Pinnacle Falls is a 120-foot tall, easily accessible, spectacular waterfall that nobody apparently knows about. None of the South Carolina waterfall guide books contain any reference to it. Google it and you’ll find a single reference – the fact that it is located on the property of Camp Hannon. Now, word-of-mouth knowledge of its existence is another thing, you will find folks who know of this waterfall but don’t look for any documentation about it.
Possibly its anonymity is related it being on private property but, that doesn’t hold much water since, Camp Hannon welcomes folks to their facility and encourages its use. It’s not even hard to find. Take US 178 north from Pickens until it intersects with SC 11. Cross 11 and continue up to Rocky Bottom. About a mile past Rocky Bottom, on the right, you’ll see a sign for Camp Hannon at Pinnacle Falls.
In conjunction with The Scott Hannon Memorial Foundation, Camp Hannon is operated by the Youth Learning Institute of Clemson University. It is one of five camps run by YLI around the state, each with its own particular emphasis. For Camp Hannon, the emphasis is outdoor adventure. Campers experience hiking, mountain biking, backpacking, camping, and rafting adventures. The camp’s facilities are also available for group meetings such as church activities, business retreats, or family reunions.
Although the camp does welcome visitors, please remember it is an operating facility, so check with the camp before visiting to make sure your presence on the property will be convenient. To do so, contact the camp’s Assistant Director, Brandon Driscoll at 864-878-1103 or email him at email@example.com.
Upon entering the camp gate, you’ll cross a bridge and approach the fish pond. To your right you will see the pavilion then, across the pond, the two cabin-like dormitories. The drive then turns back across the creek to the canoe storage. Park here.
In the trail's half mile, you have two sections that are as distinctly different as the two sections of the waterfall.
The first section starts in the woods to the right of the canoe storage and follows Abner Creek. Almost immediately, you will pass the primitive camping area where campers learn camping and tenting skills. The trail shortly crosses back across Abner Creek on a bridge that echos a style to be seen along the upper portion of the trail – the use of local timber for posts and handrails. Moving through the woods parallel to the creek, the trail is wide and shallow of slope.
You will pick up the sound of Pinnacle Falls well before the trail comes to the edge of the creek at the very bottom of the lower section of the waterfall. Looking up, you are treated to a vista of a 50-foot vertical drop over a long-run tiered rock face. It is actually difficult to determine how long this run is.
This, in itself, is worth the trip, but the fun has just started. Backtrack from the creek’s edge about 20 feet and you’ll notice the second section of the trail heading up the side of the ridge. The personality of this section is completely different from the first section. You’re got about 100 yards of climbing to do along this part of the trail, accomplished with the assistance of ropes, wooden steps, and timber handrails.
Just as you get a good start up the ridge, you’ll come to a rock outcrop which looks like a small version of Caesar’s Head. Campers are told this is a “bear cave" to add to the adventure of the hike. Continue along the timber handrails and you will be delivered to a viewing platform that, for the first time, presents what cannot be seen from below – another 70 foot tall section of waterfall.
Abner Creek comes in at the top and quickly splits into two water courses down this steeper tiered rock face. Once at the bottom, the creek does not bother with gathering itself into a base pool, it just quickly makes a hard right and starts down the lower section, which was seen from the bottom. From the platform you see the entire 120 vertical feet of rushing water. Not only is the presence of the upper section stunning, you now get to see that the lower section is actually about 75 yards long.
Most guide books have a top rating of Spectacular. Such a rating does not do Pinnacle Falls justice.