FOOTHILLS TRAIL – SUMMARY | N2Backpacking FOOTHILLS TRAIL – SUMMARY | N2Backpacking

FOOTHILLS TRAIL – SUMMARY

The Foothills Trail is a 76 mile pathway cut in the western mountains of North and South Carolina and it runs from Table Rock State Park in Pickens County to Oconee State Park in Oconee County. The trail crosses some of the most rugged and beautiful terrain in the Southeast and provides access to Sassafrass Mountain, the highest peak in South Carolina. The Foothills Trail Conference supports and maintains the trail, and their Guide To The Foothills Trail is the best source of information available for this route. It is a 110 page book that includes the history of the trail, helpful information for backcountry hikers, section descriptions and maps, supplemental information on spur trails and parking areas and a profile of the terrain on the trail.

The Foothills Trail is marked for travel in both directions and the white-painted “blazes” are two inches wide and six inches high. The route starts at Table Rock State Park, climbs up and over Pinnacle mountain then makes a series of ascents and descents to reach 3554 feet, the highest point in South Carolina at Sassafras Mountain. From here, the Trail begins a steep 2000 foot descent to SC Highway 178 then enters the Gorges section which was initially built and maintained by Duke Power Company as part of a licensing agreement for the construction of Lake Joccasee. Lake Joccasee was built by Duke Power in 1973 to feed a hydroelectric pumped storage station, but State and Federal agencies now manage this section of South Carolina and it has some of the best backcountry wilderness in the Southeast. The Gorges section includes the Toxaway, Horsepature, and Whitewater Rivers and there are a number of impressive suspension bridges in this area including the 225 foot bridge over the Toxaway River which is the largest along the Foothills Trail.

At NC 281 and along the North Carolina and South Carolina border, the Foothills Trail leaves the Gorges section at Upper Whitewater Falls. The Falls, also known as Upper Falls, are some of the highest east of the Rockies at 411 feet. There is are two great viewing platforms only a short distance from the parking area off NC 281, and thousands of visitors stop here each year to have a look at Upper Whitewater Falls and at Lake Joccasee to the south.

The Foothills Trail ascends from NC 281 over Round Mountain and down toward the Sloan Bridge access area which has a small six foot waterfall only a short distance from the parking lot. The Trail then climbs up and over Medlin Mountain and drops to Burrell’s Ford, a popular walk-in campground situated along the scenic Chattooga River. From here, the Chattooga River Trail and Foothills Trail share the route past Kings Creek Falls and follow the river down to Lick Log Creek where there is an intersection with the Bartram Trail so watch the blazes carefully in this area. At this point, the Foothills Trail breaks from the Chattooga River and joins briefly with the Bartram Trails to climb up toward SC 107. In the final 7.8 miles of Trail, the route climbs to a fire tower on Long Mountain then drops down to it’s western terminus at Oconee State Park.

Foothills Trail Guidebook Foothills Trail Map Foothills Trail Map

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