Virginia Hawkins Falls - aka Double Falls
2-18-17 - Sad news for anyone wishing to photograph Virginia Hawkins Falls. Some time in 2016, several medium to large trees fell across the middle and lower sections of the waterfall. I finally made it down there in February 2017 to see for myself and the next picture below is what I found. The picture above is from my first visit to the waterfall in 2006. If you still plan to go, the hike is easy to moderate and is about a 3 mile round trip. The waterfall is located in the Laurel Fork Heritage Preserve right off the Foothills Trail in the Jocassee Gorges area of Pickens County off of US178. The waterfall was known as Double Falls until late 2004 when the Foothills Trail Conference named the falls for Virginia Hawkins, long time executive secretary of the FTC.
Virginia Hawkins Falls 2-18-17
Directions - If you are coming from the NC side, take US178 south from Hwy 64 in Rosman to the South Carolina state line. From there, drive a little under 2.5 miles and just before the bridge, turn to the right on to the gravel Horsepasture Rd (the upper road when you make the turn). If you are coming from south, the left hand turn on to Horsepasture Rd is about 8 miles north of Hwy 11 off of Hwy 178 just after you cross the bridge. The parking area is about 3.5 miles up Horsepasture Rd at Laurel Gap.
The first part of Horsepasture Rd can be a little rough on a passenger vehicle and I recommend that you have high clearance. All wheel drive or 4x4 is also recommended. It's a forest service road, narrow in places, and you should drive slowly in case you meet a vehicle coming from the opposite direction. After a short distance on Horsepasture Rd, you will pass a parking area on the left for access to the Foothills Trail. If you want to make the hike to the waterfall a 10 mile round trip hike, park here and follow the Foothills Trail west for 4.7 miles. I haven't done it, so I can't comment on the difficulty, but I'm sure you'll see some nice scenery along the way. If you want the hike to be a 3 mile round trip, continue driving on Horsepasture Rd to Laurel Gap, passing Eastatoe Creek Heritage Preserve which has a very nice hike to The Narrows. You'll know you've reached Laurel Gap when the road forks, 3.6 miles from US178. The left fork is the parking area and dead ends after a short distance. Turn in here, get turned around, then pull back out towards the road and park out of the way. Horsepasture Rd is the right fork and continues up. Walk up Horsepasture Rd for a short distance. You'll see a green gated road to the right, then an open green gate for Horsepasture Rd. Most green gates are open to vehicle traffic at certain times of the year - mainly during hunting season. The green gate on Horsepasture Rd now stays open year round. Jumping Off Rock is another 6 miles up Horsepasture Rd and offers an excellent view of part of Lake Jocassee.
At the green gate for Horsepasture Rd, look to the right for the sign for the preserve. The map isn't easy to understand, but the trail begins on the other side of the rock that was put there to keep ATV's out. The trail descends a short distance to a closed logging road. Follow this road down and around for about a mile to Laurel Fork Creek. Just before you reach the creek look for the primitive camping site on the right in the trees and a newer small sign pointing towards the waterfall. Head into the camp site and take the bridge on the right across Laurel Fork Creek. Walk up the Foothills Trail for a very short distance to the waterfall on the right. It's probably best to see this waterfall after some decent rainfall like in the first picture above.
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