Table Rock Mountain is a highly visible and iconic sight along South Carolina’s historic Cherokee Foothills Scenic Highway. The 3,000-acre park that bears its name is nestled in some of the most pristine Blue Ridge Mountains terrain. If you love the outdoors, Table Rock State Park offers you a one-stop adventure experience, from hiking and camping to fishing and swimming.
What’s the draw?
While not the state’s tallest mountain (Sassafras takes that honor), the view from the top of Table Rock is well worth the effort to reach it. There’s no easy way to do it; you reach the top by walking and climbing the Table Rock Trail, a very strenuous 3.6 mile (one-way) hike that ascends 2,000 feet. Plan on taking several hours for the up-and-back trip. Once on top, the panoramic view can be astounding. You can’t quite see the Russian coastline but perhaps, on a clear day, you’ll see downtown Greenville, S.C. Plan ahead: Take food, water; wear your clothes in layers.
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Not all visitors to the park want to pretend they’re on a Mount Everest expedition. Not to worry: There are four other park trails geared to different levels of interest. If you have kids, you’ve got to try the 1.9-mile Lakeside Loop Trail; it meanders along about 0.75 miles of Pinnacle Lake and offers some great views. Keep your eyes peeled for living things. The 2.0-mile Carrick Creek Trail is a little tougher, especially for the very small, but it offers several spots where you can get your toes wet. Help the youngsters along; it will be worth it. You may as well drag along a towel or two, just in case.
The park’s two lakes offer fishing, swimming and boating options. Lake Pinnacle has a monitored swimming area (the 2016 season starts Memorial Day weekend) complete with diving boards and a nearby playground. You can also rent canoes, kayaks, pedal boats and fishing boats here. Lake Oolenoy is for fishing and private nonmotorized boats only. Bass, bream and catfish are what you’ll find in both lakes. Other day-use options to explore with your modest park entry fee include picnic areas and interesting seasonal programming.
Want to spend the night ... or a week? There are two nice campgrounds with 94 total sites; a few can accommodate 40-foot RVs. For that special occasion, there are 14 cabins that sleep four to eight. Like to feel rocks and sticks under you while you try to sleep? Try the “trailside” and primitive group sites. A park store stocks the supplies you forgot and a nature center is worth exploring; the park’s large visitor center, too.
The lodge, once a restaurant – one of the park’s original 1930s structures – is now used for weddings, reunions, special events and the popular Music Grass on the Mountain bluegrass events (free; second Saturday evening of each month).
As you might expect, the mountain terrain, lakes and open spaces also provide exceptional habitat for plant, animal and bird life. Bring along your binoculars and guidebooks and enjoy some of nature’s great gifts.
Last, but not least, the park is also a terminus for the Foothills Trail, which follows the Blue Ridge’s crest for 78 miles between Oconee State Park and Table Rock (www.foothillstrail.org). Access to a section of the Palmetto Trail, geared to hikers and cyclists, is also here (www.palmettotrail.org).
Daily admission is $5; $3 for ages 6-15. Cabins rent for $95 to $250 per night. Campsites with amenities start at $25. Camping reservations strongly encouraged through the park’s website or 866-345-7275.
Park info: www.southcarolinaparks.com/tablerock or call 864-878-9813.
Mark Alan Hudson
Nearby: Greenville, S.C.
Nationally-appealing Greenville with its pedestrian-friendly Main Street is but 45 minutes away. Downtown, head to Falls Park on the Reedy River; its 355-foot Liberty Bridge offers killer views. Access the Swamp Rabbit Trail here; it’s a hugely popular 18-mile bicycle/pedestrian trail (www.greenvillerec.com/swamprabbit).
From downtown, head north to Heritage Green; you’ll find the Greenville County Art Museum (free admission) and the Children’s’ Museum of the Upstate (seventh-largest in the nation). Interesting shops include the Mast General Store and O.P Taylor’s, ranked as one of the best toy stores in the country.
Grill Marks (www.grillmarks.com) is a family-friendly burgers-and-shakes sort of place; Roost (www.roostrestaurant.com) has upscale “soil to city” cuisine; Larkin’s on the River (www.larkinsontheriver.com) offers high-end dining. All make the grade.
Admission to the Artisphere Festival, May 13-15, is free in the downtown’s West End Historic District with artists, exhibits, crafts, food and music (www.artisphere.org).
Area info: www.visitgreenvillesc.com.