Wildlife, rare plants, waterfalls, solitude
Very rugged in some sections.
WATER: Plentiful NOTES: This is as good as it
covers the section from Eastatoe Creek to the Toxaway River.
away in a seldom traveled section of South Carolina, the Foothills
Trail holds many hidden treasures. The 80 + mile trail travels from
Ceasars Head State Park to Oconee State Park along the North Carolina
Border. 43 miles of this trail was built and maintained by
Duke Power Company as part of a licensing agreement for the construction
of Lake Joccasee. This section of South Carolina was never heavily
populated or developed. This is truly some of the best backcountry
wilderness that the Southeast has to offer, complete with numerous
patches of "Old Growth Forest". The section of the trail
from Laurel Fork Creek to the Whitewater River is often referred
to as the Gorges Section and is little known by hikers. The bio-diversity
of the plant life in this area is unparalleled in the East. 81 rare
plant species have been recorded so far and more may be found. Be
sure to keep an eye open for the Oconee Bell, first cataloged in
1788. The Oconee Bell frequently occurs throughout this hike and
is only found in the Jocassee region.
bells line the trail in the spring.
trace camping in the Laural Fork Gorge.
region is where the highland plateau of North Carolina changes to
the rolling hills of South Carolina. This change occurs in just
a few miles, resulting in a collection of some of the most spectacular
waterfalls in the East. Because of the sudden change in elevation
deep gorges have been cut into the mountain sides. A quick look
at the Foothills Trail map shows that
the trail is at the bottom end of these Gorges.
punctuate this hike.
waterfalls that fill the rivers and creeks are
spectacular. They are fed by the 80 + inches of rainfall that this
area receives annually. The Toxaway, Horsepasture, Thompson
and the Whitewater Rivers are some of the more well known rivers
that the trail crosses . Whitewater and Laurel Fork, the tallest
falls in the Southeast, are both over 400 feet in height. As you
hike through this section of trail hikers are never far from the
sound of water.
of many bridges built by Duke Power engineers. Click
hike begins in the Eastatoe
Creek parking lot, located near the North and South Carolina
border on Rt. 178. After traversing a dry ridge for 3.5 miles,
the trail descends into a gorge. At this point the trail never strays
from the sight or sound of water. You are now hiking along Laurel
Fork Creek. The trail follows an old road that is used by hunters
and fisherman. Luckily this road is only open for a few months,
during hunting season.
trail follows old roads in sections. Notice the silt from recent
the top of Laurel Fork Falls are excellent camping
areas. Firewood and space are plentiful. Short trails lead to the
top and to the side of the falls but are not recommended. The moss
covered rocks are slippery and have claimed several lives in the
of the rare tropical plants that this area is known for, grow on
the wet rocks of Laurel Fork Falls. Because of the continuous mist
from the falls and the mild low elevation climate, the very rare
Gorge Moss is found here. It is found in only six sites on earth.
Before the turn of the century the Carolina Parakeet was flourishing
in this area. Unfortunately the bird was declared extinct by the
1930's. The Jocassee Gorge area was one of the last strongholds
for the colorful bird. Turn over a few rocks and you may find the
rare Green Salamander. Look skyward and you may be able to spot
the uncommon Swainson's Warbler. Look into Lake Jocassee and you
may observe some rare species of fish !
of Laurel Fork Falls.
400 foot Laurel Fork Falls from the Foothills Trail. Click
oddity that is found here and usually associated with tropical climates,
is the scorpion. On a recent trip we found one after taking a morning
"dip". It was crawling on our towel. Now, shaking out
my boots before putting them on, is standard operating procedure
for hikes in this area.
trail is now within sight of 7656 acre Lake Joccasee.
Lake Joccasee was built by Duke Power in 1973 to feed a hydroelectric
pumped storage station. This part of the trail is well traveled
due to easy access by boaters.Even though the campsites here are
heavily used, Hikers seldom visit this section because the trail
heads are so far away from roads.
Joccasee from the Foothills Trail.
5.7 mile stretch between Laurel Fork Falls and Cane Brake (The Toxaway
River)follows the shoreline of Lake Jocassee. Shortly after leaving
the falls the trail begins the steepest ascent and descent on the
Duke Power section of trail. Small potatoes compared to some of
the huge climbs in the Smokies. After leaving that strenuous
climb behind you, the grade of trail becomes much less demanding.
Aside from a few small "ups and downs" the trail is easy.
The hike on the shoreline is pleasant and has many side trails that
lead to the lake. Perfect for a summer swim.
the junction of the trail and the Toxaway Creek is an excellent
camping area. Many campsites are on the Lake as well as the creek.
Large Hemlocks shade the campsites. The very same Hemlocks provide
a good place to hang food-bags. This is necessary due to the frequent
visits to this campsite by Bears.
trail crosses two bridges here. The first one is a small span that
crosses the Toxaway Creek. The second, much more impressive, crosses
the Toxaway River. Between the two bridges another trail joins the
Foothills Trail from the right. This old road climbs about 5 miles
up to Augerhole Road. Access to Augerhole Road is possible from
Frozen Creek Road, off of US 64 near Highlands.
view from the bridge takes in the delta of the Toxaway River. The
flow over the rocks as it joins Jocassee is a popular swimming spot
for boaters and hikers.
bridge over the river Toxaway.
crossing the second bridge, and enjoying the view, the trail descends
to the Lake. This area is known to the locals here as Cane Brake.
At this point we'll end this hike and pick it up in another piece.
This land of bio-diversity, waterfalls and wildlife is enchanting
and must be preserved for future generations.
the intersection with Hwy 11, drive north on US 178 to the bridge
over Eastatoe Creek (approximately one mile past the community of
Rocky Bottom). Cross the bridge and turn left at the Laurel Valley
Lodge sign. Immediately bear right onto the unpaved fork and continue
to the Foothills Trail parking area about 0.3 mile on the left.
Park here, and hike another 0.2miles up the unpaved road. The Eastatoe
Creek Trailhead will be on your left.
The parking for the exit at Augerhole Road is on Frozen Creek Road.
It can be reached from US 64 near Highlands
it from your house with MapQuest>>>>