Wildcat Wayside Falls

Height: 140 feet total
Trail Type: Dirt
Hike Distance: 0.9 miles round trip
Difficulty: 5
Beauty: 6

Overview:

This is one of those trails where you can see as many as 4 different waterfalls along the loop, so if you’re looking to increase your totals, Wildcat Wayside is a good choice. In the 1930s, the National Park Service experimented with little parks along major highways. Wildcat Wayside along US 276 was one of those wayside parks. As with most things in South Carolina, the government gave up on the experiment, but the trail system is still heavily trafficked and in great shape. Unless you go early in the morning, you’ll have company. At the very least, there will be a boiled peanut stand in the parking area, so you can grab a bag of peanuts and have a snack while you hike.

The lower section of the falls is visible from the road and is about 30 feet high. Just upstream (and partially visible from the road) is a 10-foot section, which might be the prettiest of the four. Farther upstream is the 100-foot upper portion – though you’ll need to catch this part in times of higher flow as it may dry up to a trickle in the late summer.

Directions:

From the intersection of SC highway 11 and US 276 in Cleveland, head west on US 276 for about 5 miles and park in the big pullout on the right. You’ll see the lower section of the falls before Wildcat Branch passes under the highway. If you’re in North Carolina, you can take US 276 out of Brevard and head down off the mountains. The pullout will be on the left a short distance after it joins SC highway 11.

Hike Description:

If you didn’t know better, you’d probably just think that the lower 30-foot falls was the only thing here. However, there is a set of stone steps leading up the left side of the falls. You’ll cross the creek just below the middle section of the falls and continue up the ridge to an information kiosk.

Take the trail up the creek to the remnants of an old chimney. Just beyond the remains, the trail splits. If you take the trail to the right, you’ll pass by a smaller 20-foot sliding waterfall that may not even exist in the late summer. It’s on an unmarked tributary that feeds Wildcat Branch and as far as I know doesn’t even have a name.

Continue on for a short distance and you’ll come to the upper section of the falls. This is a huge open slide, although the water mainly travels down the right side of the slope. There are several signs here warning you of the slick rocks because a few morons have died here. You can scramble up the slope and stand out on a couple of huge, flat boulders to get a full view. Continue across the creek and you’ll return to where the trail splits in a short distance. Continue on the right split and back down to the highway.