Update 12-17-17 Cindy and I hiked the Winding Stairs Trail from Cheohee Rd to Miuka Falls and I have more info on accessing Secret Falls on that page. I intend to leave what I wrote in 2004 up since it's what's in the search engines for Secret Falls. Others have also been in exploring this section of Crane Creek and you should be able to find even more with a simple search. Good luck and stay safe!
July 4, 2004 This story actually begins at a local festival where I was selling prints over the July 4th '04 holiday. Local waterfall guru, Bernie, came wandering up with some folded paper in his hand and I knew right away he had another adventure for me. On these pages were topos and photos from a bushwhack he and John had done on Crane Creek just over the border in SC near Miuka Falls. I was heading up to Harry's the next day and since we didn't have any set plans, that area became top priority.
To get to the area from Lake Toxaway, head down 281 south just over the border into South Carolina. Take the 1st right on that road that leads over to Hwy 107, then take a left on 107. Sorry I don't have a milage, but drive a few miles and look for the Cherry Hill Recreation area on the left - it's very obvious. Park just past the entrance on the left in the parking area for the Winding Stairs Trail. The trail head is near the road. Follow this trail to an intersection and hang a right. Turning left will head back into the recreation area. We followed the trail for an hour, passing Miuka Falls on the left and passing through the series of switchbacks that the trail gets it's name from. The trail heads south after the switchbacks and comes to a point to where we could hear the falling water of Crane Creek on our right. There's an obvious side trail that heads towards the creek, but becomes less obvious as it descends towards the creek.
We ended up at a small cascade that wasn't even worth taking a picture of, and began bushwhacking up the creek on the right side. The first falls we came upon was the 60' Secret Falls - listed in some books and on sctrails.net. It's a lot more impressive than the photos I had seen. The falls is wider at the top and narrows into a chute, bordered by a rock wall on one side and a steep bank on the other. Here are 3 shots -
From here we headed up the steep bank on the right and continued up creek. Crane Creek is basically one long slide in this area, interrupted by some nice waterfalls. We stayed far enough up in the woods to catch a glimpse of the creek and to avoid some of the thicker brush. About 15 minutes later, we heard a falls and descended towards the creek. We could see it through the trees and crossed the creek below the falls to approach from the left side. This next one is a beauty! It's maybe 35' high and I had to use a wide angle lens to get it all it. It's a very close viewing area. I'm calling it Crane Creek Falls for lack of a better name. It's not listed anywhere that I have found.
Since we were having pretty good luck on the right side of the creek, we headed back over there and continued up. Not too far up, we came upon the next falls! On the way down to the base I managed to stir up a yellow jacket nest and got stung a couple of times, so I'm calling this one Yellow Jacket Falls. It doesn't have an official name that I know of, but Twin Falls would also be appropriate. The falls is maybe 30-40' high, but spread out in a long cascade with 2 separate water flows. I needed the wide angle lens again and still couldn't get the entire falls in from the base area. Here are a couple of shots.
We were running out of time at this point, so we decided to save further exploration for another day. Bernie and John had seen a few other falls on the creek also. We knew the trail was off to our right somewhere, so we set off through the woods. If you look at a topo of the area you'll see a steep drop off down to the trail. We followed the ridge line up, just to the left of the drop off. As it curved to the right, the slope became less severe and we eased on down to the east and finally ran into the trail, well above the switchbacks. It was another great adventure - thanks Bernie!!
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