Chestnut Ridge Heritage Preserve
Greenville Co, SC
Click on any of the images on this page for full size/full resolution pic.
The Chestnut Ridge Heritage Preserve is a 1,886 acre area, owned and managed by the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources. It is bordered on the south by Oak Grove Road in Greenville county, SC, and on the north by the South Pacolet River.
A 2.75 mile foot trail runs through the preserve, as well as several gated 4-wheeled drive roads. The area north of the Pacolet River provides views of the very steep southern side of Hooker Ridge and Hogback Mountain, and the cliffs on Round Mountain.
This area north of the river also has several areas of waterfalls, two of which are described in this trip report.
Elevation Profile of the trail
Click for larger image
GPX data for download: Chestnut Ridge Heritage Preserve Trail.
The parking area for this hike is located off Oak Grove Road, which turns north off Hwy 11 in Greenville County, SC. The turn for Oak Grove is 4.5 miles west of where Hwys 11 and14 intersect near Gowensville, SC or 9.7 miles east of where Hwy 11 crosses over US25.
Once you turn onto Oak Grove Road, the parking area is one mile from Hwy 11; a gravel area on the left.
The hiking trail begins at the far end of the parking area. A sign board is present here, showing the overall area, and associated trails.
The trail begins as a very leisurely stroll through new growth forest, following a small tributary of Green Creek. The trail is almost level, never varying more than 80 feet in elevation for the first mile.
Chestnut Ridge Heritage Preserve Trail
At the one mile point, you begin ascending up the southwest face of Squirrel Mountain, and reach the ridge at the two mile point. At this point, there is an intersection of several trails ... the foot trail you have been following heads straight ahead. The trail to the left forks in a short distance: the left fork takes you back to the parking area via the gated 4-wheeled drive road that one sees at the very beginning of the parking area and the right fork heads steeply down to the Pacolet River.
The trail to the right dead ends in a short distance.
Continuing straight, takes you down to the Pacolet River. The trail is well designed, with steps to assist over some of the steeper sections.
Views of the cliffs on Round Mountain
Once at the base of the descent you find yourself at the South Pacolet River. Head upstream a short ways, and you will find some well placed rocks for rock hopping across (provided the water is not up from recent rainstorms).
View of the South Pacolet River from the trail above the river (above)
South Pacolet River near the trail's end (below)
Crossing the creek brings you to the end of the trail, at a 4-wheeled road.
At this point, you can backtrack, retracing your steps to the parking area. However, on the day I did this, a group of 5 of us explored the area north of the river. You can see on the GPS track above two areas where we headed north from the 4-wheeled drive road to explore some waterfalls.
The first area is close to the road, and is an impressively tall, vertical rock face with (at least on this day) a low volume of water flowing over it. The sheer, vertical rise of the rocky cliff is a stark contrast to the forested hillside all around it.
Further to the west, another creek provides 3 different areas of waterfall activity. Heading upstream, you first come to an area where the entire creek's volume is compressed into a narrow, rocky channel that goes along a long, large rocky boulder. The creek makes a 90° bend and brings you to the first of 3 relatively tall cascades.
Creek running along a Wall of Boulders (above)
Lower Waterfall (below)
Heading further upstream, you come to a huge pile of boulders, with a space large enough to walk through (while hunched over) at the base. Just beyond here is another area where the creek has a moderately tall, cascade.
Large pile of boulders with a walkway underneath
Above this, the terrain becomes quite a bit steeper. A tough pull up almost 300 feet in elevation over the course of less than 0.2 mile brings you to the edge of a plateau where the terrain opens up wide, with lots of greenery and moss all around. The creek has another gorgeous drop here, as well as a more vertical one just below this.
I enjoyed lunch here, and then strolled further upstream. I did not have my GPS on me at that time, but the northernmost waypoint on the GPS track above shows the approximate area where I meandered. All along here the creek continues its gentle downhill slope, with periodic, flat, rocky cascades. At this point, you are at a shallow plateau directly beneath Hogback Mountain.
Overall, this hike afforded a lot of scenery, but the most significant aspect of this area is the vast amounts of wildflowers. On our hike in March, we saw vast, vast areas literally covered in trilliums. We also saw some Jack-in-the-Pulpits, bloodroot, and other wildflowers.
Wildflowers galore along the trail
This area of the Chestnut Ridge Heritage Preserve packs a whole lot of scenery, hiking, and beauty into its area. Well worth the trip!
Many thanks to Johnny Corn, who has done a lot of exploring in this area, and shared his wealth of knowledge with all of us. Do check out his gallery of photos from this area. Beautiful photography of a gorgeous area.
Also, see this page of South Carolina's Department of Natural Resources for more information on this area.
More photos in my flickr set.