Your next family adventure should be Stumphouse Tunnel in Oconee County, SC! Local Mom Deidre and her family visited the tunnel and Issaqueena Falls near Walhalla, SC. Only about an hour and a half from Greenville, this day trip is so worth the trip. We will give you all the information you need to plan a trip to Stumphouse Tunnel with your family.
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History of the Stumphouse Tunnel
Stumphouse Tunnel is the remains of a pre-civil war tunnel in Oconee County, SC. The tunnel was part of a project to link Charleston, SC with cities in the Midwest via train. However, the start of the Civil War stopped construction on the tunnel, and the tunnel was never completed. Later, in the early 1940s, the tunnel was used by Clemson University to cure its blue cheese.
The tunnel is now part of the greater Stumphouse Park, which includes Stumphouse Tunnel, Issaqueena Falls, The Palmetto Trails Stumphouse Passage, the Blue Ridge Railroad Hiking Trail, and Stumphouse Mountain Bike Park. There is a lot to do than just exploring the tunnel, so keep that in mind if you’re looking to make a full day of your trip. Fun Fact: Middle Tunnel, a tunnel system that was successfully completed just a quarter mile from Stumphouse Tunnel is now sealed off due to safety and is now flooded.
Our Trip to Stumphouse Tunnel
As we passed through the City of Walhalla, SC (the last town before getting to the park), we looked for a lunch spot. You may decide to pack a picnic lunch for the park instead of eating out like we did. There were several local places on the main street that looked tempting to us. The park is not that far out of Walhalla but most of the trek to the park was up a winding road so we had to drive super carefully around the twists and turns.
Once you enter the park the road winds sharply downward. (I was really glad that we didn’t have to share the road with cars coming out of the park. Those that do have to deal with oncoming traffic have to make tight turns.)
We followed the signs from the parking area in the park to the Stumphouse Mountain Tunnel and found that we had to park on the road leading up to the tunnel. There are parking lots close by for one of the shelters and the Issaqueena Falls area of the park.
There is a slight hill you have to climb to get to the tunnel. An older couple that arrived when we did took small steps up the hill. Small children may want to do that too.
We did not bring the right things for exploring the tunnel. Here is a list of what we should have brought:
- Flashlight (It is really dark in the tunnel.)
- Hat or jacket with a hood (water drips from the ceiling in the tunnel.)
- Close-toed shoes (there were large puddles of water on both sides of the tunnel)
The tunnel is a cool 50 degrees all year round so definitely bring a jacket. The tunnel is incomplete. It was dug with hand tools pre-Civil War but never finished. You can walk pretty far back though, about a quarter mile. The tunnel was originally meant to be constructed as part of the Blue Ridge Railroad and after about a million dollars was dumped into it, the state of South Carolina basically gave up and refused to fund it any longer.
Issaqueena Falls was our next stop. Though they were close enough to walk to we chose to drive so that our car would be parked in a lot versus on the street. Since the trees have lots of leaves during summer it was a little hard to see the falls. Visibility of Issaqueena Falls would probably be best in fall after the leaves fall off the trees, however, it was still very pretty.
We all loved walking through a covered bridge on the path leading to the falls and viewing a lower area of the falls from the observation deck. There was a path that continued past the observation deck, but parents should be aware that it isn’t a maintained trail and poses safety concerns. There have been several deaths and many accidents at this waterfall so be careful and aware of your surroundings even on the marked trails.
We also saw a number of children playing and walking through a shallow stream. We decided to dip our feet in the stream too, which was big fun for the kids.
Grabbing Lunch in Walhalla After Our Hike
After all the hiking, we headed back into Walhalla for lunch. Though there we several lunch options we chose The Steak House Cafeteria. The food at The Steak House Cafeteria was down home and delicious, especially after an adventure-packed morning.
Our outing turned out to be about a half day event which was perfect for us. My family enjoyed seeing the tunnel and falls as well as a yummy lunch in Walhalla.
You can also stop by the Walhalla Fish Hatchery nearby and extend your day trip with more educational fun. And Yellow Branch Falls is a beautiful waterfall and very close to the Stumphouse Tunnel. It’s about a three-mile moderate roundtrip hike.
The tunnel and waterfall is about seven miles northwest of Walhalla on Highway 28. It is open 7 am – 6 pm and closed Christmas Day and for inclement weather.
Admission is free but there is a $5 parking fee. Bring cash. There is also a fee to reserve the picnic shelter. The park does not offer camping or drinking water, however, there are outhouse restrooms onsite. Camping is available nearby at Oconee State Park.