Laurel Fork Falls

Lake Jocassee Laurel Fork FallsA couple of weeks ago we went on one of my favorite South Carolina runs of all time. My ideal run is challenging, but not demoralizing, extremely beautiful and interesting all along the way with plenty of variety and an incredible destination that helps pull you along and tempts you further. Also, it’s within a reasonable distance (no more than an hour or so) of decent pizza so you have hope instead of despair as your bloodsugar begins to crash and you realize you’re very underprepared in the snack department. :) This had all of that! It was magnificent.

trail runner on the foothills trail heading to Lake Jocassee and Laurel Fork FallsThe run wove along Laurel Creek, which trips and plunges over the rocks, criss-crossing the Foothills Trail until it gushes off a cliff at the end. It culminates with an 80 foot high waterfall plunging into Lake Jocassee, the pristine mountain lake in Devil’s Fork State Park. I can’t wait to come back in the summer and take a dip at the halfway point of this run! That water is so beautiful, I was very tempted to take a jump in February.

Laurel Fork Falls at Lake Jocassee Foothills Trail

Along the way, you pass a smaller, but very beautiful waterfall called Virginia Hawkins. For a shorter outing this is a great option. If you hike or run all the way to Laurel Fork Falls and Lake Jocassee from Laurel Fork Gap, it is about 9 miles round trip; however, if you only go as far as Virginia Hawkins falls, it’s about 3 miles round trip.

Getting Here:  Map your route to Horse Pasture Road Sunset, SC. This is a gravel road off of US 178 marked by a sign for the Foothills Trail. Follow the gravel road as it slowly climbs into the woods. You will pass a Foothills Trail parking lot on the left as you come in. Keep going (unless you want to add about 8 extra miles to your hike- you can jump on the Foothills Trail from this first parking lot but just be aware that it will add significantly to your elevation change and mileage and it is less scenic than later parts of the trail). After a few more miles you’ll come to an intersection with Cane Brake road leading off to your right and some small unmarked parking areas on your left. This is where we parked.

Begin your hike/run by taking Cane Brake Road up the hill. You will come to a gate that blocks drivers seasonally-just go around it. Continue to climb until you see the small white sign for Laurel Fork Heritage Preserve on your left and another wooden sign with yellow arrows pointing both directions to signify the intersection with the Foothills trail. Turn left at this intersection and very shortly you will come to a poorly marked right turn into the woods. That is the Foothills Trail and now you will begin to see white blazes marking it all along the way.

Most of this trail was easy to follow, but near the end it can be a bit confusing. To get down by the lake you need to take one last little spur labeled with a sign that says “Boat Access Spur .3 miles” (we thought it said 3 miles-thankfully that wasn’t the case).IMG_6477.JPG Good to Know: There really wasn’t much cell phone service in this area, so be prepared for that, take a buddy, and tell someone your plans. Bring water and snacks and wear good shoes with traction even if you’re not running. There is a decent amount of elevation change over the course of the run and some places are quite steep but it is well worth the effort!image-2-28-17-at-12-07-pm

Where to eat: We love hitting Sidewall Pizza in Travelers Rest on our way back into Greenville. It’s open a little later, you can eat outside if you feel grimy and their pizza, giant salads, and homemade ice cream really hit the spot after a long afternoon on the trail.

A Christmas Tree Expedition and Foothills Trail Run


This year everything seemed to fly by and the holiday season is proving no exception. Thanksgiving came and went and suddenly we were a week into December with no Christmas tree.  Every year since we got married, David and I have gone somewhere special to pick out a Christmas tree and chop it down.  It’s unnecessary and sometimes overpriced, but it’s also a really fun tradition. I highly recommend just going for it, at least once. The last two years we have gone to a place called Zeigler’s in Brevard, North Carolina. It’s family run, beautiful, isolated in the middle of Pisgah National Forest, and very reasonably priced.


We were headed there this year with the intention of snagging a tree and catching a run in the mountains on our way home, but daylight was fading quickly. As we were sorting through our options, we stumbled upon another smaller farm right along the road and decided to check it out. The trees looked so perfect and they were advertised as the highly desirable Fraser firs. We decided it couldn’t hurt to do a price check and ended up getting a gorgeous 10-11 foot tree for $45!  It was such a cool Christmas blessing, and since it was 45 minutes closer than the other spot we had enough daylight for a quick run on the Foothills trail. 


The Foothills trail is a legendary spot to us. We have heard several crazy stories about it–friends thru-hiking it over a weekend ending in tears of relief, others attempting it only to be thwarted by exhaustion induced illness etc. There have also been some amazing photos posted of it, vistas overlooking Lake Joccassee, plummeting waterfalls and winding single track trails.  This past weekend, we finally got our first taste of this spot and it was kind of by accident. We were headed up to get the Christmas tree when we decided to follow a large wooden sign that pointed to the Foothills Trail just to see where it took us and what it was like.


In the parking area at the top of a winding dirt road, we found this weathered sign which pointed to Laurel Falls 8.1 miles away. We knew from some earlier research that this falls pours into the stunning expanse of Lake Joccassee. It was amazing to us that one of our favorite destinations was only 8 miles away down the Foothills trail. Since we only had about 30 minutes of daylight left after getting our giant Griswoldian tree hoisted onto the car, we did not make it to the lake; however, we did get a little taste of an awesome new trail that is just over an hour from Greenville. Now we are plotting a mild winter day excursion run to the lake and back. Who’s with us?

Getting There: Head up 178 N (Pickens Highway) toward Brevard.  A large wooden sign denotes the Foothills Trail on the left. The small Christmas tree farm is on your left about 10 minutes past this sign. If you reach signs for The Wilds camp (also on the left), you’ve gone too far by about a mile.

Running the Trail: Proceed up the winding dirt road past the wooden sign for about half a mile. It will lead you to a gravel parking area or the road continues (we did not explore beyond the parking area by car). On foot, head towards the continuing gravel/dirt road and almost immediately you will see signs for the Foothills Trail on the right and steep steps leading up from the road into the woods. Run out and back as far as you like following the white blazes.


Look for adventure far and nigh!