Table Rock Trail
Table Rock State Park
Table Rock State Park is located in northern South Carolina and offers many options for outdoor activities. By far the most challenging, is the hike to the top of "Table Rock", the large rock formation that rises up from the landscape, looking very much like a table. As challenging as the hike to the top of this geological formation is, it is equally rewarding (maybe more so!) with the view one is treated to at the top.
There are two routes to the top of Table Rock. The most direct is the 3.7 mile up and 3.7 mile back down route that follows Table Rock Trail. This trip reports describes that hike.
Another option is to head west on Pinnacle Mountain Trail, making a side visit to Mill Creek waterfall, and coming over to Table Rock from the west. That makes the total hike 10.7 miles, instead of 7.6 miles, but I find that this route, despite the longer mileage, actually makes the entire hike a bit easier, since the elevation gain is more gradual, and you get the refreshing enjoyment of a waterfall stop along the way. To see my trip report and associated GPS data for that hike, please see my Table Rock/Pinnacle Mountain trip report.
Either way you choose to go, the above picture is what you get for hours of uphill hiking .... a view of Table Rock Reservoir, and the protected Greenville watershed surrounding it.
Click on the above map for a pdf version
Map provided by www.SouthCarolinaParks.com
The map above is probably as good of a map for hiking in the park as any. The trails in the park are very well labeled, as well as heavily used, so you will not have any problem finding trails and/or turn offs.
Most of the topo maps I've found are very, very old, not even showing the main highway (Highway 11) that leads to the park. If you want to check elevation gains and such, check any of the on-line topo maps available such as the one below.
For GPS users, below is my track from a recent hike. The track is only one way, since this track was taken from a loop that included going west to Mill Creek Falls. But for the "main" Table Rock hike, this track shows the out and back trail ... 3.7 miles up, and 3.7 miles back down, both routes following the same trail.
GPX data for download: Table Rock Hike.
Enter the park at the West Gate Entrance. (Even if you are coming from the east this is the easiest route to the parking area and trailhead). South Carolina charges a $2.00 per person day use fee ($1.25 for SC residents 65 and older, disabled residents, and National Guard members), paid at the park entrance.
The parking area is easily located on the right (if coming from the West Gate Entrance). It is adjacent to Pinnacle Lake, which offers a beach and swimming during the summer months.
The trail to the top of Table Rock starts from the Nature Center, located across the road from the parking area. Restrooms are also located here.
The first 100 yards or so are a delightfully landscaped, PAVED (!) trail running along Carrick Creek. This area of the park offers a lot of options for families and individuals who do not want a 3 hour uphill hike, but rather just a fun place to play by water.
Table Rock Trail
Begin at the Nature Center, and follow the main, paved trail. You soon come to the first of several junctures --- the lower portion of the 2 mile Carrick Creek loop bears left. The trail to Table Rock goes straight. Sign boards with a map of the park and directional signs are located at each juncture.
The next juncture is with the upper portion of the Carrick Creek loop. Again, sign boards complete with a park map, and signs direct you --- the trail to Table Rock goes straight ahead.
Once past this point, Table Rock trail begins its steady ascent. The area is one of open forest, with many huge boulders scattered about. The trail is hard packed, bare dirt, with many make shift steps out of rocks and/or logs.
At the two mile (approximately) point, one comes to a trail shelter, built in the 1930's by the CCC. (An informational poster at the Nature Center states that most of this park's trail system was built by the CCC workers). At this point, you have climbed over 1,000 feet (over 300 meters) in elevation gain, so the views to the south are quite impressive.
Click on any of the thumbnail pictures for a full size view
The CCC Shelter provides a welcome rest spot, but don't tarry too long, or your leg muscles will cool off and you'll have to get them going from scratch again!! You've still got a lot of uphill to go!
The next major spot you come to is Panther Gap. This is located on the ridge line created by Pinnacle Mountain and the Table Rock summit.
Close up of photo to the left
Colnago has gotten a whiff of
There is a sign board here, but as you can see from the photo,
the map that should be on it is missing.
At Panther Gap, you'll find a trail going both to the right and left. Turn right to get to Table Rock (going left takes you to Pinnacle Mountain).
For the next little stretch, you actually get to hike on level ground, even going slightly downhill. All this does is make the next section seem even more steep than it already is!! However, your legs will greatly appreciate this stretch! Just remember, more uphill to come (approximately 600 more feet/180 meters in elevation)!!
After a very pleasant half mile or so walk along this more or less level stretch, you once again start climbing in earnest, this time heading for Governor's Rock.
Once you ascend to the top of Governor's Rock, you are well rewarded for this latest bit of climbing:
Views from Governor's Rock to the northwest (above) and to the west (below).
Click either image for full size pic.
Many hikers make this their turn around point (trust me, you will be plenty tired at this point). However, resist the urge ... if you've made it this far, you've already climbed over 90% of the elevation gain needed to get to the summit ... at this point, make yourself continue on ... less than 200 feet in elevation to go!!
The next portion of the hike takes you into a pine forest, a nice break from the sun if you do this on a sunny day. In a quarter mile or so, you finally reach the Table Rock Summit at 3,124 feet in elevation (952 meters):
Whatever you do, don't stop here, thinking this is the end of the hike!! (I have heard horror stories of folks who've climbed to this point, and thinking this is the end, turned around!!) This happens to be the SUMMIT, but definitely NOT the high point of the hike!!
On my most recent hike, I noticed more of the red arrows signaling the trail continues onward just past this sign, to indicate to hikers NOT to turn around here!
Continue on about another half a mile, to the visual grandeur that awaits you for your 3 hours of climbing:
The lake you are looking down on is approximately
1600 feet in elevation lower.
Looking a little further north,
you see Slicking Falls, seen below.
The photo on the right is zoomed in from the one on the left.
Be sure to allow plenty of time to rest, lunch, and enjoy the view here!!
Please also see my flickr set for more photos, including various wildflowers and flowering trees seen along this hike.
NOTE FOR HIKERS WITH DOGS: You'll notice from a couple of the pictures that my dog accompanied me on this hike. This hike is suitable ONLY for dogs well conditioned and used to long, uphill climbing. Also, you WILL need to bring water for your dog ... even in the relatively cool days of spring, this hike is HOT ... much of the trail goes through open, exposed areas where you and your dog will be in the sun for over an hour at a time. In the summer, this is a downright HOT, HOT hike.
Sometimes there is a spring running down the south side of Governor's Rock, but I never count on this for my dog. Bring water ... LOTS of water!