Let the adventure begin at majestic Table Rock State Park (Greenville weekend fun outdoor activities)

So much to see, so much to do at Table Rock State Park the undisputed jewel of the South Carolina mountains. The park is at the edge of the Blue Ridge Escarpment off of scenic highway 11, relative short drive from Greenville and little over an hour drive from Charlotte. Table Rock Visitors Center photo Table Rock mountain has a spectacular granite outcropping which at 3124 feet is a stark contrast to the heavily wooded forests below.

The first white men moved in the Oolenoy Valley soon after the Cherokee treaty at a place called Pumpkintown. In 1840 the Keith and Sutherland families built a hotel that soon became a popular area attraction. A second hotel was built in 1899 at present White Oak Picnic Shelters site then moved in 1920 to Saluda Valley to become a summer lodge.

Things to know before you go at Table Rock and Caesar’s Head parks

1. Carrick Creek is the only recommended hiking trail for young kids at the Table Rock state park. It starts at the Nature Center and about 2 miles it takes an hour to complete. It weaves around Carrick Creek and rewards hikers with dozens of gorgeous, refreshing and easy accessible mini waterfalls. It gets better at the end (or beginning!) when you and your brave little ones can goof around at the swimming area.
Rock sliding Nature Center at Table Rock Park photo

Here are all Table Rock hiking trails. Hikers are encouraged to register at the trail head kiosk and be off trails at least one hour before sunset. No overnight camping on trails. Foothills Trail hikers need to purchase a parking permit at the Visitors Welcome Center.
• Pinnacle Mt. 8.4 miles 6-7 hours
• Table Rock 7.2 miles 5-6 hours
• Mill Creek 5.8 miles 5-6 hours
• Carrick Creek (kid friendly) 1.9 miles 1 hour
Hiking on Carrick Creek trail photo

2. There is a big playground near Pinnacle Lake with plenty of age appropriate equipment in a nicely shaded place. Beware of the geese wandering throughout the parking lot and the picnic area. They are mean, mean, mean and will harass you as soon as they sense the food. My 4 years old and I had to take refuge on top of the picnic table. No kidding! I finally braved to chase them away using some stick musketeer style.
Young kid on Carrick Creek trail photo

3. Caesar’s Head State Park has the “take it with you, no trace left behind” policy. There are no trash canes or restrooms along the park. The welcome center has restrooms and vending machines. I encourage you to replenish there and use the facilities.
Caesars Head overlook photo

4. The trail to Raven Cliff Falls from Caesar’s Head is about 5 miles long so plan ahead. If there is not much time left you can still enjoy incredible vistas of Campbell, Paris, Table Rock, Raven Cliff and Glassy mountains and the immaculate Table Rock reservoir (it supplies the city of Greenville with fresh water) at the Caesar’s Head overlook. From there you can hike the short and moderate Devil’s Kitchen trail. Caesar Head park photo
Be mindful this park is frequented by black bears.

5. If waterfall viewing “it’s on the menu” drive to Dupont Forest State Park (couple miles after crossing the NC border off of hwy 276; here are driving directions to and map of Hooker Falls Access Area). It provides easy hiking and quick access to some of North Carolina most beautiful waterfalls: Triple Falls, High Falls and Grassy Creek Falls. There is a $12 map you can purchase at Caesar’s Head welcome center. Here are some great Dupont Foreast park hike trails details, an interactive map and waterfall photos.

Table Rock Admission, Lodging and Rental Prices

Admission fee: $2 per person; $15 per bus; $1.25 SC senior citizen. Annual passport $50 (good at all SC State Parks); Palmetto Passport $25 (for SC seniors or disabled citizens). Tip: if you got a permit or day pass from another SC park you can use it at Table Rock (and any other state park) as long as the permit / pass are still valid.
Lake Oolenoy Table Rock State park photo

Cabins: There are 14 cabins (8 with 1 BR, 5 with 2 BR and 1 with 3 BR) that can accommodate 4-10 persons. They range in price from $75 to $120 per night. Check in 4 PM, check out time 10 AM. Tip: rent Sunday thru Thursday to save $15-20 per night. Cabins 5, 6, 7 and 8 are right by Pinnacle Lake and have the best views. You can reserve a cabin up to 11 months in advance. Call 1-866-345-7275 or go online www.southcarolinaparks.com.

There are 96 camping sites at the White Oaks campground equipped with showers and a recreation building. Price is about $20 per night (including tax); again is cheaper during the week.

Equipment Rentals: Spring thru fall, Tuesday to Sunday from 11 AM till 5 PM (weather permitting).
• Pedal boats – 2 person $5 per half hour; 4 person boat $7 per half hour
• Kayaks and canoes – $5 per half hour; $15 per day
• Fishing boat – $15 per day; $35 per day for boats with trolling motor (3 person maximum). Note that no private boats are allowed on Pinnacle Lake however you can use them at Lake Oolenoy across Hwy 11.
Table Rock swimming area photo
Swimming: June till mid-August Tuesday to Sunday from 11 AM till 5 PM; August 16 thru Labor Day weekends only. Adults $2, children 4-12 years $1.50, free for kids 3 years and under.

Enjoy the beauty of the South Carolina Upcountry parks!

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Highlands dream vacation – gem mining, rock sliding, drive thru waterfall and awesome kids camping trip (things to do at Oconee and Lake Jocassee)

Arrive in North Carolina mountains. Wake up in Europe.” A great slogan that’s absolutely true. Highlands reminds me of Switzerland. Old Edwards Inn photo Nature all around, waterfalls, hiking trails, outdoor adventures at every step. And you don’t have to leave comfort behind. There are excellent places to stay, eat, shop and indulge your artistic spirit. Like the Highlands Playhouse, the Instant Theater and the Nature Center. The Old Edwards Inn, established in 1878 and part of the National Register of Historic Places, is the city’s landmark and an extraordinary spa resort.

Highlands and its natural forest, bog and wetlands surroundings represent the most diverse biologic area in the Appalachian Mountains, boasting over 160 species of birds and 500 species of flora. Its unique ecosystem offers incredible opportunities Lindenwood Lake for exploring wildlife and plants equaled only by the tropics.

The Highlands Botanical Garden covers 11 acres on the shores of Lindenwood Lake. There are nature trails that lead to displays of carnivorous plants, native azaleas and medicinal herbs. The Coker Rhododendron Trail is an old growth hemlock hardwood forest.

Things to do at the Garden

1. Visit the Nature Center, test your nature and survivals skills; Meet the bears, touch snake skins, turtle shells and dried animals scat. Say hello to the busy working bees…literally. Just keep some distance so you don’t get stung.

2. Bring your kids for Kids fun camping at Highlands Botanical Gardens an awesome day camping trip. We’ve witnessed one in action. The little ones were flabbergasted by the live snake demo. Then they started their hiking journey along the many yet short and easy going trails.

Along the way they learned how to spot predators, trace animals, think like a bat and hide like a bunny. Lana and I had to settle for something more mundane like watching a snail go by.

3. Hike the trails around the lake, through hardwood forest, and over an old beaver dam. Along the way admire some unusual plants at the Cherokee, Herb, Butterfly and Wildflower gardens.

4. Sing and perform at the Amphitheater. Nothing like playing American Idol…

Things to do and see downtown Highlands
Enjoying Kilwin ice-cream downtown Highlands 1. Get a taste of heaven at the Kilwin’s chocolate, fudge and ice-cream shop.

There is so many sweets inside you’ll need more than a minute to make up your mind.

2. Wash the sweets off with some deliciously aromatic coffee and catch up on all the gossip at Buck’s Coffee Café next door.

3. Get your hands on one of kind gifts only Highlands can put forth.
My 4 years old really liked the frogs; I preferred the Little Flower Shoppe.

4. Arts frog shop in Highlands See a play at the prestigious Highlands Playhouse theater.

Call (828)-526-2695 for tickets.

Here is the upcoming shows calendar (2008):

– Till July 6: “Always Patsy Cline”

– July 10 – July 20: “On Golden Pond”

– July 24 – August 10: “70th Anniversary Salute to Broadway”

– August 14 – August 31: “Inherit the Wind”

Things to do in the area

Gem mining, drive thru waterfall and rock sliding…sounds like fun?
Bridal Veil drive thru waterfall

Unleash the “Indiana Jones” in you and go hunt for rubies, sapphires and even gold in Franklin, NC less than an hour drive from Oconee State Park and Lake Jocassee.

Who knows you may be the next “romancing the stone” star!

See Bridal Veil and Cullasaja waterfalls along scenic Hwy 64.

Located between Highlands and Franklin NC, Bridal Veil is the only waterfall in the Carolinas that you can drive through it.

Cullasaja river boasts the teens’ most favorite rock-sliding and swimming spot in the area. Motorists stop frequently to take photos, Swimming spot on Cullasaja River off hwy 64 enjoy the incredible views and just have a laugh watching the children jump Tarzan-style into the river.

Want to see more?

Read my previous post and visit the South Carolina Upcountry legendary waterfalls.


The fun is unlimited in the Carolina mountains!

Pickens Hagood Mill and County Museum of History and Art- free awesome attractions in SC Upcountry

Step back in history at the Pickens County Museum of History and Art and Hagood Mill “Where Memories are Made”. They are both FREE attractions to enjoy Pickens County Museum of Art and History while vacationing in the South Carolina Upcountry.
Pickens was a native Cherokee territory until the American Revolution when they suffered defeat and had to surrender their South Carolina lands. In 1769 the Ninety Six Judicial district was created and was composed of present day Greenville, Anderson, Pickens and Oconee counties.

Hagood Mill Facts and Trivia
The gristmill was built by James Hagood in 1845 and it operated commercially until 1966. Hagood wellHagood Mill was a busy center. Records show, in 1870, it produced 140,000 pounds of meal and 11,200 pounds of flour.

In 1973 the mill was donated to the Pickens County and added to the National Register of Historic Places. To date it’s one of oldest known surviving gristmills still producing grain products.

Archaeological excavations revealed that on site rocks are covered with pre-historic carvings. The petroglyphs Hagood petroglyph will be preserved and displayed in the soon to be realized South Carolina Rock Art Interpretive Center.

Things to see and do at Hagood Mill
• 20 foot overshot wheel and wooden barn
• Old Bear Blacksmith shop
• A complete 19th century cotton gin
• Ol’ Mill Moonshine display
• Family farm exhibit

• Future SC Rock Art Interpretative Center
• Tour the property Hagood Mill 20 foot wheel and wooden barn Wednesday thru Saturday from 10 AM to 4 PM.
• On a third Saturday of every month, rain or shine, the Mill operates and there are live shows: traditional music, folk storytelling and Native American dances.
• Check out the exhibits inside the visitor center and shop for one of a kind souvenirs, fresh stone ground cornmeal and grits and the Mill Cookbooks.
• Hike the ¾ mile nature trail (beware of snakes!)

Hagood Mill Events Schedule
(held on the 3rd Saturday of every month)
• July 19 – “Sugar in the Gourd, Dancin’ on the Board” – Buck dance contest
• August 16 – “Summer Gospel Show”
• September 20 – Hagood’s Mill famous Hagood Mill cotton gin“Fiddlin’ Convention” – competition for best old time fiddler, guitarist, banjo player and string band.
• October 18 – Hagood Mill Storytelling Festival
• November 15 – “Selugadu” – Native American Celebration with Cherokee dancing, drumming, storytelling and demonstrations.
• December 15 – “Celtic Christmas” Irish and Scottish music.

Pickens County Museum of History and Art
Take the kids to visit this awesome museum to witness one of the most history rich counties in South Carolina. From Cherokee diplomat Attakullakulla to American Revolution patriot (and county namesake) Andrew Pickens to present day Saturday evening barn dances and folklore stories.

Pickens County museum Andrew Pickens\' duel pistols is housed in a 1903 jail complete with crenellated turret, now part of National Register of Historic places. There are 39 permanent displays with artifacts, pictures and arts telling and preserving the incredible history of the Tri-counties.

The museum is also host to the prestigious Juried South Carolina Artists Exhibition, an annual event showcasing best artistic creations from the state. Delight yourself outside along the Interpretive Gardens trails highlighting flora native to local forests, grasslands and bogs.

Pickens Museum Attractions

• Andrew Pickens’s 18th century English manufactured duel pistols captured from loyalist Capt. John Hamilton at 1779 Robert Carr’s Fort battle.
Pickens County Jail Room exhibit

• The Winchester Axe used to split the victim’s head at a “Blockade” Distellery dispute in 1936. A year later the fellow was released from prison for good behavior!
• The Jail room and noose where the last execution took place
• Young kids love watching the old corn grinding machinery, the antique children clothes and toys and the early 1900 music instruments
• Laugh (otherwise you may cry) at the 1960s food prices. How about 39 cents a pound for Prime Ribs or 49 cents for half-gallon ice cream? I wonder how much the gas was…

I spent quite some quality Art at the Pickens Museum time upstairs with my 4 years old admiring the works from the 29th Juried South Carolina Artists Exhibition. I suggest asking kids questions like “What does this painting makes you feel?”, “What’s the first thing that comes to mind?”…you’ll be surprised by some of the answers. Either way seeing them drawn to art and interpreting paintings it’s priceless.

Where
Hagood Mill is located at 138 Hagood Mill Road, Pickens SC 29761, 3 miles north of city of Pickens and close to Cherokee Foothills Hwy 11.
The museum is in downtown Pickens, at 307 Johnson Street, near the intersection of Hwys 183 and 178. Operation hours are Tuesday to Saturday mostly 9 AM to 5 PM (Thus is till 7:30 PM, Sat till 4:30 PM).

Live the history in Pickens County and scenic South Carolina Upcountry!

Visit Walhalla fish hatchery to see, feed and even fish trout (free things to do with kids near Oconee and Devils Fork State Parks)

If you are vacationing in beautiful South Carolina Upcountry bring your kids and loved ones to the Walhalla Fish Hatchery located off highway 107 half an hour drive from both Oconee and Devils Fork State Parks. It’s free, educational and an out of ordinary fun activity the entire family will enjoy.

Facts and history
The hatchery Rainbow trout on display is one of five in South Carolina and the only one involved in the culture of trout, a coldwater species. There are three types raised here: rainbow, brook and brown trout.

The Appalachian Mountains streams are not very fertile due their origination bedrock which produces low alkalinity in the water. Hatchery construction began in mid 1930s and first trout was released in 1937. In 1990 an oxygen supplementation system was added to increase production.

The growing cycle begins in the incubator room usually not open to public to protect the very sensitive eggs. Inside the hatchery building there are 12 concrete tanks where young trout is fed until it reaches 2 inches long and then is moved to the outside raceways. Each raceway is about 100 feet long and flows 600 gallons of water a minute. It takes about 14-16 months for the fish to reach the stocking size of 9 inches.

Each year over 200,000 trout fish are stocked by truck to rivers in Greenville, Pickens and Oconee counties. See a list and a map with all the streams at the interpretive display kiosk. Some remote locations along Chattooga River get stocked by helicopter!

Tips to know before you go
Best time to visit Dad gets food for his son is in the fall where you can see more of the trout’s lifecycle stages, particularly the eggs and the sac fry.

Main attraction for little kids is feeding the fish. There are feed stations along the tanks and the food is 25 cents. Pay once then ask your children to hunt for the plenty of fish-food laying on the ground.

You can call ahead (864) 638-2866 to schedule a guided tour. You may get lucky and get to visit the incubator room.

Things to do in the area
Tour the hatchery at your own pace; pick up a brochure to read more about the facilities, the growth operations and the trout lifecycle stages.

Fish in the pristine East Fork river which runs through the hatchery grounds; the picnic area has a barrier free fishing pier accessible from the parking lot.Fishing at East Fork

Hike the 2.5 miles trail along the river; you can get a trail map at the office.

Take 107 North for approximately 5 miles to see the gorgeous Whitewater Falls. At 700 feet long this series of falls is the highest in the East. From there you can drive to Lake Jocassee inside Devils Fork State Park the finest fishing place in the Southeast where you have plenty of recreational activities.

Drive south to the Oconee State Park where you can swim, canoe, kayak, fish, paddle-boat, play putt-golf or hike around the lake. Those more adventurous can access the start of the famous Foothills Trail.

Visit Duke’s World of Energy to learn how electricity is generated from water, coal and uranium. There are many interactive exhibits, a real-size nuclear reactor replica and fun games to test your scientific knowledge.

Where
Address: 198 Fish Hatchery Rd, Hwy 107 N, Mountain Rest, SC 29664. The hatchery is near the intersection of Hyw 107 and 130 and here is the Google Map.
Admission is free. Open daily from 8 AM till 4 PM except on Christmas Day. May close occasionally during winter if the inclement weather conditions make it unsafe for visitation.

Happy trout fishing along the South Carolina upstate rivers!

Love trout? Then drive north into beautiful Western North Carolina to visit the Bobby N. Setzer Fish Hatchery (the largest in the state!) that’s beaming with brook, rainbow and brown trout!