Most visitors associate South Carolina with oceanfront resorts and bustling cities. However, many don’t realize there’s a whole other side to South Carolina. It’s one filled with mountain peaks, rivers and scenic valleys to explore. Snugly enveloped in the Blue Ridge Mountains, South Carolina’s Upstate region is one that inspires visitors in all seasons.
Upstate South Carolina is located in the northwestern part of the state, and it shares borders with Georgia and North Carolina. In this region, adventure enthusiasts and tranquil campers can come together and enjoy some of the best nature this region has to offer.
There are many ways to explore South Carolina’s mountain country, but taking a road trip is one of the best ways to explore. Before you pack up your car and head for fresh mountain air, read the sections below to help you learn where you should stop on your trip.
Experience the Mountain Bridge Wilderness Area
If you visit South Carolina’s mountain country, you’ll probably wander into the Mountain Bridge Wilderness Area without even realizing it. That’s because this stretch of land covers around 10,000 acres of land.
There are many beautiful sites located within this wilderness area. One of these is the Blue Ridge Escarpment. This is where the Blue Ridge Mountain Range ends, and the landscape morphs into the more gradual hills that are usually associated with South Carolina. The drop itself was caused by a combination of erosion and tectonic plates, and it’s a sight to behold.
Once you’re in the Mountain Bridge Wilderness Area, there are countless waterways and other attractions you can explore. Some of the most notable ones include:
- The Saluda River, which is located in Jones Gap State Park.
- Rainbow Falls, another popular site in Jones Gap State Park.
- Symmes Chapel (Pretty Place), which you can find at the YMCA Camp Greenville on Stone Mountain.
Get a Bird’s-Eye View From Caesars Head State Park
If you want to see view the Escarpment from another location, consider heading over to Caesars Head State Park. While technically part of the Mountain Bridge Wilderness Area, Caesars Head State Park offers its own unique attractions to visitors. From this park, you can:
- Participate in the park’s yearly Hawk Watch program, which takes place each fall.
- Visit Raven Cliff Falls and get the best views from the suspension bridge overlook.
- Hike through the park’s various nature trails.
When you’re in the area, you can also venture over to the Bald Rock Heritage Preserve. This is an ideal location to visit if you want to find some of the best views of the lower South Carolina foothills. Since both of these locations are in the Mountain Bridge Wilderness Area, you can easily move from one part of the mountains to the other.
Reach New Heights in Table Rock State Park
Table Rock State Park is a popular stop on many travelers’ SC road trip itineraries. For the more adventurous, this park is the starting point for a hike to Sassafras or Pinnacle Mountains, the highest peaks in the state. For others, this state park serves as a refreshing location where they can relax and enjoy nature.
Whether your trip to Table Rock includes miles-long hikes or short strolls through the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, there are many ways to enjoy this state park. In addition to offering seasonal or monthly programming, such as the Music on the Mountain bluegrass performances, there are other activities that are offered throughout the year. For example, you should visit Table Rock State Park if you are interested in:
- Camping or renting a cabin to enjoy while you are at Table Rock.
- Picnicking with your friends and family while you are at the park.
- Hiking around the area for a few hours or a full day.
Raft Down the Chattooga River
While climbing mountains can certainly be a rewarding experience, coming down can also be its own adventure. This is especially true if you don’t mind getting wet. Rafting down the Chattooga River can be a thrilling way to experience some of the lower points of South Carolina’s mountain country.
Regardless of your age level, rafting experience or physical condition, there are rafting excursions you can take. Different tour companies offer trips over the rapids, and you can choose full- or half-day trips. Whether you’re road tripping by yourself or with a group, there is a rafting experience available for you.
Cast Your Line at Lake Jocassee
No trip to the South Carolina mountains would be complete without a day of fishing at Lake Jocassee. Situated in Devils Fork State Park, this lake receives its water from the mountains that surround it. Trout fishermen of all skill levels will find these waters particularly alluring.
If you’re not interested in fishing, there are other reasons you should still consider visiting Lake Jocassee. Stunning gorges and waterfalls punctuate the landscape, and the lake itself also doubles as a prime scuba diving destination. During the summer months, you can also visit Lake Jocassee for a refreshing swim.