This is another one of those destination hikes where your trail selection will have a lot to do with the enjoyment of the hike. While Ashmore Heritage Preserve has a loop trail, there are actually two trailheads.
The Preserve, located adjacent to Persimmon Ridge Road, is home to Wattacoo Lake and the 150-foot tall Ashmore Falls. Take US 276 for 3.2 miles past the Cleveland, SC Post Office. Turn right onto Persimmon Ridge Road and go 0.8 miles to a parking area marked with a sign.
Looking up the road about 50 yards, you will see a barricaded roadbed coming in from the right. There is also a large sign with information about the Preserve; however, this marks a longer approach with some steep elevation changes, broken pavement trails, and a water crossing that almost guarantees you to get wet. This approach is frequently described in guide books and is the subject of a previous Examiner article.
A more pleasant trail can be found about 50 yards back down the road where another barricaded roadbed comes in. Backtrack downhill from the parking area to this trailhead. The trail generally descends straight down a ridge on a gentle slope. About a half mile in length, the trail is wide and well-maintained.
Just a few yards past the barricade, you encounter a signpost at a trail intersection. This is the Mountain Bridge Passage Trail running 5.5 miles from old Camp Spearhead to Oil Camp Creek. Continue straight on toward Lake Wattacoo. The trail moves down the ridge until you encounter the West Fork of Wattacoo Creek, an obviously difficult crossing. Just before the creek, look to your left and you’ll find a spur path taking you over to a footbridge. From the creek, it is just a short distance to the climb up the end of the dam for Lake Wattacoo.
Looking across the lake, you will get a magnificent view of a section of the Blue Ridge Escarpment. On the far right side of this rock face is the horsetail waterfall named Ashmore Falls. All this, along with the forest and sky are reflected in the lake’s surface, making for spectacular photos. Even though you are a good distance away from the falls, they are easily heard – creating a really, really special place of sight and sound.
If so inclined, there is a loop trail around the lake; however, access to the waterfall itself is limited to those willing to do some reasonably serious bushwhacking. There is no trail to the waterfall.
The Preserve is also home to special plants, so pay attention along the trail to treasures that might be presented underfoot.