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Asbury Hills Methodist Camp hiking Matthews Creek Moonshine Falls Mountain Bridge Wilderness Area South Carolina The SC Project Trip Reports Waterfalls

Asbury Hills and Moonshine Falls

It had been raining Saturday night, and looked cold and wet still on Sunday morning. I got the call before church to find out if the hike was still on. “The precip is supposed to drop to 30% after noon, and I think it’ll clear up. So if TJ’s still up for it, we’re still going.” He was up to it, so after church TJ and I headed up to the South Carolina mountains. We had been planning this trip together for several months, and I considered several locations. Finally, I settled on Moonshine Falls located in the Mountain Bridge Wilderness Area of South Carolina. Getting there via the Naturaland Trust Trail would be more than I was willing to take on today, so we went in via the Asbury Hills Methodist Camp. It’d still be 2.6 miles one way to the falls, but by looking at the topography it looked pretty moderate, which is exactly what it was.

In my research of Moonshine Falls, I found out that you have to get permission to hike through Asbury Hills. In fact, the camp is gated. You have to have the gate access code (which you can get by calling 864-836-3711). I wasn’t sure of the exact route to take to get to the trailhead, but we stayed on the main drive and found ourselves at the parking area in not too long. Asbury Hills looks like a sweet camp, nestled in the Dismal Forest at the base of the Mountain Bridge Wilderness. Four different blazes start here, but we stayed on the main red blaze, which is the Asbury Trail. Along the way, and I have no idea how he spotted it, TJ caught glimpse of a salamander on the trail. At best, it was 5/8″ long. I looked for several seconds as he pointed toward it and I still didn’t see it until it started moving. Eventually the other blazes left the trees and we crossed over a few creeks until we finally got to the cable bridge crossing at Matthews Creek.

There used to be a cable bridge crossing Matthews Creek further upstream where the Dismal Trail meets Naturaland Trust on the (difficult) lollipop loop to the Cathedral and suspension bridge over Raven Cliff Falls. Last I heard, the trees holding that bridge had fallen. As we were leaving Asbury Hills, the tree on the eastern bank for this cable bridge has definitely seen better days. The west side tree didn’t look too bad. I love a cable bridge crossing. Lots of fun! There’s an element of insecurity to it, especially as the cable can be slippery from water spray. But hold on to the top cable and you’ll be fine. Check it out: Matthews Creek cable bridge crossing

We came out at the intersection to the Naturaland Trust Trail, which indicated Raven Cliff Falls was 1.7 miles to the left, and 276 was 2.9 miles to the right. The trail got considerably more rough once we left Asbury Hills, but was still easy to follow. At one point, the trail became a creek, thanks to our evening rain. There was an obvious side trail to avoid the new creek, which we took. On this side path, we found a red eft (juvenile newt) and took a few pictures of it.

It was typically rocky and rooted and somewhat soggy trail through some lovely green forest until we made it to our turn, a large rock cairn along the Naturaland Trust Trail. Not far beyond it, was a Hot Spot sign, indicating that we were off the main trail, and this is a place where people can become lost. This wasn’t really my concern. The sign also indicated Moonshine Falls was this way, which was my concern. The trail wound it’s way through the lush ferned forest and at the second rock cairn, we started passing by some really cool overhangs. Not caves quite, and not a large area, but still neat scenery. Descending the ridge, we could hear Moonshine Falls. You can see it from the top of the ridge, and we took the trail down. Definitely a cool area here!

The descent trail is not very long, but it got more soggy here. What was forest turned into jungle. There’s a large overhang, with remnants of how the falls got its namesake. Several old 55gallon drums and moonshine stills are rusting away in the overhang. To think of the history that may have happened here, and what those moonshiners might have done to 2 lone hikers that wandered into their operation when it was in action probably wouldn’t have been as pleasant as the time we had. We took a few selfies, and explored around the area getting views and photos from different angles. Moonshine Falls itself falls over the edge of the overhang, so you’re completely behind it while in the overhang. We didn’t climb down to the base here, as it was muddy and the rocks were very slick. There’s a side trail not far from the mouth of the overhang, which takes you to the base of the falls, though you have to do some rock hopping here to get a clear view of it.

We poked around the area a little bit more, looking for a few other things, but we were already past our turnback time so further explorations would have to wait for another day. We went back out the way we came in. The hike back was very enjoyable. We saw a few large snails along the trail, and a finger-sized slug. The palmsized fauna was out today, which was nice for us. None of the rhododendron was blooming. A few teaberries were out, but not too much was blooming. I can imagine what this hike would have looked like not just in it’s brilliant carolina jungle greens, but illuminated with flashes of wildflower colors would really make this a great sight!

Overall, we had a great hike, that was moderate in difficulty. To Moonshine Falls and back was about 5.2 miles, without any extreme elevation changes. TJ and I had a great time, and we discovered one more reason to play in South Carolina!

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The SC Project Kickoff: Falls Creek Falls, Plus Some!

This trip was the official start of The SC Project, my focus to explore the wilds and wonders, highs and lows of South Carolina. What better way to start with a waterfalls that’s been on my bucket list for 2 years running? My friend Chris and I headed up to the mountains to meet Todd, who you’re already familiar with if you read this blog with any regularity. 

I’ve been trying to do some online recon for a while, and what I came up with is that the trail to Falls Creek Falls is strenuous and rocky, climbing 1000′ in 1.7 miles. The sign at the trailhead indicated a 2 hour hike, one way, to Falls Creek Falls. Having hiked several times in Linville Gorge, I scoffed at this number and dismissed it. While the FCF Trail is not LG’s PinchIn Trail, it’s still pretty pumpy and will give your legs a workout! I would rate it as more difficult than the neighboring trail to Rainbow Falls in Jones Gap. It is not overly rocky, though there’s a few ruts in it. Definitely not a beginners trail. 

The scenery along the Falls Creek Falls Trail was pretty: glowing green with new spring leaves and spattered with the white blooms of mountain laurel. I love the Carolinas. One thing of definite note here is to watch the blazes on the trail. It’s well marked with purple blazes, but there are several side trails. Double blazes indicate an intersection, so it’s easy enough to stay on the right path.  While hiking, though, I noted several areas that really spiked the “I-wonder-what’s-over-there?” side of my internal off-trail exploration meter. Another adventure for another day. 

45 minutes after our start time, Chris and I were standing at Falls Creek Falls. The trail brings you to the middle of the falls, and we took the lower fork to get the whole scene in. Very impressive. I walked out just a little ways on the rocks and caught that there was a just as huge upper section of the falls. Even more impressive! That’s the picture that tops this post, by the way. I’m just guessing that it’s at least 100′ high, from bottom to top. I haven’t looked up the specifics of it.

We had gotten to the trailhead a little late, and Todd had headed up to the falls ahead of us. I gave a “whoooooooooo!!” hollar, and hoped that it would cut through the roar of the waterfall. A couple minutes later, Todd is coming down the trail. Good to see you again, bro!!

If you’re a SC resident and haven’t been to Falls Creek Falls yet, you are missing out. You can get here from Greenville in about the time it’d take you to drive Woodruff Rd from Laurens Rd to 14 on a busy day. Maybe less time than Woodruff Rd. It took me 20 minutes to get there from Traveler’s Rest, and it’s outside of the Smstate park, so there’s no typical $2 fee. Only a couple places to park, though. Just be ready to pump those legs, and bring a couple bottles of water or Gatorade with you. It’s worth it at the end, I promise. PLEASE be careful at the falls, though. As Todd said while we were there, “That’d be a bad waterslide.”

We hung out for a while, cooled down from the hike up, and just soaked in the restorative quality that comes from being in the mist of a waterfall. The hike down was quick and easy. We were back at the cars in no time. We had hiked to Falls Creek Falls and back in 2 hours 10 minutes. A nice sweet hike, indeed.

Having some time still, I suggested we go poke around Highway11 a little. We stopped at Wildcat Wayside (the waterfall you can see by the road that usually has a boiled peanuts stand nearby on the pulloff). 


Pretty nice there at Lower Wildcat Falls, and climbing up to Middle Wildcat Falls, I noted there had been several improvements to the area since I had last stopped here a few years ago.


 It’s an easy rock hop across the creek. There’s a big kiosk just beyond Middle Wildcat Falls indicating some further info about the trail. We took the right fork of the lollipop loop and passed by a low flow waterfall that was only labeled “falls” but didn’t stop too long to admire. I’d never been to Upper Wildcat Falls, and it was less than a mile round trip, so off we went. What you’ll find here is well made trail on fairly easy and steady elevation that takes you through typical Carolina forest. Very nice for a family hike, actually, as long as you remain cautious. 


Last year, a man died at Upper Wildcat Falls, and there were a couple DANGER signs nearby, indicating it wasn’t one to mess around with. There is a really cool crack in the rock that the waterfall flows down. Just don’t climb the waterfall.

Back to the car, I had one more waterfall nearby I was dying to check out. It’s been a whole since I’d been to sweet Thing on Slickum, and come to find out the trail has been marked and blazed green at the trailhead. Passing by one waterfall on Slickum Creek that I’m not sure the name of, we made it to Sweet Thing on Slickum in no time. Someone has definitely done some work on this trail! When I first came through a few years ago, the trail was sloughing off and you had to crawl through rhododendron tangles to get back to the falls. There’s still some erosion on the trail, but it’s much improved. The rhodo tangle is gone, thank God. And thank you, whoever cut that stuff out of there!


Sweet Thing on Slickum is an 18-20′ waterfall located in a grotto. It’s one of my personal favorite waterfalls in South Carolina, and I love being there. Too bad I was now pushing the limits of my time windows, and I had to start heading back home.

Definitely a great day out in the woods. A huge thanks to Chris and Todd for going out there with me. Not to bad to see 7 waterfalls in 3.5 hours worth of hiking. 

South Carolina, you definitely treated us well today. I’m looking forward to hanging out with you some more, and hopefully we’ll both be making new introductions.