After a stop at the Stumphouse Tunnel Park to check out Issaqueena Falls and the old railway tunnel we headed across the road into the Andrew Pickens ranger district in Sumter National Forest. In the very northwestern corner of South Carolina, the Forest is separated from Georgia by Chatooga National Wild and Scenic River and from North Carolina by the state line just north of Lake Jocassee. Encompassing 85,000 acres of mountainous forests, the region is well-known for waterfalls, whitewater, angling and camping. The Pickens district is not to be confused with the other Sumter NF districts, Enoree and Long Cane, the first being the one I was employed by halfway between Greenville and Columbia, and the second being farther south, closer to Aiken.
We had decided to hike Yellow Branch Falls as Issaqueena Falls had been a bit of a disappointment due to poison ivy and low visibility. There and back to the waterfall is 3 miles from the Yellow Branch Rec Area parking lot, the difficulty level challenging to the 2 and 4 year olds (as well as this pregnant lady). Poison ivy was present here as well, although only in a few spots was it bad enough to have to carry the boys – if you stay on the trail. Starting out in a bottomland hardwoods forest, the trail had several stream crossings and climbed into an uplands forest with mountain laurel flanking the path.
The 50-foot cascade at the end of the trail was definitely worth the hike. With shallow, sandy pools perfect for wading you could bring your bathing suits on a hot day and spend an hour or two exploring. We found an aquatic newt in the mist at the base of the falls, and had a small snack sitting on the rocks; a perfect summer afternoon!
The hike back out went quickly, and the first backseat passenger dozed off almost immediately. before we could reach Pete’s Drive In in Walhalla, SC. The sign advertising shakes had caught our eye on the way up, and ten minutes after pulling in we were back on the road with handmade milkshakes in hand. Take it from me, the peanut butter shake was totally worth the hike!