Happy 2014!! I like to get out on New Years Day for a hike, weather permitting always. Living in the constantly changing NC climate, one never knows what gifts the weather will bring us for the holidays. For example, less than 2 weeks ago we were waking to temperatures in the high 60’s, on their way to the upper 70’s in December, crazy. Now as I write this, the afternoon high will not leave the 20’s with single digit nights ahead. With all of this in mind, when it comes to winter hiking, I look south. The mountains of southern NC and northern SC can be 10-15 degrees warmer than some of the places further north that I favor in warmer months. For my New Years Day hike, I wanted some place relatively warm and a beautiful waterfall I had not yet seen. After some research, I chose the Yellow Branch Falls.
The resources that I place a great deal of value in, place Yellow Branch Falls very high on their list. Waterfall Rich from www.ncwaterfalls.com commented that “This is perhaps one of the most beautiful waterfalls that I have seen so far”. He has seen quite a few waterfalls, so this is an encouraging statement. He has been pretty spot on with just about every waterfall that I have used his site for. I have seen many waterfalls with his direction and here is another one to add to the list.
The first objective was getting there. I knew if I took the scenic way through Asheville, Brevard, Lake Toxaway, and the Sapphire Valley, that I would get caught up, stopping to see things and would probably never get to my destination in SC, on a relatively short day. So I took the interstate route, mainly I-85 into SC, south of Greenville, then turned at the Clemson exit. I stopped for lunch at a local Cookout and could not get over how everything and everybody in the Cookout and the town were all orange. I had stumbled into Clemson Tiger country wearing UNC Tarheel gear. It was all I could do to inhale my chicken sandwich and make it out alive!
Soon after my close escape from Clemson, I came into Walhalla, a small, but nice town. Once out of Walhalla, NC 28 began to climb. Now we are getting somewhere. Near the top of the climb, while twisting and turning my way up the SC escarpment, I was able to catch a quick glimpse of a waterfall that I believe to be Issaqueena Falls. I am not certain as I am a relative newbie to SC Waterfalls. Right after the glimpse at Issaqueena, I soon found what I was looking for, the Yellow Branch Picnic area, about 6 miles outside of Walhalla. And what do you know, right across the highway was the entrance to Issaqueena Falls. I planned on seeing this but time did not allow, another trip, another day.
Once down the short paved road and parked, the hike began. The small parking lot was full so I was not alone in my idea. The trailhead begins on the left side of the parking lot and goes straight to the Yellow Branch. It is a pretty stream, rather small I thought to house such a magnificent waterfall. There are a number of crossings to make, most are easy. After the 4th crossing , the trail leaves the Yellow Branch.
Just before the 4th Yellow Branch crossing, is a fork. The trail goes straight along the branch, and it goes left across it. The only sign was the 2 arrows carved in the tree. I was stumped at first as there was not a dry way across. While it was mild for January, I was not ready to get in the water. So I crossed the creek on a fallen tree that was large, but somewhat wet and slippery. On the way back I took a shot of this with a large family crossing it one by one. I hope they all stayed dry.
After the departure with the Yellow Branch, the trail changes somewhat. It comes to a smaller branch with more crossings, including one that could get you muddy if you are not careful. It also begins to follow the edge of some pretty steep ravines as it begins to go up and down and around the mountains. It is here, the 2nd half of the 1.4 mile hike that it gets its moderate rating. It’s not strenuous, but not easy either. Finally, the roar of falling water appears, and one last down hill plunge to the base. There is actually a 5-7 foot waterfall just below Yellow Branch Falls that I plan to get into the stream to photograph in warmer weather. Here are some images from the waterfall.
Many thanks to the family and their pet for my photos. I find this helps to show the true size of the waterfall. Once at the waterfall, there is a great viewing area on the other side. This requires a few tricky maneuvers on some wet slippery rocks. I was told however that the water was up and it was usually easier than this. Please be careful around waterfalls and wet rocks in these streams at all times.
After 30 minutes of soaking in this scene, I had to pull out. I now see why Waterfall Rich advises to bring a wide angle lense, as the waterfall is 50 feet high and 75 feet wide. The only issue is that I don’t own one….yet! The walk back was pleasant except I must have missed a turn and took a trail that took me back to where the entrance from SC 28 was. It was an easy left turn back to the car and down the paved road though. My trip home took me up SC 107 where I had to pass about 5 waterfalls that I have yet to see due to darkness. You will never know how hard this was, but if I was not at work in the triad on Thursday morning at 5:00 am, I stood to lose my holiday pay. So I will just make a mental note now to return here soon. 2014 is going to be a great year and is off to a great start.