I have a few criteria for a great hike. It should not be too hard, too long, or too steep and it should have a scenic destination – or at least the promise of a picnic or a swim or some other form of motivation other than simply the allure of physical activity. I also prefer a loop trail, but that is not absolutely necessary because I find that trails look amazingly different on the way out and the way in. Maybe it’s just my attitude, but there is definitely a noticeable difference.
DuPont State Recreational Forest offers 86 miles of trails across 10,000 acres. It hits all of my criteria and maybe a few that you the reader might have as well. There are lots of ways to mix and match the hikes to suit your abilities and goals for the day. Popular options are the 1 mile, 3 mile or 7 miles hikes. There are many picnic areas, a variety of water falls with swimming allowed at Hooker Falls, a covered bridge, lakes, and treks to the top of Cedar Rock or Stone Mountain. Dogs, horses and mountain bikes are allowed on many of these trails.
Parking at either the Hooker Falls or the High Falls areas seemed equally good to me and both have bathrooms. The High Falls parking area has a visitor center and hiking maps and friendly Rangers with advice. With a little help, I was able to figure out a nice 3-mile loop that included 3 waterfalls: Hooker Falls, Triple Falls and High Falls.
Hooker Falls offers swimming and picnic areas less than a quarter mile from the parking lot, which explains why I heard it might be crowded. I was there on an overcast, weekday morning and there were several other people already there when I arrived. The trail between Hooker Falls and Triple Falls is shaded, wide and well maintained, but as you approach the Triple Falls there will be a short, steep climb that is a little uneven and rocky. If you want to avoid this – as I did the second time I hiked this area – park at the High Falls lot and do not go past the bridge overlooking Triple Falls.
Triple Falls is a gorgeous 120 foot waterfall that consists of 3 different cascades, with a large rock “shelf” in the middle that is safe to walk out onto and enjoy. To get to the middle “shelf”, I took the short spur trail of stairs between the Triple Falls overlook and the High Falls Trail. This might seem ironic after I just gave you a tip on how to avoid a steep climb, but the 90+ stairs that took me to the middle of Triple Falls were worth the effort. There were seating areas in several places on the stair case to take a rest. The reward is to be refreshed with the mist of the falls while listening to it roar by just feet away …and of course the fantastic photo opportunities. This was one of the waterfalls featured several times in The Hunger Games movie.
I continued upwards to High Falls and once again was presented with options. At the fork in the trail, there is an out and back on the River Bend Trail to the base of High Falls which can be muddy at times but worth it in my opinion or keep to the right and go directly to the lookout bridge for High Falls. I chose to do both. First I followed the River Bend Trail were it ended at an open spot with plenty of rocks to relax on at the edge of the Little River at the base of the waterfall – a little piece of serenity before completing the hike.
After the High Falls overlook – guess what? I once again had options. To the right was a huge picnic area and a trail back to the parking lot. To the left was a trail to the covered bridge. I headed for the bridge, then looped back to the right on the Buck Forest road to the High Falls parking lot. But maybe next time I’ll keep going past the covered bridge and explore even more trails and waterfalls. May the odds be ever in your favor!