|From Yellow Branch Falls|
I feel a little funny about this one, but it’s something I said I was going to do earlier in the year but hadn’t yet. Up to this point, all of the posts have been about subjects that remained within my adopted home state of Georgia. But this one’s in South Carolina. However, it does meet within my stated purpose to talk about great day trips launched from Atlanta. This place resides about 26 miles North up I-85 up off exit one on Highway 11 just within the Palmetto State, and it’s an easy 2 hour and 15 minute ride from Atlanta, even closer if you, like me, live a bit up 85 already. The spot is a great little jaunt with a waterfall hike in the Sumter National Forest called Yellow Branch Falls and the Trail of the same name.
This part of the Sumter National Forest sits about six miles North of Walhalla, SC. On the left hand side of the road, you will see a sign for the Yellow Branch Falls Picnic Area. There is a little nature trail located here and primitive, but well maintained restrooms. From here you can read signs that say 1.5 miles to the endpoint and your destination, Yellow Branch Falls.
Yellow Branch Falls are a 50 foot high, and 75 foot wide cascade nestled into a forest cove. The pictures to me don’t truly do this site justice because the water trickles over at dozens of different locations that simply doesn’t give a grand flow of roaring water. But considering the expanse of the waterfall, it is a gorgeous spot that is sure to inspire awe. Also, unlike a lot of waterfalls, there are no guardrails or viewing platforms making your experience here much more intimate and tactile. You can sit right where the water hits the stream below and easily feel like you are a part of the falling water.
The hike itself is a moderate trek, up and down the ridgeline to the falls. You cross back several times, with at least three of them being across water, so you should be prepared to get your feet wet. And at the base of the falls you are assuredly going to want to get closer, which will wet your feet even more. The hike out and back totals 3 miles round trip, and with the elevation gain and loss of about 370 feet makes the journey a fitting physical endeavor.
So if you are looking for a neat place to go, just a little outside of Atlanta, I would suggest the wilderness North of Walhalla as a worthwhile trip outside the borders of Georgia. This hike is also very near two other locations I will comment on later, the Stumphouse Tunnel and Issaqueena Falls (links here), which paired together (and easily done in a single outing), make the two hour ride very much worthwhile.
Approximate Time: 1.5 hours
Approximate Distance: 3 miles
Features: Wilderness, Waterfalls, Creeks
Overall Rating: A
Scenic Quality: A
Parking: Free at Picnic Area
Hours of Operation: Daylight hours
Facilities: Outhouse at Picnic Area
Maps: At Trailhead, here at bottom
County: Oconee County, South Carolina