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South Carolina Highpoint - Sassafras Mountain - 3560 ft

3 Dec 2004, around 9 am.  Highpoint #13.
Back to 2004 Southeast Highpoint Expedition

You can drive to the top of Sassafras Mountain, but I don't prefer trivial highpoint ascents, so I looked for something a little more challenging.  I decided to set out from Table Rock State Park, at one end of the Foothills Trail.  After 9.6 miles, this trail comes to the summit of Sassafras.  (It also continues for another 100 miles or so, past some supposedly beautiful terrain, including the wild Chattooga River, where the movie Deliverance was filmed.)  Since the weather leading into the weekend was supposed to be wonderful, and poor afterwards, I decided to skip the NCAA semifinal games and do this hike, and also Mount Mitchell in North Carolina, instead.  On Thursday 2 Dec, I stopped by the park office, bought the $12 map of the Foothills Trail, and got some good information from a helpful ranger.  The trail heads more or less northwest through the state park, then continues on to Sassafras and beyond. 

The trail starts out as the Carrick Creek Nature Trail, and soon becomes the Pinnacle Mountain Trail.  A few miles along the trail brought me to the most difficult section, where I crossed a number of streams and Mill Creek Falls.  The trail here was very steep.  Soon afterward was a wonderful reward, however, as I came to Bald Rock Overlook.  From here, I had a fantastic view of the forest hundreds of feet below, still with some fall colors.  This was the single best view I had on this trip.  Soon after this, I joined the Foothills Trail proper, which continued on to Sassafras.  Thanks to the helpful ranger, I knew there was a nice campsite about a mile short of the summit.  This was no lie!  Someone had built rock chairs, even complete with backrests, along with a stone table and a fire ring.  Unfortunately, I didn't get a good fire going that night, all the wood was too wet to burn well.  The next morning, it was a quick hop for one more mile to the South Carolina highpoint, after which I returned to camp, packed up, and headed back to the state park.

I saw almost nobody in two days on the trail, the only exception was one man about a quarter mile in from the state park who I saw on the way back.  Distance of 19.2 miles round-trip, elevation gain 2400 ft.

You could also approach Sassafras from the west, the Foothills trail crosses roads in a few places, specifically US-178 just north of Rocky Bottom, and also the F.Van Clayton Highway, which is a road leading out from Rocky Bottom.  That would make this a shorter ascent, not requiring two days.  There are some other good hikes in the state park, the (strenuous) hike to Table Rock supposedly has fantastic views.  The other end of the Foothills Trail, along the Chattooga River, also sounds really neat.  I think you can also canoe/raft down that river, I passed a number of outfitters on the drive, although I did not investigate.  That would be a cool trip, if only you could keep that banjo music out of your head...

Summit of Sassafras Mountain.

View from near the summit.  Mostly, trees blocked the view.

Views from Bald Rock overlook.  This was a fabulous view, which the photos do not really capture.

Fantastic campsite near the summit, including rock chairs (with backrests!) and a table.

The trails had lots of fallen leaves, these had a nice set of colors.