Issaqueena Falls

Sumter National Forest, South Carolina, USA

About Issaqueena Falls

Hiking Distance: 1/2-mile round trip; scramble
Suggested Time: 40-60 minutes

Date first visited: 2012-10-15
Date last visited: 2012-10-15

Waterfall Latitude: 34.80676
Waterfall Longitude: -83.12117

Waterfall Safety and Common Sense

Issaqueena Falls appeared to have somewhat diminished flow despite the rains that preceded our visit in October 2012.

Nonetheless, the falls did exhibit some of that “character” that Julie likes to point to given that each lacy strand of water gracefully tumbled over several smaller mini-tiers.

Issaqueena_Falls_019_20121015 - Issaqueena Falls with some graffiti on the boulder on the lower left of this photo
Issaqueena Falls with some graffiti on the boulder on the lower left of this photo

Such qualities made such waterfalls friendly for tripods and long exposure photographs, which you can see in the photo above.

Prior to our visit, we had seen photos of Issaqueena Falls in much higher flow, which led me to believe that perhaps Spring would be a better time to see the falls for more volume.

However, the benefit of visiting this waterfall in the Autumn was the onset of Fall colors adding to the scene.

How we scrambled to the bottom of Issaqueena Falls

From the trailhead (see directions below), we took a short 5- to 10-minute trail through a covered bridge, which ultimately ended at a lookout deck.

The view of Issaqueena Falls from this lookout left a lot to be desired thanks to a combination of overgrowth obscuring the views.

Issaqueena_Falls_010_20121015 - Overgrown view of Issaqueena Falls from the lookout deck
Overgrown view of Issaqueena Falls from the lookout deck

It also didn’t help that the waterfall’s flow was pretty low, which made the falls harder to see.

So that was when we noticed indications of people scrambling to gain a better experience with the waterfall.

In this case, we spotted a steep scramble just to the right of the lookout platform, which went beneath the supports of the viewing eeck and continued towards the creek.

Once we reached the creek, we then scrambled our way upstream to reach the rock-filled base of the Issaqueena Falls.

This scramble took us an additional 15-20 minutes in each direction (on top of the short walk to the official viewing deck).

Issaqueena_Falls_012_20121015 - The scrambling path to Issaqueena Falls began to the right of this lookout platform
The scrambling path to Issaqueena Falls began to the right of this lookout platform

However, I don’t think this steep and slippery unofficial path is certainly not for everyone, especially if the weather has not been dry.

Some parts were muddy so our hiking boots came in handy, but even then there were sections where they 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, because we noticed some graffiti on the rocks and trees as well as the occasional beer can, plastic bottle, and chip wrappers strewn about the informal route.

The Stumphouse Tunnel

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 Issaqueena Falls, the scramble took enough energy and time out of us.

Issaqueena_Falls_024_20121015 - The view looking out away from the Issaqueena Falls at the lookout deck
The view looking out away from the Issaqueena Falls at the lookout deck

Therefore, we didn’t have the extra time to stay longer and check out the tunnel.

By the way, the Stumphouse Tunnel was an incomplete railroad tunnel halted by the Civil War and abandoned after failed attempts at reviving the project.

Moreover, locals and conservation groups have managed to save both the Issaqueena Falls and Stumphouse Tunnel by raising enough money to fend off private development.

Legends around Issaqueena Falls

The Issaqueena Falls was part of an interesting Cherokee legend where a maiden named Issaqueena fell in love with a white man named Allan Francis.

She managed to warn the frontier settlers of an impending attack by her own tribe.

Issaqueena_Falls_016_20121015 - Looking up at the Issaqueena Falls towards the hidden cove as seen from its base
Looking up at the Issaqueena Falls towards the hidden cove as seen from its base

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 Issaqueena 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.


Issaqueena Falls resides in the Sumter National Forest near Walhalla, South Carolina. It is administered by the USDA Forest Service. For information or inquiries about the area as well as current conditions, visit their website or Facebook page.

Issaqueena_Falls_002_20121015 - Looking towards the trailhead for the Issaqueena Falls from the parking area
Issaqueena_Falls_006_20121015 - Julie passing through the covered footbridge at the start of the short trail leading to the Issaqueena Falls viewing platform
Issaqueena_Falls_008_20121015 - Julie walking on the short trail leading down to the viewing platform for the Issaqueena Falls
Issaqueena_Falls_013_20121015 - Looking up at Issaqueena Falls with some graffiti scrawled on the boulder in front of us
Issaqueena_Falls_014_20121015 - Looking up at the Issaqueena Falls after making it all the way down to its bottom

The nearest town to the Issaqueena 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).

Issaqueena_Falls_001_20121015 - Looking back at the gravel road we took to reach the parking area for the Issaqueena Falls
Looking back at the gravel road we took to reach the parking area for the Issaqueena Falls

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 Issaqueena 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.

Find A Place To Stay

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

Bottom up sweep from right at the base of the falls

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

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Tagged with: sumter, national forest, walhalla, greenville, south carolina, waterfall, upcountry, stumphouse tunnel, cherokee, allan francis

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Johnny Cheng

About Johnny Cheng

Johnny Cheng is the founder of the World of Waterfalls and author of the award-winning A Guide to New Zealand Waterfalls. Over the last 2 decades, he has visited thousands of waterfalls in over 40 countries around the world and nearly 40 states in the USA.
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