Categories Kid Friendly Hiking Mountain Bridge Wilderness Area South Carolina The SC Project Upstate Waterfalls Wildcat Falls Wildcat Wayside

The SC Project: Kid Friendly Waterfall Training at Wildcat Wayside

Recently, the kids and I had a couple hours to spend while mommy visited with a friend. We diverted from our normal destination of Paris Mountain to Highway 11 for some waterfall training. I say training because there is a level of danger when hiking around waterfalls. This year, several hikers have fallen to their deaths at waterfalls. I’m aware of at least two death that occurred at Upper Wildcat falls in years prior. Waterfall training is important because there is a natural draw to them, but there are also ways we can enjoy them recklessly that can turn fun into danger in half an instant. There are rules to stay safe while still marveling over God’s amazing creation with awe and wonder. You’re now free to exhale and read on.
This is a relatively easy (I recorded 212ft of elevation) loop hike just over 1 mile with 4 waterfalls. The smallest children may have some difficulty, but the trail is good and the area is beautiful.
We started at the parking area right below the Wildcat Wayside sign. From there, a short set of stone steps led us to Lower Wildcat Falls. Oftentimes in the summer, there are folks selling produce and boiled peanuts at the road while people enjoy wading in the plunge pool below the falls. 
To the left of the falls, the trail ascends to Middle Wildcat Falls immediately. This is probably my favorite section of this area. The plunge pool is more shallow than the one below, and is perfect for kiddies to splash around in. This is also where the training begins. A series of rocks serves as a broken bridge to cross the creek. The kids are not allowed to be in the pool downstream of those rocks, because the top of Lower Wildcat is just beyond them. We splashed around a bit in the sandy bottomed pool at Middle Wildcat. Closer to the falls where it gets rocky, there are a couple “deep” sections, like 18 inches maybe. My son stumbled into it and soaked himself, but fortunately it was a warm day for October. 
Lesson 1: Wet rocks are slick and slippery.

After the rock hop across the creek, there is an information and map kiosk about the park. The “Falls” notated on the map are for a low flow unnamed cascade along the loop trail. Also, there is the top of Middle Wildcat. Very firmly and clearly, it was time for me to give more training.
Lesson 2: We do NOT play at the top of waterfalls.
The trail levels out at the foundation and still standing chimney of an old cabin. Beyond that, the trail forks. You can go either direction, as the trail is a loop. Follow the yellow blazes painted on the rocks and trees. We took the right side path and started gaining elevation. This will undoubtedly be the most difficult portion of the hike for the youngest explorers, as it takes the energy to hike up the hill and they will need the encouragement that “We will go back to those waterfalls on the way out.” It is a beautiful hike along the edge of the valley. A turn and we were at the Falls, which I count as a waterfall but is not that impressive in all honesty. 

Much more is the upcoming Upper Wildcat Falls. Which brought us back into training time.

Lesson 3: People have died at waterfalls.

Waterfalls are unforgiving. Their beauty demands a healthy respect. Admittedly, sometimes the groups I hike with can blur the lines of what that looks like, but that doesn’t change the fact that dangerous areas demand caution. This day, Upper Wildcat was flowing low, but this 100′ waterfall still is an awe inspiring rock formation, and safe as long as you stay on the trail. My two older kids both said,”Whoa!!!” as the trees gave way to bare rock cliffs when hiking on the trail. The Danger signs are in 3 locations, so there’s plenty notice of the need for caution and tempered exploring. You’ll have to cross the creek with a small rock hop.

The trail meanders through the forest next to the creek at a much easier elevation during this section. There are some cool cascades in the valley as Wildcat Creek makes its way from the Upper to Middle to Lower Falls and eventually the Middle Saluda River. These are visible from the trail.

Soon, we were back at Lower Wildcat for some wading in the chilly plunge pool. The kids easily waded up to the falls close enough to touch it. 

This really is a great hike for families. Despite the dangers of waterfalls, if you stay on the trail, it is quite safe. There are lots of things to see, and it’s a wonderful way to get outside. What a jewel we have in the Upstate of South Carolina! With places like this, we can ease our kids (and ourselves!) into the outdoors. If you’re looking for something with a lot of payoff for little effort, Wildcat Wayside should be on your list. My kids loved it.

Greenville Kid Friendly Hiking Lake Placid Trail Mountain Creek Trail Paris Mountain State Park South Carolina The SC Project Turtle Trail Upstate

The SC Project: Kid Friendly Hiking in Greenville

We had a free morning and the kids have been begging me to take them hiking. The last few times I’ve gone out, they’ve really wanted to go and I had to give them the stinging answer, “This one’s just for daddy. It’ll be too hard for kids.” Stinging for both sides.
I’m fortunate to live less than 10 minutes from the entrance to Paris Mountain State Park in Greenville, SC. I was surprised to see that rates have gone up as of May 24th, 2014. $5 for adults and $3 for kids. I didn’t notice the age limit, as I had bought an inland park pass last year so we weren’t stopped long.
I’ve taken both of my kids on the Lake Placid loop a few times, and I didn’t really want to it again, at least not it alone. I didn’t think I could haul both Emma and Link along the Brissy Ridge Loop, as it’s rated one of the more difficult more loops in the park. Looking at the map, I was able to expand the Lake Placid loop with connecting the Mountain Creek Trail to a connector to the Turtle Trail and back to the parking lot.
We started around the dam side of the lake. There’s an artificial waterfall with a footbridge that’s fun for the kids. It’s a little rocky and rooty down there, but nothing too extreme. Both my kids loves waterfalls! Emma had brought a self-made sketchbook and her pencils, and she stopped to sketch the waterfall. Daddy’s heart melts for his little girl. Link and I walked around a little and found an eastern Kingsnake catching some sun before it slithered back under its rock. 
The trail beyond the lake is nice and shaded, offering plenty of opportunities to get close to the lake. There are a few downed trees that have roots sticking up out of the ground and the trunk is out in the water, eventually submerging. The kids loved to climb over these! Along this section we saw a huge dragonfly, a red-eared sliding turtle sunbathing on a log, and I caught a quick glimpse of a five-lined skink before it disappeared. 
We crossed the boardwalk and kept going on the Mountain Creek Trail, which meanders alongside the Mountain Creek (hence the name). We took a break at the Music in the Woods Ampitheather for a rest and a snack. As I’ve taken my kids out on hikes, I’ve learned that they need more than just the hike. They like additional fun things to do like at the Ampitheater they got to run around the seats and put on a show of their own, and have a granola bar or fruit snacks to keep their energy and spirits up. 
We took a turn on the connector to the Turtle Trail (which is clearly marked for either direction), and there was a little steepness here but nothing my kids couldn’t do. 
Walking back on the Turtle Trail, we had to step aside for a mountain biker. We saw a few really bright blue dragonflies, as well. We came out at the Park Center, and checked out the displays inside. There’s a really cool scale model of Paris Mountain that shows the park boundaries, lakes, and how the watershed works. There are also some other fun exhibits like what kind of creatures might be in the water, and identification books for flora and fauna of the park. 
One thing I really wanted to call out attention to is the bike maintenance racks they have in the park. I know I’ve seen one at the top of the mountain, too, near the overflow parking at Brissy Ridge. Pretty cool catering to mountain bikers!
And because they like more than just the hike, we stopped at the playground before heading back to the car.
I let Emma carry my GPS on this trip, but for some reason it said we had hiked around 5.75 miles. That’s not even close to accurate. I don’t know what happened with it, but I calibrated it once I got home so we’ll see what happens next hike. At my estimation, the loop hike we did was somewhere around 2.3miles. I did carry Link for the last little bit after we were about halfway through the Turtle Trail, but he had gone well to his limit already. General rule of thumb that I have heard for taking kids hiking is 1/2mile for every year of their age.
A great day at Paris Mountain discovering the wonders of God’s creation with my kids. I can’t wait to take them out more.