Height – 25′
Distance – 4.6 Miles (loop)
Beauty – 8
Photo rating – 8
Solitude – 8
GPS Info: LAT 35.01828 LONG -82.85506
First Visit: 04-27-2020
Deception Falls is a 25 foot high waterfall in the Jocassee Gorges area, accessed off Horsepasture Road. It can be combined with an unnamed waterfall on a tributary of Laurel Creek and completed as a moderately strenuous loop hike with some off-trail segments. About 90% of this hike is on grassy logging roads but it is the other 10% that will cause problems for most. You will need to be able to navigate off-trail and negotiate some steep hillsides to get into and out of the Laurel Creek drainage at the falls. There is no way to come in right at the falls due to the cliffs so you will have to hit the creek and work your way back up to the falls. This hike is not for everyone but those that do go will see an amazing waterfall. Here are some sights on Horsepasture Road
Trailhead Directions: Take US178 from Rosman in the North or SC11 in the South. The intersection of US178 and Laurel Valley Road on the right approximately 2.5 miles south of the North Carolina state line. If coming from upstate South Carolina, you will make a left onto Laurel Valley Road eight miles north of the intersection of SC178 and SC11. As soon as you make the turn onto Laurel Valley Road you want to veer to the right and up the hill onto the gravel Horsepasture Rd. Like most of the gravel roads in the area, it is narrow and the drop 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. It will be filled with cars just like the open area on Laurel Valley Road.
Approximately 2.0 miles into the drive, there is a small roadside waterfall. This waterfall is on an unnamed creek but it is worth a look, especially with decent water. Remain on Horsepature Road, which in places is steep and bumpy. If you make this drive you will see what I mean. You will pass the trailhead for Virginia Hawkins Falls along the way to the parking area for this hike. It is 6.6 miles from US178. There is a pulloff on the right directly across from the gated Bill Morgan Road.
The Hike: Walk past the gate and begin down Bill Morgan Road. For a gated Road it is in excellent shape with almost no major blowdown. I hiked 4+ miles on three logging roads and did not have to climb over one fallen tree. Over the first 2.0 miles Bill Morgan Road is going to drop about 250 feet. At just around the 1.0 mile mark the road will go into a hard left-hand switchback. You need to start paying attention. At 1.2 miles from the TH an old road is going to cut back hard to the left. If you miss the old road you will end up on the summit of High Knob in about half a mile. To make life easier, the old road comes in around this point, 35.01687, -82.86022.
The terrain is going to get steep and in places the road is very hard to follow but all that matters is that you stay in the middle of the ridge spine. If you don’t know what that means this will not have a happy ending. When you have gone 0.4 of a mile (which is not easy to determine when plunging down a mountain) you will have to leave the trail and start the bushwhack. I scouted the trail and it does intersect the creek downstream but it adds a lot of extra creek-walking along the rhodo-encrusted banks. You will see a dry drainage on the left right around 35.01702, -82.85573. You don’t have to get into it since it is a collection point for clutter but stay close and use it to guide you to Laurel Creek.
This dry ditch will leave you downstream of the falls and the high cliffs that prevent you from descending close to the falls. Cross the creek, angle downstream until you can get up the bank and start up the middle of the ridge. You will pick up an old road in places but for the most part you are pushing through the forest. If you stay above the creek it is a lot more open. Stay higher up but keep an eye out for the falls on your left once you can hear it. When you see it through the trees, start angling down to avoid the cliff on this side. I came out very close to the short slide below the falls and set out exploring from there. It was a bright sunny day but the cliff shaded the falls into early afternoon on my visit.
To get out you can retrace the same route and cut the hike down to 3.4 miles total or you can complete the loop with adds an extra mile but it not as steep. I did the loop so from the base of the falls get back up the ridge and follow it downstream toward the point where you crossed. The woods are really open and as long as you parallel the creek you will come to an old road closer to the water. It had a lot of downfall across it but there is now a path through it. This short segment is the worst of the logging roads and when it comes to another small creek, the road you want will make a left and start up the hill with a hike vertical embankment on your left. It is a really neat feature and it will keep your mind off the lousy condition of this part of the road.
Keep following along the steep wall until the road opens up and turns to the right and climbs up the mountain. It is going to be open and easy from here with the exception of the elevation gain. After the hard right the road will straighten for a short time before it makes a hard left switchback. From the outside of this turn you can see the Waterfall on tributary of Laurel Creek. For something you happen to be walking past anyway, this is a really nice waterfall and worth the extra effort to see it. To get to it, follow the erosion channel on the outside of the turn and begin to angle upstream. You can see the falls so you shouldn’t need me to tell you how to get to it. I will say that the easiest way to get past the fallen tree is to go under it!
To continue the hike out, resume through the switchback heading up hill. The road will swing way to the right, switchback to the left, heading toward Laurel Creek again. It’s going to meander some before passing close enough to the creek that you can hear the falls down below. The climb will increase with a left-hand switchback followed one to the right. After this right hand bend, the road will parallel Laurel Creek for a while. The elevation will moderate after a 90 degree bend to the right. The road is close to the summit of the right and shortly after reaching the summit, the road will cross to the other side of the mountain.
This is about the best stretch of the hike with half a mile of flat logging road moving along the summit toward an intersection with Big Laurel Road. You do not want to miss this left hand turn onto Big Laurel Road or you are going to walk really far out of your way. The intersection is at 35.02562, -82.84919. Make this left and follow Big Laurel Road on a level and occasionally descending route to Horsepasture Road. If you look to your right when you reach Horsepasture Road, you will see a deep cut. Make a left and head up the hill. The pullout where you parked is 0.6 of a mile away.