When people think of traveling in South Carolina, the first destinations that come to mind might be strolling the historic streets of Charleston or sunning themselves on one of the state’s many gorgeous beaches. But South Carolinians know that the natural beauty of the state runs deep. So for those times when your preference is for fresh mountain air rather than a cool ocean breeze, South Carolina has you covered.
Before You Go
Just like you’d never go to the beach without your towel, it’s important to remember to gear up before you hit the trails. No matter how familiar you are with a trail, it’s always a good idea to pack a map of the area and a compass. Likewise, be sure to carry more water and food than you think you’ll need, just in case you are out longer than you anticipated. Wear appropriate footwear for the terrain and remember that despite warm or sunny weather, at higher elevations, the weather can turn chilly or wet with no warning. Pack a light rain jacket and a warm layer like a flannel shirt to keep you comfortable.
Sassafras Mountain, found in Pickens County, is the highest point in South Carolina at 3,553 feet. From the mountain’s peak, you can catch a glimpse of four states: Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia. You can reach the summit easily via a short 0.2 mile trail after driving up a mountain road off of Route 178, but for a more epic and rewarding hike with overlooks to the French Broad River Valley and waterfalls, take the Foothills Trail 9.9 miles from Table Rock State Park to Sassafras Mountain. Leave a car at either end or make it a long day by hiking out-and-back. The trail is open year-round, but watch for icy road and trail conditions during the coldest months.
Table Rock State Park is a popular destination for hikers and nature lovers near Pickens, South Carolina. There are a number of spectacular hikes in the park, including to the peak of Table Rock Mountain. For a challenging hike a little off-the-beaten path, try the 6-mile round-trip hike to Pinnacle Mountain. From the eastern terminus of the Foothills trail just beyond the Table Rock Nature Center, you’ll gain almost 3,000 feet in elevation over the three mile hike to the summit. Be sure to take the side trail to the Bald Rock Overlook for unparalleled views of Table Rock Mountain and the valley below.
For a short, yet challenging hike near Cleveland, South Carolina, take the hike to Rainbow Falls in Caesars Head State Park. This 1.8-mile out-and-back trail is accessible from September until May and climbs steeply to the breath-taking falls, which drop 100 feet over steep cliffs.
Jumping Off Rock
If you are not up for a strenuous hike, but would still like to see some stunning views, check out Jumping Off Rock. Near Holly Springs, South Carolina, this hike offers panoramic views of Jocassee Gorges, Lake Jocassee and the surrounding mountains, an area National Geographic called one of the 50 World’s Last Great Places. The outlook can be reached by vehicle on back roads from September 15 through January 1, and March 20 through May 10. You also can go on foot during other times of the year.