Published: Fall 2010

Table Rock State Park, SC  

Recently, I found myself driving through the great state of South Carolina, and yes it was indeed, on purpose. On a trip to visit friends in Brevard, NC (that's a story for another day), my trusting companion, also known as my wife, and I mapped out a new and adventurous route. OK, I mapped it out, but she was trusting and adventurous. Previous trips lead us straight through Atlanta to Dillard, Georgia. A leisurely stop at the Dillard House Restaurant was always on the itinerary. After we had our fill of all the family style lunch we could hold, we would push north to Franklin and hang a right through Highlands, and cut a left through Cashiers and on the Brevard. Ah, good, safe, and solid route with complete knowledge of the terrain as well as all the best shops at which to stop and shop.

But, this time would be different. This time a new route would be taken. South Carolina, here we come! Crossing over the river that divides most of Georgia and South Carolina, takes your breath away. I've always loved crossing bridges. I love the panoramic view you get of miles of shoreline. I was captivated by the scenic beauty. I don't remember exactly what I was expecting, I simply remember saying out loud, "Wow, South Carolina is really a beautiful place." With only a slight confused moment in Clemson, our journey continued on to Brevard.

Our route took us near South Carolina' Table Rock State Park. Located in Pickens County, Table Rock has been one of the states' most popular parks. It was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) in the 1930's. Many of the buildings are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Trails.com describes it this way.

"A very difficult but immensely rewarding day hike featuring spectacular views from the top of the dramatic cliffs of Table Rock Mountain, as well as a visit to the summit of Pinnacle Mountain… The inspiring granite dome of Table Rock, the pristine mountain lake, the excellent network of trails-all draw visitors from far and near. The mountain got its name from a Cherokee legend. The Cherokee believed that the Great Spirit used Table Rock as a dining table and the shorter mountain, The Stool, as a seat."

Trails.com goes on to say, "Table Rock provides a towering backdrop for an upcountry retreat at the edge of the Blue Ridge Mountains."

Table Rock provides a premier "hands on" classroom for area school children. Being a DiscoverCarolina Site, Table Rock is able to provide curriculum based science education programs. From the DiscoverCarolina.com site, students and teachers are able to conduct pre-site experiments and preparations, prepare for on-site experiments, and have post-experiment follow up. Being well organized, DiscoverCarolina.com is able to provide "education at Table Rock State Park that encourages the responsible use and stewardship of very special places by fostering awareness and appreciation of Table Rock Mountain, its associated natural resources, its long cultural history and the threats it faces. Through exploration and hands-on activities, students can learn how the natural world is interdependent. There are several types of classes offered by the park. They include Mountain Stream Ecology, Forest Ecology, and Geology of Table Rock. Park Interpreter, Scott Stegenga, uses the backdrop of Table Rock to provide invaluable lessons for students to learn the value of stewardship to ensure the survival of these treasures. See if you can join in the activities on your next family outing to Table Rock.

Of course, Table Rock is a camping park. The state of South Carolina has done a phenomenal job presenting its park to the world. Its user friendly web site makes it possible to check availability, make reservations and payments online. The park provides a 69 site camping area located near the park entrance, and a 25 site camping area, located near White Oaks picnic area. Some sites accommodate RV's up to 40'. You can find many reviews on Table Rock. Check out locahikes.com for tips and advice from previous campers. Two things stand out the most in user reviews, (1) the 30-amp electric supply for campers/RV's isn't adequate and (2) the bathrooms are kept very clean. One review stated, "We stayed in site #1 (taking advice from an earlier review) because we have a 40' rig. My husband thought we could fit in other sites as well. So, if you are a good driver/parker and are adventurous, sites other than the "main street" ones (#'s 1-5) might be fine…"One reviewer stated, "The trees need trimming as well to keep them from scratching your camper." The park's web site offers a good deal of information and detail on spaces. Fully furnished cabins are also available. The cabins are heated, air-conditioned come supplied with bath and bed linens as well as basic cooking utensils. They each have a refrigerator, stove, coffee maker and microwave. A screened in porch and fireplace are also included. Cabin #15 is user friendly for the physically challenged. Nightly rates range from $80-160.

The trail hiking is the main attraction at Table Rock. "It serves as a trail head for the 80 mile long Foothills Trail through the wilderness along the Blue Ridge Escarpment. Trails through the forested park also include one that leads to the top of Table Rock Mountain itself."

"…really pretty hiking trails that range from moderate to more difficult. We hiked the moderate trail with 7 & 4 year old boys and they did just fine."

Most of the trail is hard packed clay and holds up well even after prolonged rains. Be prepared with good hiking shoes, plenty of water, and a snack to eat at the top. Watch for black bears, turtles, snakes (especially on the rocks), a variety of birds and other wildlife. Always check with a ranger before heading out on a hike and never hike alone. Be sure to take your camera as you are sure to have plenty of award winning photo opportunities. The scenic overlooks, magnificent horizons combined with a comfortable campsite setting will give you that "awesomeness" memory.

After a good morning of hiking, there's still plenty of daytime and activities left to participate in at Table Rock. Take a cool dip at the swimming hole for starters. "It's been a family tradition that has been enjoyed for generations." Be bold and daring and take the plunge off the high dive. If you prefer to play it safe, take a leap off the low dive. You can watch the action from the floating platforms or from the shores of the cozy sandy beach. You could always just hang out on the great playground or perhaps an afternoon of fishing just might be the thing that helps you relax and unwind. Both the smaller (36 acres) Pinnacle Lake and the larger Lake Oolenoy (67 acres) taunt anxious and eager anglers with the thrill of catching bass, bream, and catfish. A South Carolina fishing license is required. You can fish from the pier at Lake Oolenoy or rent a boat, canoe, kayak, or paddle boat to reach that "perfect" spot. Private boats equipped with electric trolling motors are allowed. Boat rentals are available from 11-5 and range in price from $15 for canoes and $25 for a motorized boat. Bring your own canoe and paddle to your hearts content.

At the end of what is sure to a fun filled day, head back to your campsite for supper and an evening of campfire songs, stories and smores. Table Rock does have a small store/gift shop located at the campground entrance with limited grocery items, drinks, snacks, firewood & souvenirs; but you'll want to bring the bulk of your rations with you.

Table Rock has the means and facilities to market itself as a destination park, while still maintaining its core principal of fostering an awareness and appreciation of the natural world and the value of stewardship. Weddings and corporate team building retreats are regular happenings at Table Rock. "Breathtaking views of Table Rock Mountain are an added feature of holding your wedding at the Lodge. The upstairs area of the Lodge makes an ideal area for a chapel style wedding ceremony or conference room. The park plays host to monthly Bluegrass music jam sessions. Called "Music on the Mountain," local musicians are invited to come out, bring their acoustical instruments and play along. The event is free, but donations are accepted to help cover the cost of refreshments. With only two scheduled events left for 2010, make your plans now and enjoy a nice family oriented atmosphere. If you still have an itch to savor a little local flavor, there are several short trips you could make to nearby attractions and destinations. You could take a ride to Hogwood Mill, the Pickens County Museum, Hagood Mauldin House, Clemson University and Southern Weslyn College. Maps and brochures are available at the Park Headquarters Visitor Center.

So there you have it, the low-down on Table Rock State Park. A great park with great amenities and natural beauty. Thanks for reading and happy camping.

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