12-12-16 The forest service announced today that the Whitewater Falls area is closed and will be closed for some time. One of the smaller wildfires destroyed the stair case leading down to the viewing platform and it will be some time before it is replaced. The Foothills Trail spur trail from Whitewater Falls is also closed.
Whitewater Falls on the Whitewater River is the last river in the Jocassee Gorge area just before you reach South Carolina. Some sources say it's the highest falls east of the Mississippi River at 411', but I'm not so sure. It doesn't really matter because it's an impressive site! Here's some video I shot in late October 2012.
Directions: Drive 9 miles south of Hwy 64 on Hwy 281 in Sapphire, NC and look for the sign for the left turn into the parking area. If you are coming from SC from Hwy 11, turn north on SC130 and drive to the NC border. The parking area is just ahead on the right. There is a $2 cash fee per person, so be prepared to pay. The walk to the top viewing area is less than 1/4 mile and is on a sloped paved path. It's kid friendly and I believe a wheelchair can be pushed up the path.
The first observation area gives a pretty good view of the falls, but for a better view you'll need to take the stairs down to the next platform. I think there are 155-160 of them with a landing or 2 in between to rest if you need. This viewing area is small and there will probably be a few people around waiting to take some pictures, so go early if you can.
There is a set of stairs leading down to the river from the viewing platform. There isn't a view of the falls from this part of the river, but people come down to swim and hang out on the big rocks. Once down the set of stairs, the trail switchbacks down the mountain and is steep in places. It will be very slippery on a wet day. You can get to the base of the falls from here. Cross the metal bridge and take the path to the left towards the falls. To the right is the Foothills Trail which will take you down river, past the base of Corbin Creek Falls, and into South Carolina. The trail towards the falls is rather treacherous and hard to follow in places. The river was very low the 1st time I did it (next 2 shots), but in normal to high flow, the spray might be too bad to take a picture. It's still an awesome sight though, but the boulders will be very slippery.
For a different and free view of the falls, drive north on NC281 from the parking lot for maybe 1/4 to 1/2 mile and pull off in the wide area on the right. You'll know you are at the right place when you see a scramble path up the steep bank to the view. It's a short scramble, but some of the rock is loose so please be careful. Here's what you'll see.
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