Where to See Fall Foliage in South Carolina

South Carolina's mountains and state parks see a riot of color in autumn
South Carolina's mountains and state parks see a riot of color in autumn | © Pat & Chuck Blackley / Alamy Stock Photo
Photo of Mike Title
9 October 2020

During the fall, South Carolina sees a tremendous burst of color as its trees turn from green to gold, muted orange or fiery red. The state parks are a source of great natural activity and a destination for hikers and wildlife lovers, so Culture Trip has selected some of the very best autumn spots for you to choose from during this magical season.

Table Rock State Park

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Sunrise, Table Rock Mountain, Table Rock State Park, Pickens, South Carolina, USA
© Pat & Chuck Blackley / Alamy Stock Photo

Less than 30 miles (48km) from Greenville, Table Rock State Park offers the wonders of the season. If you are lucky enough to visit after a mild summer with lots of rainfall, the colors from the oak, maple and hickory trees will be out of this world, and on a sunny day, the vibrant reds, yellows and vivid orange leaves are reflected in the waters of the lake. Head to the observation point on the north side of Kemberling Bridge – it is a joyful view.

Travelers Rest

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Just 20 miles (32km) west of Table Rock, these cycling routes – and views – draw keen cyclists who travel up to 80 miles (129km) along the Blue Ridge Mountains. With thousands of feet in elevation climb, this is no easy feat; but if you can handle it, the rides along the country roads into the small towns are a great way to see the sights. If you can, try to catch the farmers’ or harvest markets in Trailblazer Park for a taste of some local fare.

Cowpens National Battlefield – Gaffney

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Cowpens National Battlefield Park
© Zachary Frank / Alamy Stock Photo

On the Chesnee Highway near Gaffney, you’ll find one of South Carolina’s historic treasures: the site of one of one of the Revolutionary War’s major battles. Visit the museum to delve deeper into this significant point in American history, but don’t forget to spare a minute or two for the fall foliage. The diverse ecosystem produces a diverse array of wildlife, and the 1.3-mile (2km) battlefield trail is particularly delightful.

Lake Jocassee

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Lake Toxaway, Lake Jocassee, NC, North Carolina, Nantahala National Forest, autumn. Image shot 2008. Exact date unknown.
© Andre Jenny / Alamy Stock Photo

Lake Jocassee is only a two-hour drive west of Gaffney, and popular year-round for its spectacularly unspoiled scenery and picturesque views. Standing by the lake, surrounded by the overhanging mountains, makes you feel like you are in a wild stadium of sorts, with the reds and oranges contrasting against the blues, or firing up against the sunset. If you can, take a boat tour to really get the most out of the experience.

Caesars Head State Park

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This tremendous state park borders North Carolina and is considered one of the best spots in the entire region to witness the fall foliage. As you stare into the states of North Carolina and Georgia with the vast swathes of trees turning red and yellow, there is a sense of nature triumphing. The hike to Raven Cliff is not easy, but it ends with a powerful 400-foot (122m) waterfall that explodes before you, at what is the perfect time of the year to witness it.

Elliot Rock Wilderness

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The Elliot Rock Wilderness covers 8,000 acres (3,240ha) and crosses into three states. When the colors are at their most vivid, the trek to Spoonauger Falls is a must. Starting at Burrells Ford, it is reasonably clear which path to take as you follow the river; the drop is only about 50 feet (15m), but it is charming all the same. If you feel like you need more of a challenge, pick up the Fowler Creek trail for some real adventure.

These recommendations were updated on October 9, 2020 to keep your travel plans fresh.