Upcountry Byway: The Mountain Roads of South Carolina

October 2022:

In my last post we explored Brevard and The Land of Waterfalls…in this edition of American Nomad, we’re driving in the Upcountry of South Carolina to explore the often overlooked, yet majestically stunning mountains of South Carolina.

Southwestern NC is a great gateway to enter the SC Mountains. Brevard is only twenty-five minutes from South Carolina’s popular Caesar’s Head State Park and surrounding area.

You can also start your journey in Greenville SC (where we’ll be heading to in our next blog series)

On this past trip, I drove the scenic route from Brevard, via Dupont State Forest (for a bit of hiking) and then crossed into the high hills of SC.

The winding road, bends and breaks furiously as you navigate scenic Highway 276 South. This stretch of highway crosses through some of South Carolina’s most breath taking views, cutting through the Mountain Bridge Wilderness protected area.

Caesar’s Head State Park is one of my favorite spots in the Carolinas, given breathtaking views of the surrounding Blue Ridge Escarpment. I first discovered it with my mom on a road trip in 2019, while exploring the Greenville SC area. We were taken aback by the scenic byway leading to the Caesar’s Head SP turnout. The mountain vistas on 276 certainly rival the Blue Ridge Parkway with sweeping views.

Caesar’s Head SP is small in size, but don’t let that fool you. It is accessible via a roadside parking lot with a log and stone visitor’s center. You then take a short path to the views of Caesar’s Head.

The park is named for a dramatic stone outcropping on the neighboring Blue Ridge Escarpment. The Escarpment is the line at which the Blue Ridge Mountain Range plunges down towards the rolling foothills of Upstate South Carolina.

Hikers can hit the trail from the scenic overlook and hike into the mountain bridge wilderness area to the neighboring Jones Gap State Park Raven Cliff Falls is one of the popular hiking trails in the area. For more about area trails click here.

And if you are hungry after a hike, the nearby Mountain House Restaurant serves up great views and bites (just down the road from Caesar’s Head)

In the area:

While in the greater Caesar’s Head area you can take the scenic drive to the often photographed and beloved Pretty Place Chapel. I didn’t have time to stop this trip, but will next time around. Located on YMCA campgrounds, Pretty Place is the crossroads of heaven and earth – a chapel to see God’s glory in the Blue Ridge.

Jones Gap State Park:

One of the gems of the Upcountry – Jones Gap is a must stop while in the area. The park has cabins, campsites and day use areas with plenty of recreational opportunities. The park is home to over sixty miles of trails and two gorgeous waterfalls

Sassafras Mountain – SC/NC

One of the gems I discovered on my last SC trip was the road to Sassafras Mountain – the tallest point in SC. I left Greenville SC and drove north (roughly an hour) through relaxing countryside before making the turnoff to Sassasfras.

A twist and turning road cloaked by trees and light will guide you to the top of the mountain, where you can straddle the NC/SC state line and enjoy indescribable views of the surround panorama.

During my trip the leaves were completely soaked in sun, turning burnt oranges and fire reds making for a stunner of a drive.

Table Rock State Park:

Where legend, myth and majesty meet – Table Rock is a repeat favorite of mine because it offers superb views and a unique rock formation that was sacred to the Cherokee of the land.

Table Rock

The Cherokee believed that the Great Spirit ate his means on the flat topped mountain – making Sah-ka-na-ga – the Great Blue Hills of God sacred.

Today, Table Rock over over 3,000 acres of recreation including hiking trails, seasonal swimming and a historic lodge built by the Civilian Conservation Corps.

As we’ve discussed on several blog posts through American Nomad – The CCC were instrumental in helping to build America’s National and State Park infrastructure. Sixteen of SC’s parks were built by the CCC.

To dive in deeper to Table Rock’s history click here.

The Upcountry of SC is home to dozens of waterfalls, rivers and lakes like Jocassee (we’ll jump into the water there on a future blog) – all conveniently located within an hour of Greenville SC or Asheville NC.

I recommend taking time to drive the Cherokee Foothills Scenic Byway – 130 mile scenic byway through Route 11 from Lake Hartwell on GA border to Gaffney SC (passes through Table Rock SP) – the scenery will astound and provide access to many of the state parks and waterfall trails.

If you are up for a bit of history The Hagood Historic Mill near Pickens (Table Rock area) is worth a visit – you’ll learn about rural life, the mill and area culture.

The Upcountry of SC is a perfect weekend spot – begging exploration. What will you discover in SC.

Next time we’ll continue along the backroads of SC to Greenville SC and Paris Mountain State Park.

About: Adele Lassiter loves to share her adventures through American Nomad. When not traveling she works in software sales and is an author and artist. Her debut novel, Solitude Lake (by Adele Darcy) is available on Amazon.

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