Accessing the waterfalls on the lower end of Bearwallow Creek requires very long and difficult hikes. Most of the difficulty will be the length of the hike and change in elevation, but there is also some bushwhacking, and creek walking involved. Only the most experienced off trail hikers should attempt to see some of these waterfalls. If there has been a lot of rain in the area lately, don't even attempt the hike in from the Frozen Creek access. You have to cross through the Toxaway River and you won't make it alive if the river level is up too far. If you have the Bill Thomas guide you will see a series of old roads and trails leading down Indian Camp Branch, then down Bearwallow Creek. The upper end of the old road is private property before it enters park property and I haven't been in this way. The legal way is to park at the Frozen Creek access area of Gorges State Park and hike down the Auger Hole Trail (Auger Hole Rd). This road is closed to vehicles, but open to foot, mountain bike, and horse traffic. Hike about 3.5 miles to the Toxaway River passing the accesses to Double Drop Falls, Auger Fork Falls, Maple Spring Branch Falls, Chub Line Falls, Step Around Falls, and Wintergreen Falls. There is no bridge at the river and you will have to wade across. If the river level is up, you won't be able to cross because the current will be too strong. Use common sense!
If your destination is the beautiful 30' Lower Bearwallow Falls, cross the river and continue on the Auger Hole Trail (road). In about 1/2 a mile and if you are paying attention, you'll notice the land on the left has come up to road level to form a ridge line. There's a faint but obvious trail here that leads down the ridge line. Take this trail for about 100 yards and look for another trail on the left. This trail leads down the steep bank to the base of the waterfall. It's about 0.1 miles down and a 200' drop in elevation, but there are small trees, shrubs and roots to hold on to most of the way down. If you miss this trail and go too far down the ridge line you'll end up near the top of the falls where you don't want to be. There are rare plants in the area so please tread lightly if you go. Remember, if you get hurt down here, you are in serious trouble. Cell phones don't work down here and it's 4 miles back uphill to the parking area. The park has pictures of this waterfall in several places, but may never construct an official trail to the falls from Auger Hole Rd. I've been to this waterfall several times over the past few years beginning in 2001.
On my main Gorges State Park page, I talk about taking Chestnut Mountain Rd to Turkeypen Gap. This is a much shorter and easier hike to Lower Bearwallow Falls (1.5 miles one way), but you need to have a high clearance 4x4 with a lot of pull to get down - and more importantly, up that road. Once you get to Turkeypen Gap, you'll be hiking Auger Hole Rd to the left. Park at Turkeypen Gap without blocking any of the gates or roads. Auger Hole Rd to the left is considered the Auger Hole Trail. Hike this road for 1 mile and come to Bearwallow Creek. The creek is fairly wide and you'll be getting your feet wet except maybe in the driest of times. If you want to see the waterfalls I mention at the bottom of this page, this is where you would begin. There's no trail - it's all bushwhacking and creek walking up creek from the road. Back to Lower Bearwallow Falls, cross through the creek and continue another 1/4 mile until you see a trail sign for Lime Kiln on the right. (A short distance before that on the left is an old road heading up - I'll talk about that below.) Don't take the Lime Kiln Trail, but stay on Auger Hole Trail for another 0.15 miles and look for the trail down the ridge line I mention above on the right side of the road.
In the next series of images taken over the span of several years, you can see how a tree fell across the top of the waterfall, then down into the waterfall, and finally shots from my most recent visit in June 2018.
May 2, 2003
September 4, 2004
November 10, 2007
June 24, 2018
June 24, 2018
These pictures also show how a waterfall's character can change with varying water levels. Please do not climb on the rocks around this waterfall! There are rare plants that live in the spray zone! The pool is deep enough to swim in and feels great on a hot summer day - especially if you hiked in from the Frozen Creek entrance. Below is some video from my most recent visit to this waterfall in June 2018. Our group also headed up Bearwallow Creek from Auger Hole Rd to Bluff Falls and the video includes some of that also.
Back out on Auger Hole Trail (if you came in from Frozen Creek), if you continue past the side trail down the ridge line to the falls, Auger Hole Trail crosses Bearwallow Creek in a little over 1/4 mile. Before the creek is a gated old road on the right that runs up parallel to the creek, but well above it in elevation. If you came in from Turkeypen Gap, you passed this road before the side trail to Lower Bearwallow. If you were to take this road for 1-1.5 miles and knew where to descend to the creek, you could end up at Indian Camp Branch Falls. There's no marker, so you would need the Bill Thomas guide book, map and compass skills, and/or the ability to be able to program points into a GPS. The descent down to the creek is about 400' in elevation and is very steep!
The other option is to continue on the Auger Hole Trail (road) to Bearwallow Creek and bushwhack up the creek. The advantage to this is that there are other waterfalls and cascades along the way. The disadvantages are that it's very difficult, you'll have to wade in the creek, climb waterfalls, bushwhack through thick rhododendron, and it's 3 miles out and back. And then you have the 4 mile hike back out and up Auger Hole Trail to the parking area. Also, if you get hurt back in here and can't get back to the road, you will probably die. So you might just have to settle on looking at these pictures. I've been on this section of the creek 3 times now. The first time we did hike all the way in and out from Frozen Creek, but only bushwhacked up the creek a short distance. The second time we were able to drive in during the time 4x4 vehicles were allowed on Auger Hole Rd. So we drove in and parked near Bearwallow Creek, bushwhacked up the creek to Indian Camp Branch Falls, then climbed the steep bank up to the old road, then hiked the road back down to the vehicle. The last time was in 2018 when I took my truck down Chestnut Mountain Rd and parked at Turkeypen Gap. We did Lower Bearwallow Falls, then bushwhacked Bearwallow Creek up to Bluff Falls. We didn't have the time or energy to continue to Indian Camp Branch Falls, so we bushwhacked up the steep hill until we hit the old road, then took it back down to Auger Hole Rd. The following pictures are a combination of both trips and begin at the Auger Hole Trail and head up creek. I've labeled the waterfalls that have names.
Bear Canyon Falls
Bear Canyon Falls
Indian Camp Branch Falls
back to Gorges State Park main page
places to go/links/videos/index/wildflowers/email