CHATTOOGA RIVER (VIA RUSSELL BRIDGE) – LOWER JUNCTION CAMPSITE

LOCATION: Northwestern South Carolina
HIKE STARTS: Russell Bridge Parking Lot
HIKE ENDS: Russell Bridge Parking Lot
TOTAL DISTANCE: 5.2 Miles
HIKE TYPE: Roundtrip, Loop Hike
HIKE DIFFICULTY: Easy to Moderate
TRAILS USED: Chattooga River, Bartram, Fisherman’s Trails
TRAIL TRAFFIC: Moderate
TRIP TYPE: Day or Overnight Hike
MORE INFORMATION:
Sumter National Forest
Andrew Pickens Ranger District
112 Andrew Pickens Circle
Mountain Rest, South Carolina 29664
(864) 638-9568

HIGHLIGHTS: The Chattooga River begins in the mountains of North Carolina as small rivulets, nourished by springs and abundant rainfall, high on the slopes of the Appalachian Mountains. The water drops a half mile in elevation over fifty miles as it winds its way to Lake Tugaloo where the river ends between South Carolina and Georgia. The Chattooga is one of the few remaining free-flowing streams in the Southeast, and the setting is primitive with dense forests and undeveloped shorelines on most of its route.

The Chattooga River Trail is a forty mile route that borders the states of North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia and follows the banks of the Chattooga National Wild And Scenic River from Burrell’s Ford to US 76. Congress designated the river on May 10, 1974 and it is often used by kayakers, hikers, backpackers, and fisherman as it winds from the North Carolina mountains to Lake Tugaloo. The Chattooga River Trail shares its pathway with both the Foothills and Bartram Trails in the Russell Bridge area, but it stays close to the river for its entire distance unlike the other major southeastern trails.

The trail to the “Lower Junction” campsite starts at Russell Bridge on the South Carolina side of Highway 28 and immediately leaves the banks of the Chattooga River. Watch the route carefully as you leave the parking area, since the trail begins by veering immediately to the right and making a steady climb up a small ridge.

After about three miles, the green blazed Chattooga River Trail returns to the river at a junction with the Fisherman’s Trail which drops down to the left.  Walking five minutes down and along the river will reveal the “Lower Junction” campsite which has room for a few tents on the water.  From the junction and to the right is a larger campsite about 100 yard ahead that is visible down the bank.  If you continue to the right past this large “Upper Junction” campsite you will eventually reach Thrift Lake Falls and the Foothills Trail.

On this trip, we opted to camp in the “Lower Junction” campsite.  You can return to the parking area at Russell Bridge by following the Fisherman’s Trail downstream for about two miles along the Chattooga River.  This is a loop that can be hiked in either direction, and it is likely easier and more tempting to hike it in a clockwise direction – but that is not what we did on this trip.

Guidebook For This Area Chattooga River Trail Map Trail Map For This Area

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