About Lower Whitewater Falls
Lower Whitewater Falls is a smaller version of its bigger brother the Upper Whitewater Falls further upstream and across the state border.
This 200ft waterfall cascades and plunges in a similar manner to its bigger brother, but accessing this waterfall requires a bit of a longer hike as well as getting past some of the uninviting Duke Energy gates and infrastructure. This probably explains why we noticed a considerably quieter experience compared to its more famous counterpart further upstream as we were the only ones on this trail the entire time.
We were able to view this waterfall 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). The viewing deck offered a rather distant view of the falls and 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 so on a sunny day, we got shadows concealing the base of the falls from the sensors of our cameras. 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.
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 plateaued. It was possible to see Lake Jocassee from here.
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 a lie.
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. 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 trailhead.
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. 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.
So now we’ll introduce a “cheater’s shortcut.” Had we known beforehand where to stop the car and resume the hike, we probably would’ve employed this method to save on time and energy. Oh well. Our loss, your gain.
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 though keep in mind that the road can get pretty rough so it has the potential to do damage to your rental car if you’re not careful.
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.
When we visited this waterfall, 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. 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.
Note that this car park is adjacent to a Duke Energy facility.
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