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Laurel Fork Falls – Gem of Jocassee

Taken 01/01/16 Photography by Al Ward
Taken 01/01/16
Photography by Al Ward

Laurel Fork Falls is an 80-foot high, three tiered waterfall located at the head of a narrow cove at the northeastern tip of Lake Jocassee and to many is considered the Gem of Jocassee… the Grand Finale, as it were. It is best reached by a boat launched at the Devil’s Fork State Park main boat ramp. Once you navigate into Laurel Fork Creek cove and catch the initial view of the falls, carefully enter the crescent-shaped grotto located to the right of the rock face. While narrow and often filled with small debris, go slow and you should have no issues. The waterfall cascades into the lake behind the massive boulder and can literally take your breath away! There may already be a boat in the grotto… just wait your turn as it is well worth it.

Hiking to the falls can be arduous: you are looking at a five-to-six hour hike of 8.4 miles from US 178 on the Foothills Trail. You will follow Laurel Creek and at times crisscrossing the stream on permanent bridges and at one point a suspension bridge. An overnight trip is suggested. Wear bright colors during hunting season. It is well worth the effort! The base of Foothills Trail is accessible by boat for those who would like to make the trip in reverse.

GPS Waypoints:  Lat: 35.0316  Lon: -82.894

DIRECTIONS:

Lake Access (by boat):

1. From Walhalla, drive NORTHEAST on SC 11 (Cherokee Foothills Scenic Highway) for approximately 15 miles and turn LEFT onto Jocassee Lake Road (Oconee County S-37-25).

2. Drive approximately 4 miles to the Devil’s Fork State Park main boat ramp.

3. Once on Lake Jocassee, bare due NORTH, turning RIGHT(east) into the Laurel Fork Creek finger of the Toxaway arm. A map of the lake is suggested and available at the local Ranger’s Station store.

Foothills Trail Access to Laurel Fork Falls

1. From Pickens, drive NORTH on US 178 for approximately 16.5 miles and turn LEFT onto Laurel Valley Road (Pickens County S-39-237), take the gravel road to the RIGHT.

2. Drive 0.5 mile to the Foothills Trail Laurel Valley Access parking lot on LEFT.

3. Walk up the road to access the Foothills Trail and hike 8.4 miles to the falls.

Have a camera ready, have fun and BE SAFE!

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