Lower Whitewater Falls

Lake Jocassee, South Carolina, USA

About Lower Whitewater Falls


Hiking Distance: 4 miles round trip
Suggested Time: 2-2.5 hours

Date first visited: 2012-10-16
Date last visited: 2012-10-16

Waterfall Latitude: 35.01594
Waterfall Longitude: -82.99246

Lower Whitewater Falls is a smaller version of its bigger brother the Upper Whitewater Falls further upstream and across the state border.

That said, it was still 200ft tall as the waterfall cascades and plunges in a similar manner to its bigger brother.

Lower_Whitewater_Falls_028_20121016 - Lower Whitewater Falls
Lower Whitewater Falls

Moreover, accessing the Lower Whitewater Falls required a bit of a longer hike as well as getting past some of the uninviting Duke Energy gates and infrastructure.

This probably explained why we noticed a considerably quieter experience compared to its more famous counterpart in the Upper Whitewater Falls.

After all, we were the only ones on the Lower Whitewater Falls Trail the entire time we were on it!

Experiencing the Lower Whitewater Falls

We were able to view this waterfall as you see in the photo above at the end of a quiet 4-mile return hike (2 miles each way; don’t trust the sign at the trailhead saying it’s only 1.7 miles each way).

Lower_Whitewater_Falls_006_20121016 - Julie passing by the sign at the trailhead suggesting that the Lower Whitewater Falls Overlook was 1.7 miles away from here
Julie passing by the sign at the trailhead suggesting that the Lower Whitewater Falls Overlook was 1.7 miles away from here

As you can see, the viewing deck offered a rather distant view of the falls.

From what we could tell, we didn’t see any safe means of finding a different or better view than from this spot.

We happened to show up in the late morning on a sunny day.

Thus, we got shadows concealing the base of the falls from the sensors of our cameras, which can’t handle the dynamic range of the light and shadowed zones.

Perhaps later in the day (say around midday), the sun would be high enough to eliminate the shadows and thus allow you to be able to take better photos than the ones we offer on this page.

Hiking to the Lower Whitewater Falls – From Trailhead to Trailhead

Lower_Whitewater_Falls_007_20121016 - The initial climb on the Lower Whitewater Falls Trail, which followed along some kind of gutter
The initial climb on the Lower Whitewater Falls Trail, which followed along some kind of gutter

As for the hike itself, we’ll describe the way you’re supposed to do it before we’ll introduce a seasonal (but not well-advertised) shortcut.

Throughout the hike were blue hashes strategically placed on trees flanking the trail acting as markers to help us find our way.

From the large trailhead parking area (right next to a Duke Pumped Storage facility; see directions below), we hiked up along some gutter before the trail reached a plateau.

It was possible to see Lake Jocassee from this flattened out stretch.

Lower_Whitewater_Falls_014_20121016 - Julie following the blue blazes or hash marks, which led us further along the Foothills Trail. Notice the sign here, which said that the Lower Whitewater Falls lookout was still another 1.7 miles away!
Julie following the blue blazes or hash marks, which led us further along the Foothills Trail. Notice the sign here, which said that the Lower Whitewater Falls lookout was still another 1.7 miles away!

Next, the trail veered left into a shady and forested area.

This part of the trail undulated briefly before making a descent towards a pair of footbridges crossing over the Whitewater River.

A sign here indicated that it was still 1.7 miles to the waterfall overlook, which led me to believe that the sign at the trailhead (also saying it was 1.7 miles) was inaccurate.

Anyways, after the footbridge, there were some signed trail junctions for the Foothills Trail.

Fortunately, the trail was very well-signed so we never veered from the waterfall overlook trail.

Lower_Whitewater_Falls_020_20121016 - The ATV parking only sign and Musterground Road
The ATV parking only sign and Musterground Road

The path continued to gradually go uphill before eventually ending up at a clearing that was signposted for ATV parking.

It probably took roughly over 30 minutes to get to this point from the formal trailhead.

Hiking to the Lower Whitewater Falls – Final Stretch

Next, the hike coincided with the fairly rough and unpaved Musterground Road before some more blue hashes indicated where the trail branched off and resumed away from the gravel road.

From here, the trail initially started to climb before flattening out for some distance.

Lower_Whitewater_Falls_023_20121016 - After the initial climb on the final stretch of trail to the Lower Whitewater Falls Overlook, Julie and I skirted by this interesting embankment before the trail ultimately began its final descent
After the initial climb on the final stretch of trail to the Lower Whitewater Falls Overlook, Julie and I skirted by this interesting embankment before the trail ultimately began its final descent

Then, the trail made a rather long and steep final descent to the lookout platform with a distant yet frontal view of Lower Whitewater Falls.

All told, it took us 2 hours and 20 minutes to do the entire out-and-back hike plus time to take pictures.

While the falls was impressive, the long hike to get here felt somewhat like an anticlimax, especially since it followed the Upper Whitewater Falls experience.

The “Cheater’s Shortcut”

Had we known beforehand where to stop the car and resume the hike on the unpaved Musterground Road, we probably would’ve employed this method to save on time and energy.

Lower_Whitewater_Falls_020_20121016 - Julie leaving the 'ATV Unloading Area', which was where I'd imagine you'd leave the car to really shorten the Lower Whitewater Falls hike
Julie leaving the ‘ATV Unloading Area’, which was where I’d imagine you’d leave the car to really shorten the Lower Whitewater Falls hike

Oh well. Our loss, your gain. So now we’ll introduce what I’m calling the “cheater’s shortcut”.

This shortcut only works if you happened to be here during the hunting season from around October through December and in April.

That’s because the unpaved Musterground Road is ungated (which was the case when we were there).

We were able to drive this road to the ATV parking area, but we had to keep in mind that the road can get pretty rough so it had the potential to do damage to the rental car without care.

Lower_Whitewater_Falls_022_20121016 - Julie leaving the Musterground Road right at this fencing with a couple of blue blazes on it, which started the final stretch down to the overlook of Lower Whitewater Falls
Julie leaving the Musterground Road right at this fencing with a couple of blue blazes on it, which started the final stretch down to the overlook of Lower Whitewater Falls

As you’ll recall from the hiking description above, it’s a short walking distance along Musterground Road from the ATV parking area to where the trail branches off and resumes towards the waterfall overlook.

I’d imagine that had we done this, we might have chopped off an entire hour or more of physical exertion and time.

Authorities

Lower Whitewater Falls resides near Salem in Oconee County, South Carolina. It is in an area that does not appear to have a formal authority overseeing it. However, trailhead access involves passing through roads and infrastructure administered by Bad Creek Hydro (run by Duke Energy). For information or inquiries about the area as well as current conditions, you can visit the Foothill Trail Conservancy website or the Duke Energy Bad Creek Outdoor Classroom page.

Lower_Whitewater_Falls_005_20121015 - Sign at the trailhead leading to the Lower Whitewater Falls Overlook
Lower_Whitewater_Falls_010_20121016 - Following blue hashes within the initial forested part of the Lower Whitewater Falls Trail, which also coincided with the Foothills Trail
Lower_Whitewater_Falls_011_20121016 - Julie still continuing to follow the blue hashes along the trail en route to the Lower Whitewater Falls
Lower_Whitewater_Falls_013_20121016 - Crossing a pair of footbridges over the Whitewater River en route to the Lower Whitewater Falls
Lower_Whitewater_Falls_015_20121016 - After the footbridges, the Lower Whitewater Falls Overlook Trail joined up with the Foothills Trail as we were welcomed by a bit of signage, especially with this key letting us know which trail we were on
Lower_Whitewater_Falls_016_20121016 - Julie was now on a forested trail with a combo of blue and white hashes letting us know that we were on a shared trail between the Foothills Trail and the Lower Whitewater Falls Trail
Lower_Whitewater_Falls_018_20121016 - Julie continuing on the Lower Whitewater Falls Overlook Trail as we went past this trail junction
Lower_Whitewater_Falls_019_20121016 - Approaching a clearing for a signposted ATV parking area, which this barricade had us walk the long way around
Lower_Whitewater_Falls_021_20121016 - After crossing the ATV Parking area, Julie and I then walked along the unpaved Musterground Road (which gives you an idea of where the 'cheaters shortcut' would have taken us)
Lower_Whitewater_Falls_024_20121016 - A part where the Lower Whitewater Falls Overlook Trail where the final descent started to get steeper
Lower_Whitewater_Falls_025_20121016 - Finally approaching the viewing deck for the Lower Whitewater Falls Overlook
Lower_Whitewater_Falls_027_20121016 - Lower Whitewater Falls in partial shadow as seen from the overlook platform
Lower_Whitewater_Falls_038_20121016 - Broad view of the Lower Whitewater Falls as seen from the viewing platform at the end of the sanctioned trail
Lower_Whitewater_Falls_044_20121016 - Julie returning on the downhill stretch alongside the gutter as we were almost back at the trailhead for Lower Whitewater Falls Overlook
Lower_Whitewater_Falls_045_20121016 - One last look at the Duke Energy facility next to the trailhead parking

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When we visited Lower Whitewater Falls, we were staying in Brevard, North Carolina so we’ll describe the directions from there.

So from Brevard, we drove about 17 miles southwest on NC64 (Rosman Hwy) then turned left onto Hwy 281.

Lower_Whitewater_Falls_003_20121015 - During our visit to the Lower Whitewater Falls, there was ample parking at the trailhead parking lot
During our visit to the Lower Whitewater Falls, there was ample parking at the trailhead parking lot

We then drove south on Hwy 281 for another 9 miles crossing the North Carolina-South Carolina border.

Shortly after crossing into South Carolina, we looked for Bad Creek Rd on the left, which continued behind the rather uninviting gate enclosing the Duke Energy Bad Creek Project.

I believe this gate is open during daylight hours (we happened to cross it shortly after 7am).

Next, we followed the steeply descending Bad Creek Rd for another 2 miles before turning left onto a signposted access road for the Foothills Trail.

Shortly thereafter, we arrived at the signposted and paved car park for both the Foothills Trail and the Lower Whitewater Falls Overlook Trail.

Lower_Whitewater_Falls_002_20121015 - Looking towards the Duke Energy Bad Creek Hydro Facility from the Lower Whitewater Falls Trailhead parking lot
Looking towards the Duke Energy Bad Creek Hydro Facility from the Lower Whitewater Falls Trailhead parking lot

Note that this parking lot is adjacent to a Duke Energy Bad Creek Hydro facility.

For context, Brevard was 35 miles (under an hour drive) south of Asheville, 47 miles (90 minutes drive) northwest of Greenville, South Carolina, and 126 miles (2.5 hours drive) west of Charlotte.

Fixated on the falls from the viewing platorm


Fixated on a zoomed-in view of the falls before the camera zoomed out gradually

Tagged with: duke energy, lake jocassee, jocassee, oconee county, south carolina, waterfall, north carolina border, foothills trail, musterground road



Visitor Comments:

Not Worth It (Lower Whitewater Falls) September 22, 2014 4:28 am by Tommylee - you are right. the end of the hike was anticlimatic. wish we had read this before went to this area. oh well good exercise. the view sucked as the trees blocked the view of at least the bottom two thirds of the falls in early september. might go back sometime but when the leaves are… ...Read More

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About Johnny Cheng

Johnny Cheng is the founder of the World of Waterfalls and author of 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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