While most guides will identify Big Bend Trail as the route to Big Bend Falls, there are actually 2 other viable routes to this waterfall: Via Burrells’ Ford and via Licklog Falls. This route is about 3.3 miles one way.
The key to using any of the 3 ways in is the Chattooga Trail which parallels the river for 15.5 miles with the northern terminus just under 1.5 miles above Burrell’s Ford.
A couple of really nice features about starting the hike at Burrell’s Ford is you can drive all the way to the Chattooga and have a nice parking area to leave your vehicle. Before you hit the trail toward Big Bend, you can go upstream about 15 minutes to Spoonauger Falls. Well worth the detour.
When you’re ready for the big hike, you’ll head off downstream where, at the half mile mark, you can make another short hop over to King Creek Falls.
Then it’s back to the Chattooga Trail which, as its name indicates, pretty much follows the river so you’re seldom out of sight and sound of our largest whitewater river. The trail will occasionally cut across the point of a loop in the river so you’ll have more ups and downs than you expect. Then other times, the trail is literally on the river bed, so much so that alternate “high water” trails have been cut. These high water trails are steep and difficult, something that should be expected since the original trail takes the easy route along the river bed.
Giving its proximity to the river, there are plenty of places to stop and rest and play in the water during warm weather. One thing to remember is that just because you’re in the mountains and along a big river, it will not necessarily be “cool.” In high summer, it is hot and steamy down in the river valley. This is a long hike, take plenty of water.
The river also is a great draw for wildlife, so keep your eyes open, you’ll never know what wonders await you. Bald eagles can be seen soaring around the river’s curves and sitting in trees along the river bank.
At about 2 ¾ miles, the Big Bend Trail will come in from the left and signalling it’s about 0.6 miles to Big Bend Falls. You’ll climb from this point then drop down to the river bed before climbing again significantly. At about 0.5 miles, this trail will be a couple hundred feet above the river and will begin to follow the river around to the left. You may want to give up by now but don’t, the trail will suddenly turn and start down via a series of switchbacks. You’ll go through a couple of sets of wood steps and finally some steps made out of stone ledges. There is a sharp left at the stone steps. About 20 yards past these steps is a landing where you will find a scramble trail dropping down toward the river.
To get to the waterfall, use the scramble trail down about 100 feet to a large tree that stands about 15 feet above the river bed. Use the roots and trees provided to get down to this tree. If you go to the right of the tree, you can get to the middle of the waterfall but it’s not a good place for photos. Going to the left, you’ll find a niche is the rock which will allow you to shimmy down to the river bed. From there you can get some good pictures. The best shots will come from the Georgia side of the river, but unless you’re willing to wade waist-deep, be satisfied with camera work from the SC side.