Leaf Peeping in the Upstate

As temperatures cool, the leaves from the trees begin to change into vibrant hues of red, purple, and orange, and fall paves the way to an autumnal paradise in the Upstate.  

Whether it’s a hike in the mountains, a picnic lunch, or a leisurely drive down a country road, there’s no better time than the fall to get outdoors and experience nature in its entire splendor.

Here’s a look at our top leaf peeping picks in the Upstate.

Paris Mountain State Park

It’s close and is easily one of Greenville’s greatest assets. The close proximity to downtown Greenville makes Paris Mountain a nice family getaway, a place for a Sunday afternoon picnic, or even as an after work retreat.

Fall foliage can be viewed while enjoying a picnic near Lake Placid, hiking one of the more than fifteen miles of hiking/biking trails or by taking a short drive through the park.

Table Rock State Park

The South Carolina State Parks website is posting fall foliage reports each Wednesday and has a live webcam from Table Rock State Park to keep leaf peepers apprised of the leaves colors. Table Rock’s location just off State Highway 11 makes it easy to get to from most of the Upstate, and the views of Table Rock Mountain are spectacular this time of year. If you’re up for it, hike to the top via the Table Rock NRT trail and enjoy the view from 2,000 feet.

Caesars Head State Park

Caesars Head is one of South Carolina’s most famous natural landmarks with sweeping views of the surrounding mountains. In addition to several overlooks where fall foliage can be observed, the two-mile Raven Cliff Falls trail is one of the most popular hikes at Caesars Head. The moderately difficult trail leads to an overlook where you can view the 420-foot Raven Cliff Falls in the distance.

Also at Caesars Head is Hawk Watch. Head to an overlook and watch as the mighty migrating raptors soar in September through November each year.

Kings Mountain State Park

As one of 16 State Parks built by the Civilian Conservation Corps, the 6,885-acre Kings Mountain State Park boasts two lakes for fishing along with camping, hiking, equestrian facilities, and an 1800s living history farm. Great views of the changing leaves can be seen on the shores of the park’s two lakes, the 63-acre Lake York and the 13-acre Lake Crawford.

You can also visit the adjacent Kings Mountain National Military Park, which offers a peek into history as a Revolutionary War site famous for the Battle of Kings Mountain, considered a major turning point in the War.

Nine Times Preserve

This is Pickens County newest trail and is a bird lovers’ paradise. Over 110 species of birds have been logged in this 560-acre preserve since the trail opened in mid-2012. The area is also considered to be the most biologically significant areas in the southeast with over 134 species of native wildflowers, 130 different trees, and seven distinct forest types and is home to black bears, turkeys, and peregrine falcons.

The trail at Nine Times leads along old logging roads and up over a small mountain area and offers great views of the surrounding area.

Sassafras Mountain Lookout

As the highest point in South Carolina, the view from atop Sassafras Mountain cannot be beat. There’s some speculation whether it’s 3,560 feet or 3,533 feet—but either way, the views are unrivaled. Some adventurous souls hike the Foothills Trail to reach the summit. Others drive up to parking lot just steps away from the newly built outlook and viewing deck.

Bad Creek/Whitewater Falls

As you enter through the electric-fenced gate, you get a feeling that you’re trespassing and gaining entrance into some top-secret facility. That’s somewhat true. Duke Energy owns this site and it’s home to their largest hydroelectric station, which includes Lake Jocassee’s 7,500-acres, another 375-acre upper reservoir, and an underground tunnel system and powerhouse. So security is warranted, but they also keep the ground free and open to the public year-round.

Bad Creek also serves as a trailhead for the 80-mile long Foothills Trail and access to the Whitewater River, one of South Carolina’s best trout streams. A visitors’ overlook is great for views of Lake Jocassee and the surrounding mountains. 

Photo credits: Garroll Purvis

Sherry Jackson is a freelance writer, editor and entrepreneur. Her articles have been featured in InfoWorld Magazine, Entrepreneur.com, USA Today, Blue Ridge Country, Jetsetter, Bootsnall, Gadling, Yahoo, See the South, Beckett Media, The Simpsonville Sentinel and many other print and online publications. For clips and examples of her work, please visit her website at www.dragonflyventures.com

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