Issaqueena Falls

Sumter National Forest / Walhalla, South Carolina, USA

Rating: 1.5     Difficulty: 2
Issaqueena Falls


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Issaqueena Falls appeared to have somewhat diminished flow despite the rains that preceded our visit.

Nonetheless, the falls did exhibit some of that "character" that Julie likes point to given that each lacy strand of water gracefully tumbled over several smaller mini-tiers thereby making such waterfalls friendly for tripods and long exposure photographs.

However, in order to earn such a view as seen at the top of the page, we had to descend a very steep and slippery unofficial path that would be reasonably doable perhaps in drier conditions though it was certainly not for everyone. It involved climbing or stepping onto exposed tree roots or sturdy rock protrusions while holding onto trees or branches for leverage and balance. Some parts were muddy so our hiking boots came in handy, but even then there were sections where the boots wouldn't have helped us if we made a misstep on a slippery surface.

Despite these difficulties, it appeared that plenty of people have done this scramble as evidenced by some graffiti on the rocks and trees as well as the occasional beer can, plastic bottle, and chip wrappers strewn about en route.

Overgrown view of Issaqueena Falls from the lookout deck The easiest way to view the waterfall was to take a short 5- to 10-minute trail through a covered bridge and out to a lookout deck. It was from here that we got somewhat unsatisfactory views of the falls thanks to a combination of the overgrowth obscuring the views plus the low waterflow making the falls harder to see.

Thus, we continued on by spotting the start of the steep scramble just to the right of the lookout platform. It sharply descended beneath the supports of the platform before continuing out towards the creek then making its way slightly upstream to its rock-filled base. This scramble took us an additional 15-20 minutes each way.

Prior to this trip, we had seen photos of this waterfall in much higher flow, which led me to believe that perhaps Spring would be a better time to see the falls for more volume. At least the benefit of visiting this waterfall when we did was the onset of Fall colors.

We could've also coupled a visit to Issaqueena Falls with a visit to the Stumphouse Tunnel. However, since we were only passing through Upcountry South Carolina on the day that we visited the falls, the scramble took enough out of us and we didn't have the time to stay longer and check out the tunnel. Stumphouse Tunnel was an incomplete railroad tunnel halted by the Civil War and abandoned after failed attempts at reviving the project.

There seemed to be quite a bit of drama and legends surrounding Issaqueena Falls. For starters, apparently locals and conservation groups recently managed to raise enough money to save these pair of attractions from private development.

Another interesting story involved a Cherokee legend where a maiden named Issaqueena, who fell in love with a white man named Allan Francis, warned the frontier settlers of an impending attack. To make a long story short, she'd eventually marry and remain with Allan though she did have to hide in a hidden cove behind one of the upper tiers of the falls to escape capture and retribution from her own tribe.

Supporting this legend, I found it interesting that apparently it's possible to scramble to this very cove near the top of the falls. However, I understand that it's a tricky scramble and that we noticed barricades were set up to discourage visitors from trying to find scrambling routes around the top of the falls. Since we didn't try this scramble (nor did we intend to), we can't really say anything more about it.

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Looking out over some of the trees through an opening on the Issaqueena Falls TrailLooking out over some of the trees through an opening on the Issaqueena Falls Trail
Another look at Issaqueena FallsAnother look at Issaqueena Falls
The gravel road approaching the car park and picnic areaThe gravel road approaching the car park and picnic area

The car parkThe car park

The covered footbridge at the start of the short trailThe covered footbridge at the start of the short trail

The lookout platformThe lookout platform. The steep scramble to its base begins under the fallen tree on the right

Looking up at Issaqueena Falls with some graffiti scrawled on the boulder in front of usLooking up at Issaqueena Falls with some graffiti scrawled on the boulder in front of us

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Right to left sweep from the viewing platform showing the steep descent (to the base) first then panning to an obstructed view of the falls

Slow and deliberate bottom up sweep from right behind a rock with graffiti on it

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The nearest town to the falls was Walhalla, South Carolina. According to our map, from the intersection of College St and Main St in downtown Walhalla, we proceeded west on the SC28 (Highlands Hwy) for about 5.4 miles until we saw a turnoff for Issaqueena Park on the right. Note the turnoff for Yellow Branch Picnic Area for the Yellow Branch Falls was on the left at 4.1 miles from the intersection or a little over a mile before the turnoff for Issaqueena Park (if you're inclined to visit that nearby waterfall as well).

Turning right onto the paved but steep descent into Issaqueena Park, we followed it down until we saw a gravel road on the right. Once we were on this road, there was a signposted fork directing us to turn right to get to the car park for the trailhead and picnic area for Issaqueena Falls.

For context, we drove to the falls via Walhalla from Toccoa, Georgia via the 123 and 183 before connecting with the SC28. It took us roughly 50 minutes to do this drive.

For additional geographical context, Walhalla was 45 miles (an hour drive) west of Greenville, 93 miles (about 2 hours drive) south of Asheville, North Carolina, and 120 miles (about 2 hours drive) northeast of Atlanta, Georgia.

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For more information about our itineraries involving this waterfall, check out the following links.

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For more information about our experiences with this waterfall, check out the following travel stories.

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