Hiking the Foothills Trail – Sassafras Mountain to Table Rock State Park

This past Saturday, some companions and I hiked the 9.7 mile section of the Foothills Trail from Sassafras Mountain to Table Rock State Park.  At 3,560 feet, Sassafras Mountain is the highest summit in South Carolina.  As we drove to the summit, we encountered some heavy fog which limited visibility to maybe 20 – 30 feet in front of our vehicle.  Not the best driving conditions for steep, wet, and winding mountain roads.

We began our hike shortly after 9 am and after hiking 1.1 miles, we reached the remnants of the John L. Cantrell homesite, one of the area’s earliest settlers.  Stones from the old homesite have been used to make a fire pit and several reclining chairs complete with footrests.

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After a few minutes, we began hiking again.  Along the trail, we passed several large boulder fields.

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Here, we passed an overhang before ascending narrow wooden steps between two large boulders.

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It remained foggy and overcast for most of the day, although the sun did occasionally attempt to break through the cloud cover.

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At about the 4.7 mile point of our hike, we came to a large curved opening in the lower wall of Drawbar Cliffs known as the Lighthouse.  The opening is uphill and just north of the trail.

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After eating our lunch, we hiked along a side-trail.  To the south of this trail is a large rock outcropping that is covered with circular petroglyphs. The circles are thought to be between 1,500 and 3,500 years old and may have been carved by Indians of the Hopewell Culture.

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Back on the main trail, we hiked steeply uphill to the top of Drawbar Cliffs.  The fog had rolled back in, so there were no real views, however, the fog for me, created a nice atmosphere.

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Some other day-hikers had gathered wood to make a small fire and were preparing their lunch when we arrived.

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We passed another large impressive rock-face along the trail as we began our descent towards Table Rock State Park.  The trail descended steeply for a while and was covered with a layer of wet leaves on top of slick rocks.  This made for slow-going just because the footing was so bad.  I slipped and fell but caught myself right before landing on my backside.  Three of the four others in our group also fell during this stretch.  Two members of our group fell twice.  Fortunately, nobody was hurt.

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There was still a lot of fall color which made for a very pretty view of the hollow.

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This is a shallow tributary of Mill Creek.  We crossed this twice on stepping stones.

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Just before reaching the park offices, we passed several small cascades along Carrick Creek.

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We hiked 10.5 miles in all (including the side-trail).  This was a moderate to strenuous section of the Foothills Trail but was well worth the effort.

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