A waterfall and cave named after the elixir that used to be made in the cave.
Sitting just outside the boundary of the Mountain Bridge Wilderness Area of South Carolina is one of the most beautiful waterfalls of South Carolina – Moonshine Falls. This 40ft waterfall is absolutely stunning as it falls in two sections. The upper section is a cave where the water separates from the rocks and free falls to the lower section where it forms a beautiful cascade flowing into a shallow crystal clear pool. The cave is also an interesting spot and is where the falls get there name. They used to make moonshine in the cave and some of the old barrels and equipment still remain to this day. This moderate hike to the fall is about 3 miles one way with about 700 feet of elevation gain. It is a great hike and includes an exciting river crossing via a cable hand bridge. You can also visit the short Asbury Cascade Falls which is just 500ft off the main trail. This little beauty is at a nice spot for a break and has a great swimming hole at the base of the falls. For the adventurous, there is also the beautiful Confusion Falls that is just 2/10’s of a mile past Moonshine Falls. Confusion Falls can be a bit of a challenge to reach and makes the hike strenuous. If you are interested in also seeing Confusion Falls, we created a separate episode for that.
There are several paths that lead to Moonshine falls but we are going to describe the shortest and easiest route which starts inside private property at the Asbury Hills Camp and Retreat Center. Fortunately the good folks at Asbury Hills allow public access to the trailhead as long as they don’t have any events going on at the camp. You can call ahead to request permission at 864-836-3711.
Asbury Hills is located at 150 Asbury Drive in Cleveland, South Carolina. It is just off Highway 276 a little over a mile south of Bald Rock. Look for the big sign on Highway 276. As you enter the camp the main gate may be closed but, if you called ahead, you can obtain the code needed for entry. Once inside the gate you stay on Asbury Drive all the way until it ends at a mid-sized parking lot. Be sure to return the favor to the folks at Asbury Hills by respecting the posted speed limits as you drive through their property. Asbury HIlls is only about 40 minutes from Greenville South Carolina or Hendersonville North Carolina. It is about an hour from Asheville North Carolina.
The trailhead to the Falls starts at the back of the parking area on the red blazed Asbury Trail. Much of the hike to the falls will be on the camp and they have done a wonderful job with trail maintenance, blazing, and signage. As you hike North on the Asbury Trail, there will be several other trails that you pass that are all well marked. You will stay on the Asbury Trail for about 1.7 miles until you encounter Matthews Creek. However, if you want to check out the Cascade Falls, the short spur trail to the falls is at about 1.5miles.
The trail to Cascade Falls is very short and descends down to Matthews Creek where the humble Cascade Falls plunges into a nice swimming hole. There is enough space here to relax and enjoy the area before heading back up to the main trail.
From the turn off to Cascade Falls, it isn’t too much further to Moonshine Falls. You continue until the trail once again leads you to Matthews Creek but there’s no rock hopping here, there’s a permanent cable bridge affixed to trees on each side that you’ll need to use for crossing the creek. Take your time and safely shimmy across the creek using the wire. Once you are on the other side you continue on the trail and look for the pink blazed Naturaland Trust Trail which is less than 100ft from the creek. Head south, to the right, and continue following the pink blazes for another 6/10’s of a mile. There isn’t a sign for the turnoff to the falls but there is usually a large rock cairn indicating the spot to mark the turn. There is also a wooden signboard just about 100ft into the turnoff that you can most likely see from the Naturaland Trail. The trail is a bit wider here, you can tell it was once an old road, probably an old moon shining road. Follow the trail for about a 1/2 a mile. The trail will cut to the right while the old road bears left along the hillside. This isn’t marked either but the trail to the right looks obviously more worn and there are usually some large branches across the old road hinting that you don’t want to continue in that direction. From here Moonshine Falls is very close and you may even be able to hear it in the distance from this point in the hike.
Continue on the ridge for just a short distance until the trail turns down hill to the left. A faint trail will continue straight but the more obvious trail to Moonshine Falls turns left. The faint trail going straight leads to Confusion Falls. If you are interested in also visiting this waterfall, please watch the short HD Carolina episode on Confusion Falls.
As you head down the hill, Moonshine Falls will come into view as you approach at about its midpoint where the shallow cave forms. You can’t miss the old moonshine barrels near the entrance. The cave is wide enough to where you can safely walk directly behind the falls and enjoy a view you don’t get to see too often. However, the best view is from the base and is reached by following the trail downhill until you reach the creek. You will have to either get wet or rock hop up the creek a bit to reach the best view of the falls which is right at the shallow pool that forms at the base of the falls. There is usually a small sandy spot on the left bank of the creek where you can relax and enjoy the beautiful and unique Moonshine Falls.
Confusion Falls is only 2/10’s of a mile downstream but can be a bit tricky to get to. It is, however, very beautiful and worth the extra effort if you feel adventurous and still have the energy. Please watch the HD Carolina episode on Confusion Falls for more details about visiting this unique double waterfall.
The hike to Moonshine Falls is an out and back hike so hike safely back to Asbury Hills when you have finished enjoying your time at Moonshine Falls.