Southern Region Viewing Area
Umbrella Leaf, Diphylleia cymosa. Photo by Robin Mackie.
Vasey's Trillium, Trillium vaseyi. Photo by Robin Mackie.
Painted Trillium, Trillium undulatum. Photo by Robin Mackie.
Speckled Wood Lily, Clintonia umbellate. Photo by Robin Mackie.
East Fork of the Chattooga River Trail
Forest: Francis Marion and Sumter National Forest
District: Andrew Pickens Ranger District
Wildflower viewing: This easily marked trail follows the East Fork Branch of the Chattooga River beginning at the picnic area at the South Carolina State Fish Hatchery. Here the trail enters the Ellicott Rock Wilderness - the only wilderness occupying three states (South Carolina, North Carolina, and Georgia). The East Fork of the Chattooga trail occurs in an area of particularly high rainfall, and supports some of the richest plant diversity in the Chattooga Gorge. Known to harbor between 500 to 700 species of vascular plants, and 300 species of mosses, this area also contains an interesting mix of low and high elevation plant species. During April through June you may see up to five species of trillium (large-flowered trillium (Trillium grandiflorum), sweet white trillium (Trillium simile), painted trillium (Trillium undulatum), wake robin (Trillium vaseyi), and large populations of Catesby's trillium (Trillium catesbaei). There are some uncommon Southern Appalachian endemics - including large-leaved umbrella-leaf (Diphylleia cymosa) and mountain camellia (Stewartia ovata), as well as speckled wood-lily (Clintonia umbellata), and sweetflag (Acorus calamus) . Other species which you may see adjacent to the trail include white cohosh (Actaea pachypoda), yellow mandarin (Prosartes lanuginosa), and maidenhair fern (Adiantum pedatum). Mountain laurel (Kalmia latifolia) and great laurel (Rhododendron maximum) are common.
Safety First: The grade is easy from either direction, but be sure to wear the proper footwear including comfortable shoes or boots, and rain gear, and bring drinking water, and a line of communication such as a cell phone. The gorge of the East Fork of the Chattooga is an area of high rainfall, and short rainfall events can come through unexpectedly, so be sure to dress for potentially adverse conditions. Be aware of your surroundings and bring a map and compass or global positioning system (GPS). The East Fork Trail is well-used trail by anglers and day-hikers.
Directions: The East Fork Trail has two trailheads: one at the Chattooga Picnic Area adjacent to the Walhalla Fish Hatchery and one at Burrell's Ford. Starting at the picnic area, East Fork Trail is an easy 2.5-mile hike along the north bank of the scenic, fast-moving east fork of the Chattooga River. You will pass through the lush, East Fork Gorge into the Ellicott Rock Wilderness Area, which provides a backdrop for most of this trail. It meanders to a junction with the Chattooga Trail, where you can backtrack or hike to Ellicott Rock, which is 1.9 miles north on the Chattooga Trail. To get to the Chattooga Picnic Area: From Walhalla, drive northwest on SC 28 for 7.5 miles and bear right onto SC 107. Drive 12 miles and turn left onto Fish Hatchery Road (Oconee County S-325). Continue to the Fish Hatchery and picnic area. The east trailhead is at the bridge.
Ownership and Management: U.S. Forest Service, Francis Marion and Sumter National Forest.
Closest Town: Mountain Rest, South Carolina