Beech Bottom Falls aka Pinnacle Falls
2-1-19 - There have been some changes at what most everyone knows as Pinnacle Falls near Sassafras Mountain in Pickens County. The biggest change is that the SC Department of Natural Resources decided to change the name to Beech Bottom Falls. There is also an new official trail that takes you to a small viewing platform with an obscured view of the waterfall. The picture above is not from the new overlook, but is from where the unofficial trail leads to on the opposite side of Abner Creek. More on that trail below. The new trail is just under a mile long and moderate in difficulty. It's very easy to follow, but sections of it are narrow and there are some steps that those of you out of shape might have to catch your breath on. For the most part, they did a nice job of laying the trail out.
Directions: From the intersection of SC178 and the F Van Clayton Memorial Hwy in Rocky Bottom, drive 1.5 miles up F Van Clayton Memorial Hwy and park in the wide gravel pull out on the left. This is the same road that goes up to Sassafras Mountain and there's a sign at the turn from 178 indicating that. You'll pass a kiosk on the left at the point where the Foothills Trail crosses the road, then pass a red gate, then arrive at the parking area. Just beyond the parking area is another red gate on the left and there's room for 1-2 vehicles to park without blocking the gate. You'll be hiking down this gravel road beyond the red gate, but if you park in the signed gravel pull out, you'll walk up the road to the red gate to begin the hike. You'll be fairly close to the new Headwaters State Forest in NC, so if you happen to be in that area, you can head south on Glady Fork Rd until it ends at F Van Clayton Memorial Hwy. Turn right, drive 1.7 miles and the waterfall parking will be on the right.
Begin the hike at the red gate. There's a smaller sign indicating Beech Bottom Falls is straight ahead. It about 1/4 mile, pass a cylindrical bat roost on the left. In another 0.1 miles, cross Abner Creek on a foot bridge, then bear left. In a very short distance, turn left at the sign pointing towards the waterfall and cross another bridge back to the other side of Abner Creek.
Beech Bottom Falls parking
1st bridge over Abner Creek
As soon as you cross the 2nd bridge, you may hear a small waterfall off to the right. There's no easy was down from this side, but you can go back across the bridge, turn left and walk down the road for a short distance for an easier way down. Back on the trail to Beech Bottom Falls, continue up the trail a short distance and bear right at the sign indicating that the waterfall is 1/2 mile ahead. The trail from here narrows quite a bit and there are some steep drop offs to the right. You can see more cascades along Abner Creek that look like they would be fun to explore in warmer weather if you are an off trail kind of person. When you get closer to the waterfall, look for a view of the top section of the falls off to the right. Just before the trail ends at the platform, there's a sign telling you to stay on the trail and the platform. It is very steep in this area and once you get down on the platform you can see the cliff areas they refer to on the sign. If you want to get down to creek level, don't do it from here - take the older trail. I'll keep directions to the waterfall using this trail up as long as the DNR doesn't close it off to the public. Below is the view of the falls from the platform.
Beech Bottom Falls
I first visited Pinnacle Falls back in January 2006 when my pal Bernie Boyer took me there. At the time, the only way we knew to go was through some private property off of SC178 near Rocky Bottom called Pinnacle Falls. I think this was going to be a housing development, but that never came about and the land below the waterfall is now Camp Hannon owned by Clemson University. At the time, the gate was open, there weren't any 'no trespassing' signs, so we went in and followed a trail up to the waterfalls. You can't do that any more without permission, but I later found out that the upper waterfall is actually on public property owned by the SCDNR and there was a legal way to come in from the current parking area. I had seen this on a couple of trip reports by Andy and Jack back in 2015, but didn't get around to checking it out until 2017 when Cindy and I hiked there with Steve Temple and Team Butterball. The hike is just over a mile and is on a combination of old logging roads and narrow trail. Some of that trail is a little steep and there's a big fallen tree you have to maneuver around, so I'll say it's moderate to difficult for the average hiker and not recommended for small children. The upper waterfall (pictured at the top of the page) is maybe 50' high if you include the small drop at the very top and the cascades below the main section of the falls. It's a very beautiful spot and I highly recommend going if you think you are up for it.
Back at the beginning of the hike at the red gate on the gravel road, hike to the 1st bridge, cross it and head towards the next bridge. Instead of turning left and crossing the creek again, continue on the road for less than 0.2 miles and cross the smaller Dogwood Creek. There's no bridge here and usually only a small log to keep your feet dry. As soon as you cross, the road begins heading up, but you need to take the old dirt road to the left that heads back towards Abner Creek. Follow it for 0.3 miles of easy hiking until it ends. Now look mostly straight ahead for a narrower foot path that begins descending down towards the sounds of the waterfall. The trail is in good shape for the most part with several switchbacks, but a very large tree has fallen across the path part way down and we had to scoot up the steep bank and around the root ball to get past this. Don't wear your Sunday-go-to-meeting hiking pants because you may have to butt slide back down the other side. Towards the end of this trail, someone had added steps and a hand rail at some point in time. I'm guessing this was before the DNR owned the property, but I don't know.
The first good view of the waterfall is from an observation point before the trail ends. The first picture below is the view from here. The trail then continues down a short distance and ends at a fairly flat rocky area. Depending on water levels, these rocks may be all wet and very slippery, so be careful! From here, if you look back and up on the opposite side of the creek, you'll see an older observation deck. This is where the trail coming up from the camp ends. There's also a lower waterfall that can be accessed from that trail, but no trail to it from the side of the creek you are now on. There are numerous other roads on this same DNR property and you are free to explore them. It's a wildlife management area, so be sure to wear blaze orange during South Carolina's various hunting seasons. Stay safe out there!
5-31-2010 from the deck across the creek
lower Pinnacle Falls 1-21-2006
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