Thursday, August 13, 2020

Rocky Creek Trail

Waterfalls are both beautiful and mystifying to me (how come the water never runs out?!). Of course, I think some of the the most spectacular ones can be found in the North Carolina mountains. But, turns out, there are a few cascades closer to home. One is in Great Falls, S.C., about an hour south of uptown Charlotte.

The waterfall is a fun feature of the Rocky Creek Trail, a 1.6-mile (one way) Carolina Thread Trail good for hiking and biking. The trail, which is flat and alternates between sandy, gravel and natural surfaces, follows the banks of Rocky Creek, a tributary of the Catawba River.

The trailhead is in a gravel parking lot just off a small highway and is marked with a Carolina Thread Trail sign. There are no restroom facilities, so plan accordingly.

From the parking lot, there's a short, steep spur trail that leads to a wide, sandy beach area, which serves as a canoe and kayak access point and launch.

At the beach, taking a right will lead to the western end of the trail, which is about a mile away. About 0.7 mile in, you'll come to a gate indicating private property. Hikers are welcome to continue on, but be mindful of the electric fence marking the boundaries. It's around here that the trail becomes more interesting, offering plenty of opportunities to stop and hop on the large creek rock formations and play in the water. This stretch is peaceful, mostly shady and, though there are no trail-markers, easy to follow.

One observation worth noting is that the trail follows a sewer line, which is not remarkable, other than to suggest not visiting on a particularly hot, still day.

This section of the trail ends somewhat abruptly at a fence. From here, retrace your steps and head east to take in the waterfall, which is about 0.2 mile past the beach area at the parking lot trailhead (taking a left where you took a right before).

Following the trail in this direction, the waterfall will be on your left. There's an option to take a bridge straight to remain on the main trail, but opt for the detour, marked with a sign, to reach the cascade. You can walk all the way to the base of the waterfall, but be careful doing so as the wet rocks are slippery. There's also a social trail that leads to the top of the waterfall, but I do not recommend taking it, especially with young kids, as the drop-off is steep and dangerous.

If you want to complete the trail, continue on for another 0.3 miles, where you'll run into a fence at the edge of a water treatment facility. At this end, the creek is wide and flat, offering a contrasting vista to the rocky, fast-moving water upstream.

Between the large, playful rocks at one end of the trail and the waterfall at the other, this outing offers a number of fun features. It's an easy outing for hikers of all ages and skill levels. And a nice option for beating the sweltering heat these days. Next time you're looking for someplace new to explore, Rocky Creek is worth your consideration.

How to get there:
The Rocky Creek Trail trailhead is located at 1030 Chester Ave, Great Falls, SC, 29055. The gravel parking lot is marked with a Carolina Thread Trail sign.

Don't forget to pack:
  • Comfortable walking shoes: And consider shoes that can get wet if you want to rock-hop
  • Bug spray: Especially during summer months
  • Water: Bring plenty for during and after the hike
  • Snacks: Consider a picnic on the beach or rocks
  • Hats, sunglasses and sunscreen: This trail is mostly shaded, but not entirely