From Pickens head north on US 178. You will come to a four way stop at the intersection with SC 11. Continue straight on 178 for 8.1 miles then turn left onto Laurel Valley Rd. The road immediately forks, take the right uphill road which is the gravel Horsepasture Rd. Drive 3.6 miles until you come to an uphill green gated road on your right. The road you are on sort of goes left and is gated at this point also. Both were closed in the winter. In between the roads is a big sign and map for Eastatoee Creek Heritage Preserve. Pull off here and park on the left. The trail starts behind the green gated road to the right of the sign. One part that was a little confusing is just before you drive up the hill to get to the sign and parking area it looks like there is a road to the left. It is just a dead end though. The hike is about 3.4 miles round trip and the waterfall around 25 feet high before it cascades further down the stream.
Virginia Hawkins is a very interesting looking waterfall that had been on my list to see for quite sometime. I had seen pictures of it with very little water so I wanted to hit it at the right time. Luckily even in a severe drought it had rained 5 inches that week. So Saturday morning, while visiting my brother in Clemson, we headed out and arrived at the trail a little after 9.
Just getting out of the car was a major relief. Heading up the gravel Horsepasture road for 3.6 miles was a very unpleasant drive. It is narrow, steep, full of huge rocks, and seemed like it took an eternity. I was very grateful we didn't meet any vehicles going up or down the road. I always get nervous thinking about those situations staring at the person stopped in front of you; wondering what the hell you are gonna do with no room to get by. This was my very least favorite part of the trip but the actual hike was great.
Once beginning the hike up the gravel road you hit the Foothills Trail, crossing the road at about 0.2 miles. Turn left and stay on the Foothills Trail (white paint on the trees) all the way to the falls. It is well marked and easy to follow. There is some stair climbing involved but overall the trail is easy to moderate. Even the 6 or so creek crossings had wooden bridges installed at each.
The hike winds around the mountain and eventually descends down to the creek. Along the way are some very nice cascades, as much of the trail runs through and along the creek. One cool thing visible along the trail, at least that day, was a huge waterfall in the distance. I'm not sure if that is part of Laurel Creek Falls or not. We sorta tried to bushwack our way towards it, but the areas around the creek were so flooded from all the rain. We gave up but I did snap a picture of it from far away hiking out.
It's not a great picture (waterfall - bottom middle of the photo) as all the views were obstructed, but it gives you an idea of how big it is. It would have also helped if I brought my zoom lens because I took it from the part of the trail high above the creek. You can see it is very tall when you are down by the creek.
When we arrived at Virginia Hawkins I was very relieved to see the sun had not hit the falls yet. The way the falls is positioned between the mountains actually keeps it in the shadows a pretty long time. Even on a sunny and clear day. What I loved about this waterfall is how photogenic it is. The five segments of water going over the first drop looked amazing. I got some great shots but I also really wanted some from the other side of the creek. It was way too high and cold to try and cross though.
It is an excellent waterfall but a little more height would make it spectacular. But that is the very smallest of complaint for this unique and beautiful waterfall. The hike is great and the reward even better. And if you wanted to avoid the drive up to the falls you could hike from the big Foothills Trail parking lot just 0.2 miles up Horsepasture rd. It will add about 8 miles to your hike though.
|Brother up by the falls|