Mountain Bridge Wilderness Hike #2

Lengthening shadows on the Frank Coggins Trail – November 2018

Waterfalls on this hike:

361 – Rockcliff Falls

362 – Firewater Falls

363 – Cliff Falls

Named Trails used:

Frank Coggins Trail – Purple Blaze

Natureland Trust Trail – Pink Blaze

The Hike Gallery

Starting at the popular Caesars Head Visitor Center, my Mountain Bridge Wilderness Hike #2 is a 3 mile trek that is part out and back and part loop. The elevation change is not too bad considering it starts at Caesars head and the trails are easy to follow and well marked. Even if you were to get lost, all you would need to do is follow the people ahead of you or ask the people right behind you. It’s that kind of hike or at least it was on our early November trip.

The hike begins on the Purple Blazed Frank Coggins Trail which is directly across from the Caesers Head Visitor Center. There is a map at the trailhead that shows all of the trails  in the area but not the locations of the waterfalls. To get to the parking area from Greenville, take US276 North. Along the way it will join up with SC11 before passing the parking area for Wildcat Wayside. Shortly after Wildcast Waydside, SC11 and US276 split. Make the right onto US276 toward Caesers Head. At 3.7 miles you will pass Asbury HIlls, the trailhead for my Mountain Bridge Wilderness Hike #1. The next major attraction on the route is Bald Rock, which is a large open area of exposed bedrock that has been covered in colorful graffiti. Keep heading uphill. The Caesars Head Visitor Center parking area is several miles past Bald Rock. You can’t miss it. Coming from Brevard, on US276 South the Visitor’s Center is not far past the trailhead for Raven Cliff Falls.

After paying your hiking fee ($2 a head), cross US276 and take the gravel road on the left. The one on the right is a private drive. Fill out a registration card at the kiosk before hiking the trails and be aware of what time you need to be off the trails. The logging grade is blazed purple as it enters the woods on a level course. The actual “trail” is about a quarter of a mile from US276. Just after the logging road splits, stay to the left. There is a sign here indicating the trail. The upper section of the trail is going to descend to a T in about 0.25 of a mile. The blue-blazed Coldspring Connector Trail goes to the right. Make a left to stay on the purple blazed trail. The grade will continue down, albeit modestly until the trail reaches a creek. The loop section of the trail begins here.

We made a right and crossed the creek on a log bridge. Once across the trail ascends from the creek and bends to the left. After passing a lengthy soggy area it comes to another creek crossing. After passing over this low flow branch, the trail splits. There is a sign here indicating the way to the parking area (it is pointing down the trail you just walked). We made a right onto the pink Natureland Trust Trail. Follow the pink-blazed trail uphill to a crossing of US276. The trail resumes on the other side, passing through a boulder garden before paralleling US276 for a time. The trail crosses the end of a private drive before veering away from the woods toward Rockcliff Falls. The final section of the hike is around 0.25 of a mile and the falls is right next to the trail.

The 20 foot high falls slides down a steep rock face that it has carved a deep channel in while an imposing cliff hovers over river right. The sun was already behind the cliff by the time we arrived, leaving the leaf-covered Rockcliff Falls in shadow.

To continue on the hike, reverse course and follow the Natureland Trust Trail back to US276 and cross the highway. Resume on the pink-blazed trail until it reaches the creek where it split from the Frank Coggins Trail. Make a right to continue around the purple loop. The shorter way back to the parking area is to make a left but the other waterfalls are to the right. Reaching Firewater Falls requires a hike of 0.2 miles from this point. As the trail nears the falls it bends to the right and descends next to the falls and passed in front of it. Firewater Falls is not overly impressive and the fact it’s trailside doesn’t help. By some miracle we managed to get here without anyone around, which was the case at all three falls. I’m not sure how since we were tripping over people left and right.

It’s about 0.3 of a mile from Firewater Falls to Cliff Falls. The 40 foot high Cliff Falls is definitely the highlight of the hike. Getting to the base is about the hardest part of the hike but there is an obvious trail that is steep in places. As the Frank Coggins Trail comes to the creek a footbridge takes it across at the top of the falls. Before crossing yellow-blazed Rim of the Gap Trail heads to the right. To get to the bade follow this trail away from the bridge to a side path on the left. It is very obvious where people are heading down. The upper section is steep but passable. The trail leaves you at the base of the falls on river right. There is some clutter at the base and the damn bridge is visible is you take a picture from here. I found a spot about ten feet back up the scramble path where I was able to shoot the falls in profile without the bridge and clutter.

After climbing back up, cross the bridge and resume hiking the Frank Coggins Trail as it keeps bending go the left. Eventually it will come back to the log bridge where the trail split initially. Stay to the right. Now that you’re done the loop, this final section of the trail will climb back to the meeting with the the blue-blazed Coldspring Connector Trail. Stay to the left and continue back to the kiosk at the side of US276. The total hike going this way was 3.0 miles with a tolerable amount of elevation. If you’re short on time you can omit Rockcliff Falls since it’s not part of the loop but I think it’s worth the added effort.




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