Pickens County, SC
Sunday, April 24th, 2011
Photos are posted here:
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The Jocassee Gorge Passage of the Palmetto Trail has been on my "to do" list since it was first open to the public about 5 years ago. The trail is listed at 12.6 miles long (one way). Therefore in order to complete the whole trail during a day hike I would need to arrange a shuttle.
Andy and Brenda also were interested so the shuttle problems were solved. Andy (and Boone) met me in Spartanburg and we drove together to the western trailhead on US178 where we would meet Brenda. There is no official parking at this trailhead, but about 200yards South is a pull-off wide enough for about 3 vehicles.
We left Brenda's vehicle there and combined into my truck for the ride to the Eastern Trailhead inside Table Rock State Park. I am not a big fan of shuttle hikes, because sometimes it seems you spend more time shuttling vehicles than actual hiking, but this one only took about 15 minutes.
There are probably safe places to park where you can avoid the $2.00/person SC State Park Entrance Fee, but we went ahead and paid the $6.00 and parked at the official trailhead inside Table Rock State Park by the Pinnacle Pavilion (aka The Barn).
We hit the trail at about 10:15am.
I am not going to write a whole lot of detail about the hike. Instead I will just give some general impressions and highlights about the trail.
About 70% of the route is a very well designed and constructed trail. All elevation changes are nice and gradual with heavy utilization of switchbacks.
About 30% of the route is on Forest Service Roads. When hiking these roads, it is very easy to miss the spot where the trail leaves the road. I was in the lead most of the time and I missed the turn on at least (3) different occasions. Some of these forest roads go on for miles and it would be very easy to get way off track. One missed turn added a little over a half mile to our hike total, but it could have been a lot more!
There were some wildflowers out, but overall I was disappointed with the wildflower display along the trail.
Just before Mile #1, the trail crosses over Mill Creek. Our buddy Johnny bushwhacked upstream and found a very impressive looking waterfall. Due to the long day ahead of us, we elected to save that for another time.
At around Mile Marker #3, the trail crosses Rachel Creek and a couple of its tributaries. The trail map shows a waterfall here, but it is very unimpressive and not even worth a photo.
A much more impressive looking waterfall is located on Rachel Creek downstream from the trail. Our Buddy Waterfall Rich found this waterfall by bushwhacking upstream from Hwy 11. I believe Rich's route requires crossing private property.
It should be possible to access this waterfall and staying entirely on public land if you followed the creek downstream from the Palmetto Trail. We didn't try it today, but I will plan a return visit to explore both Mill Creek and Rachel Creek in hopes of finding these waterfalls!
The trail crosses Emory Creek at around mile 7 just upstream from an impressive looking waterfall. Andy and I bushwhacked down to the base while Brenda took a nice break. Photo conditions where lousy, but this one is definitely more impressive than this photo shows.
Waterfall on Emory Creek
I attempted to get a better view, but almost went for an unintended swim! The water was much deeper and the rocks much slipperier than expected. I might have tried again, but the photo conditions did not justify the risk. Plus, I decided not to bring the Tri-Pod along for this hike which would explain the poor focus on the above photo!
There are lots of potential for waterfalls on Emory Creek both upstream and downstream from the trail. However, Hiking 7 miles (one way) just to get to this point does not leave much opportunity for exploration during a day hike. It appears that a Hunting Access Road leads to the same area and may be a good access option for further exploration of Emory Creek.
Much of this trail crosses through SCDNR Game Lands. We planned the hike for Sunday so we didn't have to worry about getting mistaken for Wild Turkeys and shot. However, any other day of the week, you should plan on the possibly of encountering Hunters!
We actually saw some Wild Turkeys and a couple of Deere, but the only wildlife I was able to get a photo of was a Toad:
There are some nice views through the trees, which would be even better in the winter. However, there are really no wide open spectacular vistas!
This was probably the best view the trail has to offer
Elevation starts at around 1200-ft, peaks at around 2,800-feet and ends at 1,800-feet with a few ups and downs in between. It would make for a slightly easier hike by going in the reverse direction from how we did it.
We finished up at about 5:30pm which means that it took us just over 7 hours to complete the hike. This includes (2) extended sit-down breaks and a couple of other short breaks. It also includes the (1) missed turn which added a little over a half mile to the total hike distance.
Overall it is a nice trail and it was a very enjoyable day hiking in the woods. However, there is absolutely nothing about this trail that would cause me to recommend it as "Must Hike" trail.
The full set of photos is posted here:
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