Moonshine and Confusion Falls
3 routes to these beauties
Click on any of the images on this page for full size/full resolution pic.
These are two of the most gorgeous waterfalls that are in the upstate Greenville County, SC area, and they are located within 0.2 mile of each other. Moonshine Falls, shown above on the right has a gorgeous, free fall drop. The upper portion of the rock cliff it falls from forms a large cave that still has some impressive remains of this area's moonshine production history. Downstream, the hiker comes to Confusion Falls (shown above on the left), where water from two different streams join right at their drop.
There are 3 different routes you can take to get to these two waterfalls (well, 4 actually, if you count the two different variations that include the Naturaland Trust Trail). The catch is none of the routes are short or easy. The easiest way goes thru Asbury Camp, starting and ending at their trailhead. If you want to access it via the Mountain Bridge Passage Wilderness Trails (Dismal, Naturaland Trust, Pinnacle Pass), you'll have some serious distance and elevation change to deal with.
Which ever route you choose, plan to allow plenty of time at these falls to explore the moonshine making remains in the cave, the pool at the base of Moonshine, and the beauty of both of these gorgeous waterfalls.
Elevation Profiles of the various routes
Click any for larger image
Note that only the last profile shown below is round trip (shuttle hike actually), the other three are ONE WAY profiles, allowing you to evaluate various routes to and from this waterfall.
One way, beginning at Asbury Camp and ending at the falls
One way, beginning at Pinnacle Pass and US276 and ending at the falls
One way, beginning at the falls and ending at Caesar's Head Park
Shuttle hike, beginning at Raven Cliff Falls parking area, taking Dismal Trail to the Falls, and then ending at Asbury Camp
I have hiked to these waterfalls via 4 routes:
- an out and back beginning and ending at Asbury Camp
- a shuttle hike beginning at Raven Cliff Falls Parking area and descending via Dismal Trail and returning via Asbury Camp (8 mile car shuttle)
- a shuttle hike starting from Pinnacle Pass and US276, going to the falls, and returning via much of the same route, except remaining on Naturaland Trust all the way to Caesar's Head State Park (2.7 mile car shuttle)
- a shuttle hike beginning at Caesars Head State park, following Naturaland Trust to the turnoff to the Falls, and then returning via Dismal Trail, ending at Raven Cliff Parking Area (1.1 mile car shuttle). I did this one years ago, before I had a GPS, so no elevation profile, but trust me ... this is a tough one!
The map below shows these various routes
You'll definitely need to click on the larger map to see these various tracks and their routes. The above map didn't even have room for the track list given how much area these three different trails traverse!
GPX data for download: Moonshine and Confusion Falls 3 ways.
Directions for the last half mile to the falls,
common to all routes
All the various routes listed on this page approach Moonshine and Confusion Falls from the same spot along Naturaland Trust Trail, labeled in the above map with the waypoint titled "Turn Off To Moonshine Falls" (right in the center of the map). I'll first list the directions to the falls from that point. Then, in the directions below, which start from 4 different locales, I'll give you directions to this point.
The turnoff for the falls from Naturaland Trust Trail is not labeled, although there is a clear, wide, old forest road onto which you turn. There is a rock cairn signifying the turn. And once you make the turn, in a few hundred feet, on the right, you will come to a wooden sign board.
Rock Cairn (above) and Signboard (below)
0.5 mile after your turn at the rock cairn, you'll come to the top of small rise, with a well worn trail turning to your left, and a fainter trail heading straight ahead.
Turn left down the well worn trail (the fainter straight ahead trail heads to Confusion Falls). After a short, steep descent, you'll find yourself at the upper portion of Moonshine Falls, with the cave's overhanging rock cliff above you, old moonshine barrels to your left, and the upper portion of Moonshine Falls dropping in a freefall ahead of you.
Upper Portion of Moonshine Falls
Once you've explored the upper portion of these falls, find the steep scramble path just before you enter the cave, heading steeply downhill to your right, that heads down to the base, where you get to see this waterfall in all its beauty. Plan on wading into the creek from the bottom of the scramble path, in order to head upstream a hundred feet or so for the best view of the falls. There's a nice spot to the left (left as you're standing in the middle of the stream, facing the falls) that's a great place to eat lunch and enjoy this beauty!
Moonshine Falls from the base
A great lunch spot is just out of the frame in the lower left hand corner
Confusion Falls are 0.2 mile further downstream from Moonshine. If you're at the base of Moonshine, go back to the bottom of the scramble path that you followed down from the upper portion of Moonshine, and look for a fairly obvious path that heads in the direction of downriver (south, away from Moonshine) but also uphill, back up to the ridge on which you came down from Naturaland Trust Trail. Once on the ridge, look for a faint trail that has come down the ridge; continue to follow this downhill. You'll come to a campsite, beyond which there is a fairly steep, but short drop off to the creek. Confusion Falls are visible right ahead of you upstream.
Unnamed Cascade just Downstream from Confusion Falls
As you descend down to Confusion Falls, keep bearing to the left more than you think you need to. Once you start dropping off the ridge, the grade is quite steep. If you end up at the creek near a small cascade (shown above), you'll be just a little too far downstream. There is an easy path you can follow upstream to reach Confusion.
4 different routes to these falls
Note that each of these directions (and associated mileages) are ONE WAY. This will allow you to evaluate various beginning and ending points, such as the 4 listed above.
From Asbury Hills
Let's start with the easiest route: From Asbury Hills Camp and Retreat Center. The length of this hike, one way from Asbury to Moonshine Falls is approximately 3.7 miles, most all of it on Asbury property, following their trail system upstream along Matthews Creek. Asbury welcomes hikers to use their trails, as long as camp is not in session, or any retreats are going on. Call ahead of time to request permission: 864-836-3711. At that time, they will give you the code to their gate, so you can drive in to their grounds and down to the trailhead.
Once you start down their main trail (the red blazed "Asbury Trail"), you'll be heading pretty much due north along a wide dirt trail. In 1.6 miles, you'll pass by the turnoff to Cascade Falls, which brings you (in 500 feet) to a very pretty cascade, with a great swimming hole at the base.
Cascade Falls, in Asbury Hills Camp and Retreat Center
In another tenth of a mile from the turnoff to Cascade Falls, you come to a cable crossing over Matthews Creek.
Cable Crossing of Matthews Creek
Once across Matthews Creek, continue to follow the trail and in a very short distance (a few hundred feet), you come to Naturaland Trust Trail, blazed pink. Turn right (south).
The turn for Moonshine Falls is in 0.6 mile. See common directions, above.
Moonshine Falls via Dismal Trail
This route brings you to Moonshine Falls from the north, beginning at the parking area for Raven Cliff Falls, on US276, just a mile or so south of the NC/SC state line. You'll have a 1400 foot elevation drop from the parking area to the falls. Distance (one way) is 4.7 miles. There is a $2.00 per person fee for use of SC State Parks, paid via the honor system at the parking area.
From the parking area, walk across highway 276 and begin your hike. The first 1.4 miles of this hike are along red blazed Raven Cliff Falls Trail, and is easy walking, along a wide trail.
Raven Cliff Falls Trail
At the 1.4 mile point you will come to a large map/sign board, indicating the juncture with Gum Gap Trail.
Sign Board with Map along the trail
Remain on Raven Cliff Falls Trail which continues to the left. In 0.4 mile you'll come to the turn off for Dismal Trail. But first, continue straight ahead for another 600 feet for a view of Raven Cliff Falls across the gorge from the observation deck.
From the observation deck, backtrack to the juncture with Dismal Trail. This rather disconcerting sign will greet you:
Sign at the head of Dismal Trail
This sign is referencing the loop which goes down Dismal Trail, then up Naturaland Trust Trail to the suspension bridge over Raven Cliff Falls. Their "V" shape elevation profile is pretty accurate, but their elevation readings are off by about 500 feet or so!
Over the next 1.3 miles, Dismal Trail will drop 1000 feet in elevation. Very soon in your descent the trail will come to a large rock, from the top of which you get a great view of Raven Cliff Falls. Do plan to spend time at this superb viewpoint.
At the base of Dismal Trail, you'll come to the juncture with Naturaland Trust Trail. Turn left (south) onto Naturaland Trust Trail, blazed pink. In another 0.6 mile (and another 250 feet of elevation drop) you'll come to the juncture with the trail that goes across Matthews Creek via the cable crossing, mentioned above. Remain on Naturaland Trust Trail until you come to the rock cairn signaling the turn to the falls. See common directions, above.
Moonshine Falls from Caesar's Head State Park
Naturaland Trust Trail
This route is TOUGH, whether you do it in the downhill direction (Caesar's Head to the falls) or uphill. 0.6 mile of this hike goes along the base of Caesar's Head's rock cliff, and you are picking your way through a huge boulder garden, walking around some boulders, over others, and at other times navigating a narrow, rocky trail, with a steep, steep drop off to the south. It generally takes me an hour to navigate this section. There is a 200 foot elevation change along this 0.6 mile.
But, let's start at the beginning, at Caesar's Head State Park. Distance (one way) is 4.1 miles with an 1800 elevation drop. There is a $2.00 per person fee for use of SC State Parks, paid via the honor system at the beginning of the trail, just across the highway from the park's headquarters.
Naturaland Trust Trail begins off the purple blazed Frank Coggins Trail, which begins across US276 from the Park's headquarters, heads northeast away from US276, then turns and heads southeast back to the highway. Looking at the map, you may be tempted to just walk the highway from the Park's headquarters to the spot where you can pick up Naturaland Trust. The distance is 0.6 mile (vs. 1.3 miles to the same point via Frank Coggins), but it is MUCH more pleasant walking the trail. The highway is quite busy, narrow, with no shoulder, and the portion you'll be walking along includes a blind curve. The trail on the other hand, is a very pleasant walk, with very little elevation change. Despite the longer distance, I find the trail MUCH more relaxing!
Frank Coggins Trail is a loop or lollipop formation; Naturaland Trust branches off the loop portion.
Hike down Frank Coggins Trail. In 1/2 mile, Coldspring Connector Trail will branch off to the left. Continue straight. In another 0.1 mile you'll be at the beginning of loop portion. Turn right, as the turn off to Naturaland Trust comes very soon on this side of the loop.
As soon as you turn right onto the loop, you'll cross a small stream. Turn right, as the trail joins an old, wide logging road. As you head uphill, watch the blazes for your turn off the wide logging road. Soon after turning left off this wide logging road, Naturaland Trust trail will branch off to the right, as Frank Coggins bears left.
Turn right onto pink blazed Naturaland Trust. This begins one of the prettiest sections of this trail: level trail, through a dense rhododendron section.
You'll come out of the rhodo section onto US276. Look for your blazes across the highway ... you'll parallel the highway for a short distance, but the trail is placed on the OTHER side of the guard rail, keeping you from having to pay any attention to traffic. 0.3 mile from Naturaland Trust's beginning off Frank Coggins trail, you'll cross a driveway, and then the trail will head downhill and south, heading directly away from the highway. If you look up to your right, you'll see a house way above you on a rock cliff.
0.2 mile from where you cross the driveway, you come to RockCliff Falls, which is just uphill from the trail.
Rockcliff Falls is a low flow waterfall
that glides down
a long narrow crevice on this rock face
Soon past this waterfall, Naturaland Trust Trail follows along a vertical rock cliff, giving you an idea of where the waterfall you just passed got its name!
Naturaland Trust Trail
as it follows along
a long rock cliff
You'll eventually leave this rock cliff face and begin heading downhill through open forest. 0.6 mile from Rockcliff Falls, you'll come to the juncture of Naturaland Trust and Pinnacle Pass Trails.
Signpost indicating the juncture
Naturaland Trust and Pinnacle Pass Trails
Make a hard right turn here to remain on Naturaland Trust Trail (pink blazes). Pinnacle Pass (white blazes) continues straight ahead, and comes to US276 in 0.6 mile. A short distance after you make this hard right turn, you'll come to the first of 3 designated campsites along this trail. About a tenth of a mile past the campsite, you'll come to a spring with water flowing down between several large rocks.
Soon after this spring, your trek through the above mentioned rock garden begins. Take your time through this section, as you climb over and around boulders and rocks. At times you'll see a rocky trail to follow, other times, just look for the pink blazes to see which way to go. The stretch is well blazed, which greatly assists with figuring out which way to go to pick your way through the various rocks, boulders, and associated crevices.
And, be sure and stop every now and then to look somewhere other than DOWN at the trail ... especially in the wintertime, you get great long range views of Table Rock and Table Rock Lake and the huge vertical rock cliff that makes up Caesars Head Cliff.
Also, take time to look UP to your right (if heading TO the falls) .... you will see that you are indeed at the base of Caesar's Head. Far above, you can see the observation deck and nearby homes.
Once you're through the "boulder garden", you'd think the "heavy lifting" is done, but no. Once the trail again turns to a TRAIL (vs. a rocky, boulder-strewn hillside), you begin a rather steep, steady descent, dropping 700 feet in about half a mile. The descent ends just before you reach the rock cairn signaling the turnoff to the falls. See common directions, above for the remainder of the route to the falls.
Moonshine Falls from US276
Pinnacle Pass and Naturaland Trust Trails
This route is 2.8 miles one way, with 1000 foot elevation change (downhill if you're going to the falls). This route is almost the same as the one above, except that you begin on Pinnacle Pass Trail, where it intersects US276. This is 2.7 miles south of Caesar's Head State Park. There's a small pull off with room for one or two cars. Look for white blazes which mark this trail. You begin by heading up a ridge, then joining an old, overgrown road. Keep watching the blazing, as you leave this old road for a final push up the hillside. In 0.6 mile from the highway, you'll come to the juncture with Naturaland Trust, as mentioned in the above section. You'll gain 300 feet elevation in the 0.6 mile. Head straight onto Naturaland Trust (pink blazes), and follow the directions in the section above.