Bearcamp Falls

 4-8-06 - Bearcamp Falls (aka Hilliard Falls) is way way back in the Jocassee Gorges area. It's on Bearcamp Creek, another creek that empties into Lake Jocassee. If you're hiking the section of the Foothills Trail (FT) between the Horsepasture and Thompson Rivers, there's a short spur trail that leads to the 60' falls. The name Hilliard Falls was given to the waterfall to honor the Foothills Trail Conference co-founder and first Chairman.

If my calculations are correct, the quickest route by foot starts at Bad Creek power station. It's 5-6 miles one way, but could be done in a day - 1/2 day if SCJack is leading the hike ;-)  Bad Creek is inside the South Carolina state line, not too far past the entrance for Whitewater Falls. It's a left turn and you are immediately greeted with a gate. Pull up to the gate and it will open automatically. Read the signs carefully before you go in. After entering Bad Creek property, continue down the road for a bit and look for the left turn for the parking for the Foothills Trail. The trail begins near the info boards. This is also the trail you would take to see Lower Whitewater Falls in SC. Follow this trail for 0.7 miles where it connects to the Foothills Trail at the Whitewater River. Head right on the FT, away from the Whitewater parking lot. In a very short distance, you'll cross the bridge over Corbin Creek. Corbin Creek Falls is up creek to the left.

I didn't go this way - more on that in a minute - but if you do, follow the FT for 2.7 miles where it crosses a footbridge over the Thompson River. The FT is marked with white blazes, so follow them carefully. Big Falls on the Thompson River is about a mile up from the bridge. There are more falls and cascades down river, but I haven't seen them yet. Continue on the FT for another 2.2 miles and look for the marked spur trail that leads less than 1/4 mile to the base of the falls. The shot above was taken in a period of low water flow and the water was clinging to the rock as it spilled. A very large tree has fallen in the nice pool at the base. It'll be a few years before that is gone unless somebody helps the process.

Now for an alternative route. During the month of April and again in the fall, Musterground Rd is open to vehicle traffic (hunting season). This is another Bernie Special - thanks again, friend! Take the same entrance to Bad Creek and head to the same parking area. Musterground Rd bears to the right - it's a green gate and there's a rules and regs sign. If you plan to take this gravel road all the way in, you'll need a 4x4 with some decent pull and clearance. The road starts out flat and we had early spring views of the Whitewater finger of Lake Jocassee. At 0.6 miles in, the road crosses the Whitewater River and you can see the top of Lower Whitewater Falls. You cannot park along this road for the first 2.7 miles. At this point, the road bears left and there is a trail off to the right. The road picks up the Thompson River near the point where it empties into the lake and gains elevation before crossing the river at 5.2 miles in. It's in this area where the road gets rough. After crossing the bridge, the road heads very steeply up. You'll never make up it in a 2 wheel drive vehicle and won't make it over the bridge in a low clearance vehicle - period. After crossing the river, continue on the road for another mile and park at the red gate without blocking it.

The hike to the falls begins at the gate - continue up that spur for 10 minutes and connect to the Foothills Trail. Take a right and follow the FT white blazes for 1.6 miles to the previously mentioned spur trail on the left to Bearcamp Falls.


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