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Lower Whitewater Falls
The falls downriver from the
better-known Whitewater Falls
are nearly as tall and just as
Difficulty (1-5):
Distance (round
trip):Trail time:
Driving time:
3.4 miles
2.5 hours
1 hour
500 feet
From Lake Toxaway’s main entrance, drive
west on Highway 64 toward Cashiers. After
about one mile, turn left at the Sapphire
Country Store, heading south on Highway
281. Drive 9.5 miles to the entrance to Duke
Power’s Bad Creek property. The gate
opens automatically for vehicles, but only
from 6 a.m. until 6 p.m., so plan to be off the
property by that time.

Inside the Bad Creek generating station,
Duke drains water from a series of
reservoirs to turn underground turbines and
generate electricity during periods of peak
demand. At nights and on weekends, it
pumps the water back up to drain it again.

Drive two miles into the property and turn
left at a sign pointing the way to the
Foothills Trail. After .3 miles, turn into the
Bad Creek Parking Area on the right.

Start by leaving the parking area on a half-
mile trail to the Whitewater River.  (Just
before the river, note the Coon Branch Trail
leading to the left into a rare patch of virgin
forest.) You’ll stay on blue-blazed trails for
the entire hike.

The patch of forest on the far side of the
river was a working farm growing vegetables
and cotton as recently as 1950. Continue
on the trail directly in front of you, which
carries the white blazes of the Foothills Trail
in addition to the blue blazes you are
following. The signs on this portion offer
confusing and apparently contradictory
length indications; nonetheless they show
directions clearly and are easy to follow.

When the trail splits, take the spur to the
lower falls. When you emerge onto a road,
follow it left for about 250 yards before
picking up the trail again on the far side.
You'll soon arrive at a platform that offers a
commanding view of the falls.

If you view the falls during winter, when the
leaves are down from the trees, the
wreckage of a plane will be visible on the
mountainside to the left of the falls. In the
early 1970s, two couples died while trying to
get a good view of the falls from the air.

Retrace your footsteps to get back to the
The falls in winter 2006
This is my son Jeff. He's a good hiking
partner and he's worked as a newspaper
and magazine reporter, so he wrote up
many of the hiking descriptions on this site
while he was between jobs, visiting me.  
Around the time he wrote these he was
working in Washington, DC for
CQ Weekly,
a magazine that covers Congress. Currently
he works in Liberia, West Africa, where he's
a regional director for the
Carter Center's
program to encourage the rule of law and
respect for human rights in Liberia
Visible in winter to the left of the falls is this
wreckage of a plane crash in the 1970s
Copyright 2007 by Tony Austin