We hiked with Upstate Hiking on Sunday and went first to High Falls and then to Big Falls on the Thompson River. The trail to these two waterfalls is not really an official trail and is not regularly maintained. It can be somewhat overgrown with downed trees here and there. About 2 years ago, some very nice person appears to have cleared it to make navigating to the falls easier.
The hike starts a couple miles north of Upper Whitewater Falls. It winds its way through the woods and across one very large river crossing and a rock hop on another stream. The trail to High Falls is prior to the wade across the large water crossing. It has now become an obvious right turn off the trail. The trip down to High Falls is not difficult. When we got there though the water was very high. What was a rock hop last time turned into a wade. One of the other hikers and I decided to take off our shoes and cross over to the other side to get a good picture of High Falls. It was a beautiful day with blue skies everywhere.
The rest of the group decided to go up the trail by High Falls a little more to see if they could get a little better view but no luck. The faint social trail turned back into the main trail. After drying our feet and putting our hiking shoes back on, my intrepid fellow hiker and I followed them up and met them by the marker for the trail.
We made our way back to the main trail and continued towards our first water crossing. The water was much higher and faster flowing than the last time we were here but we decided to cross anyway. At this point, a few of our fellow hikers decided they did not want to go on and turned back to the car for a trip to the Pickens Azalea Festival (or so I’m told). We had to pass through Pickens on our way up and the main street was crowded with festival goers.
We all safely crossed the stream and continued on. The trail here is very moderate until you get to the turn to Big Falls so the only thing really problematic was the deadfall and the occasional branch. Several of our hikers had a run in with a stray branch or two. Glad there were only some minor injuries on this trip.
We came to a place where the trail branched off to the left and we followed it on. There are several camp sites on this trail. I am not sure about the camping rules here but there is plenty of water and it would be quite pleasant to camp by the river. As we walked, we could hear the roar of the water below us. We came to what appeared to be another turn which ended up being a little confusing. I had brought my Kevin Adams North Carolina waterfall book and sat down in the trail to have a little read. Great book! After reading a few lines, I realized we had gone the correct way so we continued over the little water crossing (which I would later fall into on the way back). In not too long a period of time, we started looking for the trail down to the falls. I went on ahead while the others waited to scout for the waterfall and within a short period of time had found it.
Once we had all gathered, I asked them to leave some space between hikers and to take care as the trail down was very steep. In fact, it was much steeper than I remembered it and I was grateful that some other considerate hikers had roped it off. Some of us gingerly made our way down the trail while others took off like a shot to the bottom. At the very bottom of the trail is a rock drop which requires a hand up on the way out (for shorter people like me). Some of our group went off to sit by the river to have lunch but a few of us went to look for the falls.
What lay before us was one of the wilder and more remote waterfalls the area has to offer. The water was in full force on Sunday and where we had once sat and/or crossed the river to the other side was filled with rushing water. Not one picture can really do it justice as to the right of the main fall is a massive rock that follows the river down for a little ways. The wind was whipping through the gorge blowing spray into our faces and hair. It was a beautiful and awe inspiring sight!
Unfortunately we did have to leave and it will probably be a long time before we get back here. I was sorry to go and wished we had more time. It is hard to imagine a more beautiful and rugged place. We climbed out of the gorge the way we came using the ropes to pull ourselves up and back on to the main trail. The group made the return trip to our cars for the ride back to Greenville and a dinner at a local Thai restaurant. We were dirty and a little wet, scratches and all, but it was a great end to a great day!