I grew up near Carter Caves State Park, Kentucky. Because of this, the scenery became familiar to me and I stopped visiting. I missed the magic of the caves, the views, and the water.
This is common when you grow up near tourist attractions. As a military spouse, I make it a mission to visit gems like these wherever I go. Last fall, I spent a week at an amazing Air BNB in Walhalla, SC looking for such gems. Here's what I found.
If you grew up in Upstate SC or anywhere in the state, check out these perfect weekend getaway hikes. Rated 1 through 5, easiest to hardest.
1. ) Issaqueena Falls/Stumphouse Tunnel
Issaqueena Falls is the perfect out and back. Not quite a hike, but perfect for all ages. The short walk to the observation deck provides stunning views of the 200-ft cascade. For the more adventurous, a short path to the right of the deck offers views of the whole scene.
While you're there, take the short walk up the hill to Stumphouse Tunnel. Originally designed to connect Charleston, SC to the midwest via railroad. The project was abandoned during the Civil War.
2.) Station Cove Falls/Oconee Station Trail
Oconee Station Trail is an easy 1.5-mile hike from the trailhead in the parking lot of Oconee Station. Station Cove Falls is an easy half-mile, out and back to the 60 foot, stepped waterfall. The trail is relatively flat but can be slippery after rainfall.
This is a perfect, quick hike that offers beautiful Appalachian mountain scenery. Cool off in the shallow pools of water at the bottom of the falls.
3.) Yellow Branch Falls
Moderately difficult out and back trail with spectacular views. The trail is 1.5 miles through varied terrain. The opening of the trail is flat and wide, but transitions to narrow pathways as it skirts deep ravines. Be sure to wear sturdy shoes, especially if you plan to go after heavy rainfall.
The falls are a beautiful, 50-ft vertical cascade of water that is well worth the hour or so long hike.
4.) Rainbow Falls
A 40-minute drive from Walhalla, this is a can't miss for waterfall lovers. Located near Lake Toxaway, in Gorges State Park approximately 50 miles from Asheville. The trail is partially gravel, but be prepared for a steep climb over the rocks. At the top of this 1.5 mile hike sits the 150-ft waterfall. Extend the hike and catch Turtleback Falls, too. Be sure to find the observation deck for a brisk cool off from the water spray when the falls have had plenty of rainwater.
For the waterfall lovers that can't get enough, head up to Upper Whitewater Falls located 8 miles from Gorges State Park. Upper Whitewater Falls is part of the highest waterfall in the Eastern half of the US.
5.) Riley Moore Falls
This waterfall pales in comparison with the others listed here for height. But don't let that dissuade you from taking this 2-mile (out and back) hike for this 12-foot high, 100-foot wide waterfall. The hike to the falls is mostly downhill, but the climb back is a bit steep.
Be sure to pack plenty of picnic supplies and enjoy the flat shore between quick dips in the water.
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