A 30ft waterfall with enormous flow over the falls. The highest waterfall on the Chattooga River.
Located on the Chattooga River in the far Northwest corner of South Carolina, in the Sumter National Forest, is the largest waterfall on the Chattooga River – Big Bend Falls. With a total drop of about 30ft, Big Bend Falls may not be the highest waterfall in the area but the sheer volume of water flowing over this beauty is quite impressive; and loud. This is a very powerful waterfall that is exciting to visit and stand next to. There are a couple of different trails you can take to reach the falls, all of which are strenuous and somewhat long, but we are going to describe the trail from Burrell’s Ford Campground. This trail follows the Chattooga River for the majority of the hike and ends up being about a 7 mile round trip hike to visit the falls.
The Sumter National Forest is one of only two national forests in the State of South Carolina. It consists of over 370,000 acres via several non-contiguous sections in Western South Carolina, North Carolina, and Georgia. It is the home to a number of rivers and waterfalls supporting activities like hiking, backpacking, canoeing, horseback riding, camping and fishing.
The trailhead we are using to access Big Bend Falls is located at Burrell’s Ford Camp ground which is off the unpaved Burrell’s Ford Road in Mountain Rest South Carolina. Burrell’s Ford Road is off Highway 107 about 5 miles South of the North Carolina border. While the road is unpaved, it is kept in good condition and shouldn’t be a problem for most vehicles. Look for the Burrell’s Ford Campground parking area which is about 2 1/2 miles down Burrell’s Ford Road. The parking area is large but can fill up on busy days as this is a very popular area. There are also restroom facilities located at the parking area. The trailhead is about 90 minutes from Greenville South Carolina.
To start the hike to Big Bend Falls, follow the dirt road at the end of the parking area as it continues down the hill 3/10’s of a mile to the camping area. This first section of the hike is very wide and easy to follow. Keep following the road and, shortly after you pass an informative signboard, the road will fork. Continue on the left side as you work your way down to the river at the southern end of the campground. Look for the white-blazed Chattooga River trail that starts at the end of the campground and parallels the river.
You will follow the Chattooga River Trail and the Foothills Trail which overlap in this section. They are blazed in black and white but black blazes are difficult to spot so just look for and follow the white blazes. The trail will mostly be right next to the Chattooga River where you will get excellent views of this beautiful river. It is also very soothing to hear it softly in the background as you hike.
At about the 2 1/2 mile point, you will cross a small creek via a wooden bridge and intersect the Big Bend trail coming down the ridge. Continue right and in about 50 yards there is a 4 way split as another trail enters from the left and a side trail heads down to the river. Continue straight on the trail, don’t take the trail up the ridge or down to the river. Look for the blazes which are now white and green. Big Bend Falls are close but still about 1/2 a mile down river.
Continue on the trail down river, it will start separating from the river at this point and stay a little higher on the ridge. You will get some nice views of turbulent sections of the river but these are not Big Bend Falls. The trail will switchback a few times before eventually going slightly past the falls, switching back one last time, and then presenting a steep side trail down to the riverside. You won’t be able to see Big Bend Falls yet but you should hear it pounding away from the sounds of the river below.
The trail that leads down to the falls isn’t marked but it is right after turning back parallel with the river after a switchback. It is somewhat obvious as it is well used. It is also very steep. Carefully work your way down the hill and you will eventually end up at a small rocky bank on the river just below the falls.
The volume of water flowing over Big Bend Falls is enormous and the observation area is wonderfully loud and misty. It is quite an amazing feeling standing so close to the absolute chaos and turmoil of the waterfall which becomes peaceful immediately downstream from the falls. So peaceful that you might even catch a few fishermen in the waters just below the falls.
Hang out and enjoy the mighty Big Bend Falls while you rest up for the hike back.
The hike to Big Bend Falls is an out and back hike so hike safely back up Chattooga River to the parking area when you have finished enjoying the falls. Be safe as you climb the hill back to the main trail.