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Upstate Trail Journal: Table Rock

Austin Hays. Contributor

A long drought in the fall began a brutal wildfire in the southern Appalachians which eventually spread to the Upstate. 

Table Rock State Park, alongside several other state parks in the region, was blackened with ash. A few months ago it was amazing to see how much life the fire had chased out. It seemed a bleak portrait, but looking down at the ground gave a small glimmer of hope.  

In an area smaller than the palm of your hand sat one speck of color. A patch of dark green leaves with a thin stem extending out four lavender petals. Anywhere else, it would have been just a little sprout, but on this blackened mountain, it was an omen. 

A message from the spirits of nature themselves asserting “I have come to reclaim what is mine.” In a matter of time, you know that life and color will return to this region, as life always finds a way. Once again, a smorgasbord of wildflowers and tall trees will call the mighty Table Rock their home.

Table Rock is one of the most beloved state parks in the entire state of South Carolina, and for good reason. Beyond the eponymous mountain, the park hosts a rich history, ample campsites and a pair of small lakes that can be enjoyed in the warmer months. 

The park holds more than enough activities and sights that will make you want to return time and time again. That said, we’re only interested in the big one: climbing up to the top of the rock.

Both of the park’s primary trails begin at the nature center, a tiny little shack next to a big parking lot that is certain to be overflowing when the weather is good. 

For the first 1000 feet, you’ll walk along a paved path parallel to a steadily flowing creek­ — in which you might see some children and dogs playing. As the pavement ends, you’ll come to a fork where you must choose between the two major trails in the park. 

On your right is the path to the famed summit the park is named after, and on your left, the often ignored trail to Pinnacle Mountain. Both routes are at least seven miles round-trip and require some difficult climbing, but both will reward you with some of the best views in the state at the end.

With that said, the Table Rock trail and Pinnacle Mountain trail are vastly different experiences. The Table Rock trail offers more stops for scenic views, but is a bit more technical in some parts and often suffers from overcrowding in peak season. 

If you want a more intimate — albeit tougher — hike experience, head up the Pinnacle Mountain and follow the white-blazed Foothills Trail (a 76-mile behemoth that ends in Oconee State Park to the West) for a half-mile to take in the views at Drawbar Cliffs. 

Whichever route you choose, your labors will be rewarded; if you’re feeling extra

energized, you could even take the ridge trail that connects the two routes at the

top, but that would extend your walk to 11 miles.

Even after a fire, life finds a way at Table Rock. With a little bit of

work, you can see life spring up again from the ashes yourself.


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