Laurel Fork Falls is really easy to get to - if you have a boat! Otherwise, it's an 8 mile (1 way) hike from Hwy 178 in SC via the Foothills Trail, or an 8 mile hike from the Frozen Creek parking area of Gorges State Park in NC, down Cane Brake Trail which connects to the Foothills Trail on the west side of the falls.
Harry's bud Tommy offered to take us in his boat, so we jumped at the opportunity. We met him at Devil's Fork State Park boat access (off Hwy 11) on Lake Jocassee Saturday morning and headed off to the Laurel Fork Creek finger of the lake. If you plan on doing this and have never been, you'll need to find a map of the lake. I didn't time it, but I'm guessing it only took us 10-15 minutes to get there. Once in the cove, we had a great view of a portion of the falls. He eased back to the right of the big rock for this view of the falls spilling into the lake.
There's a drop off point on the left side of the falls for access to the Foothills Trail, and that's where Tommy left us. The plan was to camp at the top of the falls and he would come back for us Sunday afternoon. There's a designated camping area about 0.5 miles from the lake. The spur trail heads up to meet the Foothills Trail, then head to the right to the camping area. There's a viewing area for the upper section of the falls along this section of the trail, but the view isn't that good. The trail to the camp sites is marked and off to the right over a bridge. There are 3 good sized sites - 2 are right next to Laurel Fork Creek at the top of the falls. Next is a shot of the top just as the sun was going down.
When we got there on Saturday, we set up camp then headed west on the Foothills Trail to check it out. When we crossed Jackies Branch, we decided to bushwhack up creek to see what we could find. We came across several nice small falls and cascades, but nothing major. Back on the trail, we continued west, worked up a good sweat, then decided to head back and look for a way to get down for a better view of Laurel Fork Falls. Just west of the overlook on the Foothills Trail is a faint trail that heads down a steep slope and comes out on the rock area above the lake with the view in the 1st shot on this page. Here's another angle.
If you come by boat, you can anchor near the rock, swim over and climb up from the lake. Several boats came by in the couple of hours we were there and people were climbing up and jumping the 12-15' height into the lake. The following morning, we headed down a really steep 'trail' to the base of the upper section of the falls. This trail leads from the camp sites, follows the ridge at first, but then heads straight down utilizing roots for hand and foot holds. This section is 30-40' in height. The creek then levels out for a short distance before making the final plunge.
After that, we headed east on the Foothills Trail for a while, then came back, packed up and headed back down to the lake access to meet Tommy. What a great week end - just another reason among the many that I moved to the mountains.
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