I’m constantly on the search for a stimulating and fairly easy outdoor adventure to include my 7.5 year old stepson on. An adventure that will not only keep his attention for more than ten minutes, but will encourage his curiosity and excitement for experiencing life outdoors. Thankfully, I can see his curiosity growing, but I still have to find the perfect trips to nurture and help grow his excitement, rather than overwhelming him with a long trail and only trees to look at. This easy waterfall day trip is not only the perfect kid-friendly adventure to keep up with those short attention spans, but the perfect day trip for all levels and ages seeking adventure in the outdoors!
I’m incredibly drawn to the Upstate – the mountains, the waterfalls, anything having to do with a hard trail and an amazing view awaiting you at the top. Hence, my last post about the Foothills Trail, and this post is no exception! For this adventure, I have included a basic Google Maps image below to show where to start and how far away each waterfall is from the previous. If you type the name of each waterfall or location into Google Maps, you should have no problem finding each one.
As you can see from the map, I have included three primary waterfalls, but I also included a bonus one for a couple of reasons – (1) if you don’t have a child with you this is a great addition and (2) if you are craving a longer hike to add to the mix. The three main waterfalls are fairly short trails, which is why they are perfect for kids and any activity level. Now, let’s get to it so you can go explore!
This is the perfect waterfall to start your adventure! As you come up Hwy 28, you’ll find the entrance on the right hand side, and the first lot you come to will be a parking area for Stumphouse Tunnel. The first time I visited Issaqueena I didn’t take the time to explore this tunnel, but after a second trip with my husband and stepson, I quickly realized how unique and worthwhile this tunnel is. The walk through the tunnel isn’t incredibly long, but it does go back a good distance and definitely gets dark! My stepson loved this, so I would hands down recommend checking it out if you are bringing children on this adventure.
The parking area for Issaqueena is a little further ahead from the tunnel lot. We decided to drive in case visitors needed more space at the tunnel, but you can easily walk. The trail starts with a wooden walkway on the right hand side of the lot. When you get to the end of the walkway, you have a nice view of Isaaqueena from the top, but in order to get to the base of the falls, you need to walk around the overlook railing and descend a fairly steep hill. From the bottom, the sight before you is simply amazing!
If you’re feeling more adventurous, the hike can really go as far beyond the base of the falls as you’d like, which is what I spent more time doing the first time I came. But if your goal is to visit all these waterfalls in one day, I wouldn’t suggest spending too much time exploring down below.
However, what I would suggest – and I ONLY suggest this if there are NO children on this trip – is to hike back up to the parking lot and take the trail on the left hand side (if looking toward the waterfall). This small dirt path comes out behind Issaqueena at the very top. It’s an awesome sight, but you do need to proceed with caution. There is a ledge with a small drop you must cross, and there are slick areas behind the waterfall. PLEASE be careful if you decide to explore this area. We did not do this with my stepson, just to make that clear, but I did explore the area on my trip prior, and I can say it was worth seeing!
King Creek Falls
If I had to chose only one waterfall to visit out of this list, King Creek Falls would definitely be my choice. The waterfall itself is magnificent, and the hike out is an easy half mile. There was a little confusion finding the location, but if you Google search “Burrell’s Ford Campground” instead of King Creek Falls, it will take you to a parking lot followed by a long gravel road. All information I could find online was not consistent with the information provided on the sign posts at this location, which I why I want to make directions clear.
When you park, walk down the gravel road, and you will come to a wooden signpost. The trail will then veer off to the left and right. On the right hand side, you have Burrell’s Ford Campground; if you stay to the left, it will take to you to the trailhead for King Creek Falls. If you get confused before seeing signs for King Creek Falls, just stay to the left.
Soon after, you will come to a sign post marking both this trail and the Foothills Trail.
One of the nice things about King Creek Falls is that you can get close to the base like Issaqueena, and there are places to sit and relax. While we didn’t hang out for too long (7.5 year old boys don’t want to sit and relax very long), it was an amazing waterfall to see up close!
Upper Whitewater Falls
As you travel further up SC-107 to your last waterfall, you will turn off on SC-130 and pass Bad Creek Access on your right, immediately prior to crossing into North Carolina. Bad Creek is one of the access points for the Foothills Trail and Lower Whitewater Falls. This could easily be a longer day hike or even an overnight backpacking trip to the previously mentioned Burrell’s Ford Campground or Oconee State Park.
Right after you cross into North Carolina, you find an access area for Whitewater Falls on your right. Immediately, you can see this location is well taken care of, as the parking lot is nice, there is a volunteer host, and the walkway is paved. They do charge a small fee per person, but it’s only 1 or 2$.
Whitewater Falls is absolutely breathtaking, so I wouldn’t recommend skipping due to the small fee. The only thing I would have liked more at this location, was a way to get closer to the base, but the access trail to get lower was closed when we visited. When you reach the end of the short paved trail, you find a dirt path to the left with a warning sign and wooden stairs to the right that take you to the actual viewing area.
We assumed the path on the left lead to the top of the waterfall because we could see people on the other side. If you don’t have children with you and decide to do this, please be careful. When I left the Foothills Trail the first time, I hitched a ride with a guy who worked with the fire department in the area. He said the number one reason they get called out is search and rescue for people who try to climb waterfalls and/or fall from the top. It is incredibly slick and people don’t realize how dangerous it can be. So, I encourage you to explore this part of the trail if you feel compelled to, just please be careful!
Bonus: Yellow Branch Falls
This trail is a bonus because of its’ distance – at 1.5 miles one way, this 3 mile hike would honestly be too much for my stepson to handle. I believe he could do it if he wanted to, but if he didn’t, he would complain within half a mile of starting. If you have older children with you, it may not even be an issue, but I think it would primarily depend on the activity level of all hikers in your group.
I would recommend either doing this trail right after Issaqueena or immediately prior, as the first hike of the day. If you choose to hike this one first, you have the benefit of knowing the longest and, therefore, possibly hardest trail is out of the way in the beginning. Ultimately, you want to do this trail when you visit Issaqueena because it is located across the street. When you head up Hwy 28, you will find the Yellow Branch Falls Recreation Area on the left hand side of the road; conversely, if you choose to visit Issaqueena first, you will take a left out of the parking lot and find it immediately on your right. Once you enter the recreation area, continue along the road to the main parking lot; there, you will find the sign post for the trail on the left hand side.
This is a great walk through the woods, with several streams and rocks to cross over along the way. Depending on the recent rain activity when you visit, the waterfall may or may not be overflowing. Technically, this can apply to all of them, but I mention this with Yellow Branch because it was noticeably dry when I decided to hike out. It remains a beautiful waterfall regardless, but if you want to ensure you see it at its’ fullest, try to visit after a recent rain shower.
I hope everyone enjoyed this post and has motivated you to get out and enjoy the outdoors this summer. With all the summer rain we have received lately, this would be the perfect time to make a trip to the Upstate and have a unique experience and your family and friends. Let me know what you think below! Are there any waterfall hikes I should check out? I love to take suggestions for new adventures!