once you clear the rhodo line. When in doubt head up the hill, and angle slightly to the right.

After passing the tree trunk you will see several huge boulders higher up. Head for them. These boulders will will guide you to the old roadbed. If you can’t find the roadbed or can’t recognize it, I don’t know what to tell you. It was pretty obvious to me and once you get onto the road, you will follow it up and to the left as it ascends to the top of the ridge. If you’ve done this right the old road will enter an open area that would make a great campsite. This is a point where the road goes into a tight right turn around a ridge. The old road flattens out from here and starts to descend. From this point you are 0.15 from the Palmetto Trail. There is one intersection before reaching it. At this you want to bear to the right. The old road meets the Palmette Trail at 35.01425, -82.73889.

Make a left onto the Palmetto Trail and follow it to the junction with Alewine Road. There is a tree here marked with 4 red dots. Bear left and follow Alewine Road back to the trailhead.

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