A Hidden Beauty in South Carolina
Lee Falls (Oconee County)
There’s a lot that I love about my home state of South Carolina. This small state boast some of the prettiest scenes to offer from the Lowcountry sights of Charleston to the iconic Upstate views from Table Rock. But one thing that I really love is the fact that there are still hidden gems that if you want to see them you must get off the well beaten path to experience them for yourself. One of these places is named Lee Falls.
Not many people realize how many beautiful waterfalls the Upstate of South Carolina has to offer, but instead visit the popular western North Carolina. But if you live in South Carolina you may hear or see pictures of the gorgeous and dramatic Raven Cliff Falls and Lower Whitewater Falls from time to time. Surprisingly, there’s much more…you just might have to put on some hiking shoes to find them.
In several books and websites, Lee Falls is considered one of the most scenic waterfalls in Oconee County and the whole Upstate—but not many people know about it. This spectacular 90 ft. waterfall is located deep in the hardwood forest several miles from Oconee State Park. Best to see after rainy days, the Tamassee Creek deep in a cove gracefully spills and trickles over a behemoth granite cliff covered with green moss and rain forest-like surroundings.
But there’s a catch. Detailed driving directions, no official trail subject to frequent changes, and crossing over ankle deep streams multiple times makes it rather difficult to find. The hike is 1.5 miles to the falls and considered strenuous. I know by experience because I can finally say I saw this beautiful waterfall for myself without getting turned around after my third visit.
The first time I ventured out to find this waterfall was in October 2014 with my friend, Robbie. We had already visited several places around the area and decided to give this trail a shot before heading home. Needless to say, we should have planned it as our first stop, not last. Following detailed hiking instructions in a book I own, we successfully crossed the four large grassy fields and crossed the creek two times. The water was pretty chilly but we did it. Then after hiking through the woods for half a mile we came along the Tamassee Creek again but failed to heed the directions to cross the creek again, and instead followed what looked to be a trail beside the creek. We scurried up the mountainous ravine along the river a lot longer than we should. But we thought we were following the directions as it said that part of the trail would get rocky and overgrown. However it was getting late and we were getting tired of climbing on loose leaves, so unfortunately we decided this couldn’t be the trail and turned around to head back to the car. As we got to the part where the trail branches off from the creek, I happened to look across the creek and saw a orange ribbon tied in a tree signaling that crossing the river led to the trail. But we decided we would come back later. Strike one.
The second time, I was determined to find this waterfall but with more witnesses—Robbie, my brother & sister-n-law, and their dog Paisley. Our first mistake was that we went during the heat of the summer. After sweating our way through the open fields and crossing the streams we came across our first snake. It was just a long black snake that startled us, but we continued on. We made it to the point where we reached the Tamassee Creek before and successfully crossed the creek this time to find the right path. However, it didn’t take us long to decide to turn around. As we were trekking up the strenuous overgrown path of boulders and fallen trees, we came across not one, but 3 copperhead snakes. Fearful of one of us or the dog getting bit, we turned around and headed back to the car, to my disappointment. Strike two.
Like they say, third time’s the charm. I am now writing this blog post after successfully discovering this gorgeous waterfall this weekend. After learning from our past two experiences, we decided to give it a shot during the late spring (April) when the water isn’t too cold to trek through and there’s just enough vegetation growth to make for a beautiful picture. We couldn’t have picked a better weekend as my friend and I took a spur-of-the-moment trip up to the Upstate to find this thing once and for all. After much rain the past week, we knew the waterfall would be full of water and we were right. It was an absolutely beautiful hike as the grassy fields were bright green, the creek water was cool and soothing, and the strenuous trail felt like we were hiking through a rain forest with all of the new growth and wildflowers. But most importantly, we came across ZERO snakes! After carefully following the trail and having to cross the stream several times on the path we hadn’t been on before, we finally reached our much anticipated destination!
Now I can say, Lee Falls is one of the most beautiful waterfalls in South Carolina. Enjoy my photos below.