About Issaqueena Falls
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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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