Are you looking for a family-friendly hike with a waterfall in the SC Upstate? KAG contributor Liene explores another one of the Upstate’s famed waterfalls, Spoonauger Falls! Part wilderness adventure, part waterfall magic, but entirely worth the drive to the Ellicott Rock Wilderness Area!
Truly a wilderness: You Can Access Spoonauger Falls With A Short Hike
The Ellicott Rock Wilderness spans three states, the South Carolina portion measuring 2,859 acres in the Andrew Pickens Ranger District of the Sumter National Forest. Bordered on the west by the Chattooga River, there are three main means of access in SC: Chattooga Trail coming in from Burrells Ford, East Fork Trail from the Walhalla Fish Hatchery, and Fork Mountain Trail from Sloan Bridge Picnic Area. All three trails are strenuous treks into the backcountry.
However, on the south end of this remote area is a 50-foot waterfall reached by just a short trail from Burrells Ford Road – Spoonauger Falls. This hike embodies the spirit of the wilderness area, but is slightly more accessible; at just 0.3 miles to reach the base of the waterfall, it’s a perfect excursion for a family with small children!
Here is a trail map for Spoonauger Falls.
How to Get to Spoonauger Falls
We started our hike on Chattooga Trail from the trailhead on Burrells Ford Road. Parking is alongside the gravel road. Hiking north into the Wild and Scenic Chattooga River corridor, we passed several nice views of the Chattooga before coming to the Spoonauger Creek crossing.
The creek and the waterfall are both named for the Spoonauger family, which lived somewhere in the area above the falls. I’ve seen the waterfall called Rock Cliff Falls, as well as Spoon Auger Falls, however the Forest Service maps indicate Spoonauger is the most commonly used name.
Immediately after crossing the creek look for the Spoonauger Falls sign, and follow the spur trail east. Just a short ascent later the waterfall is visible to your right – be cautious, as the trail can be slippery after a rain.
As always, exercise caution near waterfalls, and be aware that straying off the path can cause irreparable damage to sensitive plant communities, as well as allow for erosion on the steep walls of the gorge.
Things to See When You Hike to Spoonauger Falls
I have read that bats will roost in the rock crevices of the cliff, however on our visit we didn’t see any bats, only salamanders in the pools below the falls. The waterfall is beautiful; in low flow it is a delicate lace, in higher flow a cascading veil.
Once you’ve taken in the falls, head back the way you came. The ramifications of the hemlock woolly adelgid are visible everywhere on this short hike, in the form of enormous dead and dying hemlocks, as well as egg sacs of the invasive insect, which resemble small tufts of cotton clinging to the underside of hemlock branches. The tiny brown-colored insect sucks nutrition from the tree’s stored reserves, and injects a toxin while feeding, causing the tree to lose needles and not produce new growth. Death of the tree typically occurs 4 to 10 years after infestation, so although there are small hemlocks growing here and there, almost all the giants still standing are dead. While sad, it provides a good lesson to kiddos on how a small pest can take out a whole forest.
Things to do Near Spoonauger Falls
Having returned to Burrells Ford Road, take a short stroll down to the bridge for the view up the scenic Chattooga River. Of course, make sure to cross into Georgia so that you can make this a two-state excursion!
Just a bit up the road you drove in on is another parking area, for the Burrells Ford campground. I often recommend this campground to friends wanting to get out for a weekend without the stress of reservations and fees: you can read about camping at Burrells Ford Campground here.
Another nearby waterfall hike is the King Creek Falls hike – the 70-foot waterfall is under two miles from the campground parking area.
Plan your own trip to Spoonauger Falls!
Near Mountain Rest, SC
Ellicott Rock Wilderness
This post originally appeared on the blog Femme au Foyer.
Camp nearby Spoonauger Falls at Burrells Ford Campground.
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