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A 75-foot waterfall tucked away along this moderate, 3.5 mile trail helps make the Winding Stairs Trail one of the finest beginner trails in northwest South Carolina. If you start at the northern trailhead at the Cherry Hill Recreation Area, this meandering, out and back path is an easy hike, because it drops 1,100 feet over its length. If you are looking for a more demanding hike, start at the southern trailhead on Tamassee Road (FS 710). Either way, this is a great hike for beginners or a good warm-up for a more demanding trail. You will follow rust colored blazes through a hardwood forest, encounter a multitude of wildflowers, and cross small creeks, all within sight or hearing of the West Fork of Townes Creek. The forest is mainly oak with an understory of buckberry and blueberry; fall colors here are particularly striking. Deep ochre, red, and yellow fill the woods and provide a gorgeous habitat for thrushes, warblers, and indigo buntings in addition to deer and wild hogs. You will eventually enter a dry, open pine grove that gives way to a smaller path that provides a dogleg down to Miuka Falls. Oddly, just before the switchback to the falls, the Winding Stairs Trail makes its sole departure from Townes Creek, possibly the only point you won't hear the water. The path to the falls is not totally obvious, especially in winter and early spring, so keep your eyes open. Continuing from Miuka Falls, you eventually come to the southern trailhead on Tamassee Road. Here you can backtrack or leave the trail if you shuttled cars. There are facilities at the Cherry Hill Recreation Area.

Campsites with facilities are at Cherry Hill Recreation Area and Oconee State Park. Primitive campsites are at Burrells Ford Campground. Oconee State Park includes 19 cabins, 140 campsites and 10 tent sites.

Directions: From Walhalla, To the northern trailhead: drive west on SC 28 for 7.5 miles and bear right onto SC 107. Drive 8.8 miles to Cherry Hill Recreation Area on the right. The trailhead is on the right (east) side of the highway, just south of the entrance to the recreation area.To the southern trailhead: drive west on SC 28 for 7.5 miles and bear right onto SC 107. Drive 5.8 miles and turn right onto Tamassee Road (FS 710). Drive 2.5 miles to a small parking area and trailhead on the left, just prior to a bridge crossing Townes Creek.

Distance: 3.5 miles

Difficulty: Easy

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Sumter National Forest, South Carolina

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The details, dates, and prices mentioned here were accurate at the time of publication.

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