It’s a historic rest stop with waterfalls. You can see one of them from South Carolina’s Highway 11, also known as the Cherokee Foothills Scenic Highway. It’s a small park, only about 60 acres, but it’s packed with nature and history. This hike is easy and great for families since it’s a one-mile loop to see three waterfalls.
While the beautiful 20-30 foot lower Wildcat Branch Falls and shallow crystal clear pool are enough to make you stop as as roadside attraction, there are some gems in the rhodendron forest.
Take the stone stairs to the left of the falls for the short hike up to the 8-10 foot middle falls. These falls also have beautiful shallow pool. I found these to be the most picturesque of the the three falls on the trail.
From the middle falls the trail flattens out. Just a little ways down, you’ll see an old chimney and foundation. Greenville Wayside Park was built in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps.
The National Park System established the park as one of the “convenient short-time stopping places for the motoring public,” as a forerunner for the rest areas with picnic spots we find along highways nowadays. There were six wayside parks established in South Carolina. Greenville Wayside Park was turned over to the state in the 1940s. Since then, it’s been know as Wildcat Wayside, named after the creek flowing through the park.
When you come to the creek crossing, you’ll see some stairs going left or right. Do the loop by going right. You’ll lose the sounds of the highway as you hike on the well maintained and marked trail. As you reach the top part of the trail, you find a small cascade. If it’s really dry, it may not be more than a trickle.
Keep looping around and you’ll reach the upper Wildcat Branch Falls. It’s a 100+ foot cascade flowing down an exposed granite wall. Depending on dryness, it can be a rushing wall of water or just a steady stream like I encountered on a fall hike.
Continue on the trail and you’ll cross over the creek to pass back by the rest area and back to middle and lower falls.
Enjoy a last look and maybe pick up some boiled peanuts from the stand in the parking area to snack on during the drive home.
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