Thursday, July 30, 2009

Table Rock Trail: View from the SC Mountains

In the fall of 2008(the colors were pretty amazing at this time!), I, along with others, hiked to the top of Table Rock Mountain. Being a resident of South Carolina, I felt the need to do South Carolina hikes and this one is practically the granddaddy of them all. This trail is located in the upstate of South Carolina, in Table Rock State Park(a fee is necessary for entry). The park itself is in northern Pickens County and is, at most, an hour from the Greenville area. To get directions to the trailhead, click on this link and type your starting location in point A.

The Table Rock Trail is 3.4 miles one-way and includes around 2100 feet of ascent from the base of the mountain. The map of this trail is below and I retrieved it from this site.
Table Rock Trail Map
The trail starts out innocently enough with roughly .2 miles of a stroll on the Carrick Creek Nature Trail which is a trail for beginners. However, after you leave this trail and meet the Table Rock Trail, it is a brutal introduction. When I first hiked it, I felt like I was gaining a foot of altitude for every foot on the trail at this part (but then again, I had not been hiking for a while, so my objectivity may have been lost).

The trail continues to have some brutal uphill stretches for most of the ascent, including large never ending staircase where timbers were placed as steps by the Civilian Conservation Corps(CCC). Somewhere around halfway, you reach an overlook with a shelter. This shelter has a good view, but is relatively nothing when compared with the views at the summit.
Greenville Water Reservoir from the East Face of Table Rock
After you leave the shelter, you continue the ascent to the top for a little under a mile and then reach Governor's Rock. From Governor's Rock you have great views of Pinnacle Mountain and other mountains along this chain. Also if one looks in the distance they can see Bad Creek, Lake Jocassee, and the Oconee Nuclear Reactors. This is a good place to stop for eating; however, my group decided to eat at the summit which can have some better views.

Once you leave Governor's Rock most of the ascent is finished but there is some rough climbing over rockface that can be hazardous in wet or wintry conditions. After that there is some trekking across the ridgeline until arriving at the summit itself(there is a sign marking the summit). Continue hiking and you will have a great view of the surrounding terrain from rock to the right. However, if you do not want to miss the most rewarding view from the mountain, continue hiking to the east face. After this, make your return journey down the mountain(can be done faster and is a lot easier).
Pinnacle Mountain from Table Rock
Be careful when on any of the rock faces and do not walk too close to the edge because you would face of fall of hundreds if not a thousand plus feet that would almost mean certain death.

In summary, this was a very rewarding hike even though it can be quite strenuous in some sections. I especially recommend doing this in the fall with all of the autumn colors on the trees. Also, another note is that beginners need to take this hike seriously and prepare accordingly because this hike is definitely not a stroll through the park(it is probably one of the toughest hikes in SC).

My Rating(out of 5):

Distance: 7.2 miles(from a GPS, might not be exact)

Difficulty: Strenuous overall, with some sections not as bad

Helpful Links
Site with trail map, chart of elevation data, and pictures
Enter in your starting location as point A and get directions to the trailhead
Site with trail summary, directions, and contact information

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Tanawha Trail: From Rough Ridge to Boone Fork

Rough Ridge Boardwalk
This past week, while my family and I were on vacation in Boone, I felt the urge to go hiking in the area. I was deliberating between the Tanawha Trail and the Boone Fork Trail in Julian Price Park on the Blue Ridge Parkway. After seeing pictures of the overlook at Rough Ridge, my father and I decided the Tanawha Trail was a must see.

The Tanawha Trail (here is a map by the NPS, even though it is not too great) is a 13.5 mile hike from Beacon Heights in the south, paralleling the Blue Ridge Parkway as it goes around Grandfather Mountain, and ending at Julian Price Park in the north. We ended up creating our own little mini-hike(we were on a tight schedule) of 4.1 miles from the Rough Ridge parking lot to the Boone Fork Parking lot.
Boone Fork Creek
We started at the Rough Ridge parking lit and ascended a short distance until we reached the Tanawha Trail. We turned left and climbed for two or three tenths of a mile to the actual Rough Ridge boardwalk where one has an awesome vista of the surrounding mountains. If you wanted to, you could continue hiking on the boardwalk and go that way on the Tanahwa Trail. However, since we were short on time we doubled back and continued on.

One stop along the way, about one mile from Rough Ridge, is the Raven Rock overlook; however, we did not take this figuring we would not want to descend and reascend and had no idea of the distance down to the overlook on the Parkway. As we hiked through the forest we were amazed at the almost New England style forest and at the amazing rhododendron growth.

View of the Linn Cove Viaduct from Rough Ridge

At about the 2.5-3 mile mark from the start of this hike, we encountered Green Mountain Creek which had a nice little bridge over it and it also served as a good place to rest for a couple minutes. Then we continued on through the woods until near the end, we ran into Boone Fork Creek which also had a nice wooden bridge over it. Then we hiked another .5 to .75 miles to the parking lot.

Overall, this was a nice little hike, but we would have liked to see more mountain views. This is a hike through the woods other than the detour to Rough Ridge. Also, the trail map is not accurate, even the park rangers told us this fact, and some of the distances marked on the trail were misleading.

My Rating(out of 5):

Distance: 4.1 miles(from a GPS, might not be exact)

Difficulty: moderate overall, with a few strenuous sections

Helpful Links:
Trail Map by NPS listed above
Great description along with an interactive map
Good information of Rough Ridge and also great pictures

Typical forest along this section of the Tanawha Trail