It’s that time of year when the leaves are changing, the worst heat is behind us, and the bright sky sparkles on a clear fall day. Nature calls you to come take a walk—to commune and behold the breathtaking beauty that abounds in this slice of South Carolina known as Lake Hartwell Country. The northwest corner of our state offers hundreds of miles of hiking options, so lace up your boots and explore!
You can start at Lower Whitewater Falls, where a two-mile trail delivers you to a waterfall with a dramatic 200-foot drop. The Upper Falls of the Whitewater River are just across the border in North Carolina, and the Lower Falls are a spectacular sight to behold. The trail is moderately challenging but well-marked and the payoff at the end is worth every step. It’s a great day trip up Highway 11 from Walhalla, then take a left turn onto SC Highway 130 at Duke Power’s Bad Creek Hydroelectric Station.
Devils Fork State Park at Lake Jocassee, near Salem, is another great hiking destination. The Oconee Bell Nature Trail, named after a rare, indigenous wildflower, offers a pleasant 1.5-mile hiking loop through a hardwood forest. The trail follows a creek, so the babbling water will help guide you. Enjoy the sounds of nature as you make your way to a small pond that’s great for observing wildlife. The well-marked trail begins at the Ranger Station by the parking lot, and there are benches along the way for a moment’s rest.
Deep in the hills of Oconee County, a bit north of Salem, you can find the Wigington Overlook. Named for former mayor Oscar Wigington, this spot by the side of State Highway 413 presents a spectacular view of Oconee and Pickens Counties, with mountains, lakes, and several landmarks. There’s plenty of room for parking and walking around…and be sure to leave time for a picnic lunch! It’s pretty hard to beat this scenery!
Scenic Highway 11 offers quite a collection of hiking destinations. It’s a beautiful drive any time of the year, but when the leaves are just right, it’s amazing! Be sure to stop at Table Rock State Park, where four hiking adventures await. The Lakeside Trail is a fairly easy 2-mile loop that follows lake Oolenoy and provides fantastic views of Table Rock Mountain. It’s a good trail for running, pets, and families with small children. Or you can choose the Carrick Creek Trail, another 2-mile loop that’s a gentle walk through the woods—and perfect for observing natural wildlife.
For the more daring, the 3.6-mile Table Rock Trail is a strenuous workout.Be prepared to sweat, but you’ll be rewarded with some incredible views of the mountain and surrounding area. It’s one of the best-known hikes in South Carolina. And for those who want the ultimate workout, the Pinnacle Mountain Trail is 4.2 miles of strenuous climbing. This trail leads to the summit of Pinnacle Mountain, with some of the finest views in Lake Hartwell Country. Not for the faint of heart!
Continuing down Highway 11, Keowee-Toxaway State Park offers the Raven Rock Loop Trail, a rather challenging 4.4-mile loop. Bring water and snacks! You’ll be treated to beautiful views of Lake Keowee as you hike, and you’ll cross a unique natural bridge along the way. Well worth the effort!
When you reach Walhalla on your Highway 11 journey, take a right onto Scenic Highway 28 and enjoy the gorgeous Sumter National Forest and the Stumphouse Tunnel. And a little further up the road, bear onto Highway 107 and head toward Oconee State Park, where three nice hiking trails await.
The Oconee Trail is a little over 2 miles, meandering through the peaceful, lake-lined park. It’s an easy walk, and you’re sure to enjoy plenty of natural beauty. Or you might choose the Old Waterwheel Trail, a moderate one mile walk that offers ultimate serenity. Along the way, you’ll see the remnants of a waterwheel that once pumped water in the area. If you’re up for a little more work, the Tamassee Knob Trail is a 4-mile blood-pumping adventure! You’ll traverse several inclines and declines, and you’ll need to avoid some steep drop-offs!
Down the mountain at the other end of Highway 28, you’ll find the Clemson Experimental Forest. There, you can enjoy a 5-mile, relatively calm walk along the scenic Lake Issaqueena Trail. Take some time to behold the peaceful woodlands and observe nature along the shores of the water. And the forest also offers the Fants Grove Trail system, 35.6 miles of moderate to strenuous hiking opportunities. You can enjoy views of Lake Hartwell as you hike or run…or just stop and enjoy.
There are so many beautiful places to walk, hike, or even run along breathtaking trails spread throughout our part of South Carolina. The fall colors tend to reach their peak in late October and early November, so start planning your adventures now. Download our free app at LakeHartwellCountry.com, and hike your way through the awesome beauty of our state!
All photos courtesy of Lake Hartwell Country