There is nothing quite like getting out there on a beautiful afternoon and hiking a peaceful forested trail. Temporarily breaking free from technology, getting in a healthy workout, breathing fresh country air, and enjoying the sights and sounds of the wilderness makes hiking the perfect rejuvenating weekend activity. What’s even better, is being treated to a gorgeous waterfall after working up a sweat.
While North Carolina is is known as the waterfall capital of the South, the Upstate South Carolina region offers no shortage of spectacular waterfalls itself. Fortunately, many of these are accessible via little to no effort. Below are 10 of the most incredible waterfalls to put on your South Carolina bucket list. If you are staying in Greenville, all of these are conveniently within an hour and a half drive (at most).
1. Wildcat Branch Falls
- Location: 5500 Geer Hwy, Cleveland, SC 29635
- Distance from Greenville: 40 min
- Hike required?: No
- Highlight: Located right off the highway, no hike required!
- What to do nearby: Check out Campbell’s Covered Bridge, the last remaining covered bridge in the state.
Wildcat is the most easily accessible of the waterfalls on this list. It’s not the tallest, however, the easy viewability and proximity to Greenville make it one of the best contenders for anyone vacationing in the vicinity. What this waterfall lacks in height, it makes up for in volume. This is one gorgeous voluminous waterfall despite the relatively short height of just 30 feet.
Anyone seeking a longer day out in nature may want to consider embarking on the hike to the Upper Falls. This trek starts right from the parking lot and involves a leisurely 1 mile stroll through the woods. While the main waterfall receives much traffic, the Upper Falls trail remains pretty isolated, making this a great place to get back to nature.
2. Reedy River Falls
- Location: 601 S Main St Greenville, SC 29601
- Hike required?: No
- Highlight: Located in beautiful Falls Park in the center of downtown Greenville
- What to do nearby: Take a stroll around downtown Greenville, lined with unique restaurants and boutique shops
Reedy River Falls in Falls Park is the centerpiece of downtown Greenville, an up-and-coming town which is seeing a huge tourism boom these days. Thousands and thousands of visitors flock to the downtown each year to stroll around the quaint trails of Falls Park, a beautiful urban oasis which has won numerous awards. The picture-perfect park continues to entice many to relocate to the region. In 2014, Falls Park joined the likes of Central Park and Garden of the Gods, amongst others, as one of the top 10 US parks.
The highlight here is the powerful Reedy River Falls. Take a walk along award winning Liberty Bridge, designed by Boston architect Miquel Rosales, for a prime view of this powerful waterfall. Next, take a stroll along Falls Park, once home to numerous textile mills, but now a tranquil garden oasis. The trails here are lush with gardens and smaller waterfalls. Picturesque scenery can be enjoyed as the seasons change. Whether it be summertime flowers, fall foliage, lively leafy green trees, or a light dusting of snow, this park brings forth beauty and serenity no matter the season.
3. Raven Cliff Falls
- Location: 8155 Geer Hwy, Cleveland, SC 29635
- Distance from Greenville: 50 min
- Hike required?: Yes (2.2 miles out-and-back, moderate-hard)
- Highlight: Tallest waterfall in the state
- What to do nearby: Enjoy a beautiful overlook of the mountains at Bald Rock Heritage Preserve.
- More info on Caesar’s Head State Park
Caesars Head is not only the best state park in the region, but also home to one of the most visually spectacular waterfalls. A 2.2 mile semi challenging hike will lead you to a nice overlook looking out unto this 400 foot wonder. Due to the uphill nature, this trail is better suited for regular hikers. Although the viewpoint is a bit further out in the distance than the others on this list, the gorgeous leafy background gives it an edge over the others, especially during the colorful fall season.
The drive over from either Greenville or Asheville is quite beautiful in and of itself. This is definitely one to plan during the peak of autumn. Yes, it can get quite crowded. Nonetheless, it’s worth the hassle to enjoy some of the best leaf peeping in the Upstate.
4. Jones Gap Falls
- Location: 303 Jones Gap Rd, Marietta, SC 29661
- Distance from Greenville: 45 min
- Hike required?: Yes (1.5 miles out-and-back, relatively easy)
- Highlight: Secluded location
- What to do nearby: Check out Poinsett Bridge, the oldest bridge in South Carolina (also said to be the oldest in the Southeast).
Jones Gap combines with Caesar’s head in a gigantic 11,000 acre interrupted forested area known as the Mountain Bridge Wilderness. There are a number of quiet nature trails here which do not see nearly as much traffic as adjacent Caesars Head. So, if you are looking more to disconnect and enjoy nature in a more isolated setting rather than deal with crowds, Jones Gap is the better choice here.
The must-do hike here is the namesake Jones Gap trail. Surprisingly, it gets passed up in favor of the more arduous Rainbow Falls trail, which in all honesty does not offer much more considering the immense effort you must put forth to reach the waterfall. The casual stroll to Jones Gap falls is peaceful with great views of the diverse plant life and flowing creeks along the route. The ending view of a 50 foot waterfall cascading peacefully down a stone staircase, is a real treasure. And, because of the lack of crowds, it’s so much easier here to actual enjoy the waterfall and take lots of pictures.
5. Station Cove Falls
- Location: Oconee Station Rd, Walhalla, SC 29691
- Distance from Greenville: 1 hour
- Hike required?: Yes (0.5 miles out-and-back, easy)
- Highlight: Peaceful during the off-season
- What to do nearby: Check out Issaqueena Falls, a beautiful waterfall accessible via a simple 5 min walk. Also Stumphouse Tunnel, an abandoned tunnel for the Blue Ridge Railroad (bring a flashlight).
Station Cove is a beautiful 50 foot tall multi stepped waterfall located in rustic Oconee County. Oconee recently made the list of the “50 last greatest places on Earth” by National Geographic. As this section of the Upstate is home to one of the greatest concentration of waterfalls in the state, plus plenty of beautiful state parks and lakes, this is a pretty fair assessment.
A short relatively easy 1/2 mile trail leads you to this wonderful waterfall. It’s never overly crowded, although parking can still be a hassle due to the limited lot. This is one of the few waterfalls which is actually more stunning in winter. The isolated nature of the forest combined with the absence of foliage blocking the view makes up for the brisk temps and barren trees.
6. Twin Falls
- Location: Water Falls Rd, Sunset, SC 29685
- Distance from Greenville: 1 hour
- Hike required?: Yes (about a 1/4 of mile to an observing deck, easy)
- Highlight: 2 waterfalls via 1 hike
- What to do nearby: Take a cruise on Lake Jocassee
Twin Falls, aka Eastahoe Falls, is the most unique of the bunch as you will get to see 2 adjacent waterfalls via 1 really simple hike. Hiking to the waterfall will take you no longer than 15 minutes. With the tranquil forest setting, this is one hike where you wouldn’t’ really mind if it did go on just a bit longer.
The double set of falls is a sight to behold. The larger of the 2 falls plunges down about 75 feet. The drive to the falls from Greenville is quite long, yet so worth it to see this natural wonder. Fortunately, the drive is rustic and quiet, making the drive an activity in and of itself. This helps to justify driving out so far for a short hike. Like Station Cove, this falls is still quite visually stunning in the winter and completely dead, so this is the perfect time to visit if you prefer to avoid tourist traffic!
7. King Creek Falls
- Location: Burrells Ford Rd, Mountain Rest, SC 29664
- Distance from Greenville: 1.5 hours
- Hiking required?: Yes (0.7 miles out-and-back, moderate)
- Highlight: Located in close proximity to 2 other spectacular falls
- What to do nearby: Spoonauger and Pigpen Falls
Kings Creek is a stunning under visited waterfall which ranks right up there with the best-of-the-best. Considering the hike is fairly moderate, the payoff is huge. As one of the state’s most scenic waterfalls, King’s Creek is a worthy addition to any waterfall/nature lover’s bucket list.
Hiking to this 70 foot cascading beauty consists of a moderately challenging 1/2 mile trek. The forest is dense with trees and very shady, and thus, this one is perfect even during the hot summer season. The journey is a bit of a scramble due to several downed trees, and numerous points where you have to climb over rocks, yet worth it in the end. While big crowds tend to congregate near most waterfalls, Kings Creeks remains relatively isolated. Thus, you can take your time and unwind here for a bit, cool off your feet in the water, and enjoy the uninterrupted view before hiking the return journey.
8. Yellow Branch Falls
- Location: 2907-3023 Hwy 28 S, Walhalla, SC 29691
- Distance from Greenville: 1.5 hours
- Hiking required?: Yes (1.3 miles out-and-back, moderate)
- Highlight: Quiet shady setting
- What to do nearby: Check out Stumphouse Mountain tunnel, an abandoned incomplete mid 1800’s railroad tunnel which is said to be haunted. Bring a flashlight!
Yellow Branch is another beauty in Oconee County. If you are really short on time, you can easily combine a few of these nearby waterfalls into one single visit. That is, if you are up for a bit of hiking! Right after a major storm is the best time to plan your visit out to Yellow Branch. Unfortunately, the flow can be no more than a trickle if you visit after a dry spell. July, August, and December are typically the rainiest months.
However, if you do time your visit just perfectly, you will get to enjoy quite possibly the most magnificent of all the Upstate waterfalls. While the falls only reach a height of 50 feet, the numerous cascades really create a postcard worthy natural setting.
9. Miuka Falls
- Location: SC-107, Walhalla, SC 29691 (look for a small lot down the road from the Cherry Hill Recreation Area).
- Distance from Greenville: 1 hour, 20 min
- Hiking required: Yes (1 mile out-and-back, moderate)
- Highlight: Totally secluded
- What to do nearby: South Carolina Botanical Garden
This waterfall is best suited for those who prefer off-the-beaten path adventures. While the hike is not overly challenging, the scrambling down to the waterfall entails a bit of maneuvering and climbing up and down a steep hill. It can be slightly challenging for anyone not used to an unmaintained trail and requires a bit of balance. A good hiking stick and shoes with plenty of traction comes in handy on this one.
Miuka Falls is located about 1 mile into the Winding Stairs trail. The falls is a bit hidden and quite hard to find. I guess this is part of the fun if you are up for a bit of adventure. Just save this one for the cooler season! After coming across an obscured observation point, you can choose to scramble down to the base of the waterfall. A bit of a hassle, but worth it for a view of this 75 foot beauty. The way back is quite steep, so keep this in mind and bring plenty of water.
10. Spoonauger Falls
- Location: Burrells Ford Rd Mountain Rest, SC (Drive about a half mile past the Burrells Ford campground and look for a trailhead sign for Chattooga River trail).
- Distance from Greenville: 1 hour, 30 min
- Hiking required: Yes (about 1/2 mile, 15 min)
- Highlight: Extremely peaceful and woodsy
- What to do nearby: King’s Creek Falls (just a 1/2 mile down the rd)
Spoonauger Falls is one of the prettiest waterfalls to see in the Upstate. Unfortunately, seeing this beauty comes at a price. First off, the trail is hard to find and you need to navigate a rough road to get to the trailhead. Be on the lookout for the Chattooga River trail, which is located about a half mile down from the Burrells Ford campground. Second, the hike is very short, and thus, not a great bang-for-your-buck experience considering the long drive to get here.
Nonetheless, it is a gorgeous waterfall which is worthing making the time for if you plan on being in the area for more than a few days. The forest is so serene and never overly crowded. To make your trip more worthwhile, combine this short hike with the slightly longer trek to King’s Creek, another beauty located just down the road.