12-31-17 My wife and I revisited Issaqueena Falls in 2015 and I have some bad news. I hadn't been to this waterfall since 2009 and since then, trees have grown up and are now blocking the view of the falls from the viewing deck. There should be a better view when the leaves are off the trees and I'm hoping the county will get in there and clear the view. This was one of the very few waterfalls that only requires a very short walk to see for those folks who don't get around too well. Also, there is now a $2 per vehicle charge to enter Stumphouse Tunnel Park where the waterfall is located, so keep that in mind if you are just coming for the view from the deck. You can still scramble down the steep trail to the base of the falls for the view in the above photo and Stumphouse Tunnel is definitely worth a visit while you are there also. There is also a 2.2 mile hike (one way) that will take you to 2 other tunnels - Middle and Saddle Tunnels. More on that below. The park is open from 10am - 5pm daily (except Christmas Day) and I'm assuming the gate closes automatically at 5pm because there's a sign saying there's a $25 fee for someone to come open the gate if you get locked in after 5.
Directions: Stumphouse Tunnel Park is about 7 miles west of Walhalla, SC on SC28. If you are coming from the Asheville area, take I-26 east towards South Carolina. Pass Hendersonville and take exit 54 and follow US25 south for 16 miles into South Carolina and exit at SC11. Turn left towards Cleveland on Hwy 11 and drive 4.5 miles to a stop sign. Turn right to stay on 11 (which is now also US276, but stay on Hwy 11 when 276 splits off) and drive 44 miles to SC28. Exit Hwy 11 on to SC28 west towards Walhalla. Drive through town, then another 6.9 miles to a right turn into the park. You will have just passed the left turn for the Yellow Branch picnic area where Yellow Branch Falls is located.
Drive a short distance into the park and look for the self service pay station on the right. The fee is $2 per vehicle. Then drive a little more and look for a right turn into the picnic area which is at the top of the waterfall. Park here, cross the bridge and follow the path down about a hundred yards to the viewing deck. The picture below is what the view used to look like before the trees grew up. If you look down from the deck, you'll see the steep path that leads down to the base for a better view.
The waterfall is about 100' high and in the above picture look at the very top section of the falls. I didn't check on this last trip, but you used to be able to get behind that section of the falls. Coming from the parking area, at the top of the waterfall look to the left for a path that heads left, then cuts back to the right and down to the view in the picture below. Stay away from the edge here! If you slip and fall, you will be very dead.
To get to Stumphouse Tunnel, drive back out of the picnic area and turn right. The road ends in a short distance at parking area for the tunnel. Walk up the steep drive and the tunnel entrance is on the left. I've been to Issaqueena Falls several times, but never visited the tunnel for whatever reason. My wife and I finally did stop this last time and it's well worth it. Bring a flashlight or 2 - it's very dark in there!
To access the trail to Middle and Saddle Tunnels, park in the same area where you park for the waterfall. Cross the creek like you are heading towards the falls and look to your left. The trail is signed and marked with yellow blazes. The trail begins by heading steeply up, but this is the steepest part and I'd still give it a fairly easy to moderate difficulty rating. Continue for 0.5 miles to a spur trail to the left that leads a very short distance to Middle Tunnel. The tunnel has a small opening and it's OK to go in. Kids will probably enjoy this one also because it's a little spooky. Not too far in are bars that prevent people from going any farther, but still allow bats to get in and out. Below are 2 pictures, but it's darker in there than the photos show!
Middle Tunnel on Stumphouse Mountain
Come back out to the main trail and head left to continue on to Saddle Tunnel. The trail is mostly along the old railroad grade and is easy to follow. Just look for the yellow blazes. At 2 miles in, you'll notice where another trail heads to the right at a large pile of big rocks. Stay straight here and continue the remaining 0.2 miles to the tunnel entrance at the end of the trail. You can't get in this tunnel as it's filled with water. I'm assuming it always is. In the photo below, Cindy is standing in front of the entrance and the pool of water.
Saddle Tunnel entrance
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