With summer vacation season arriving, many people around the Upstate may be planning to flock to the water. Lake Jocassee, in Oconee County, is a great place to make a splash.
Only accessible through Devils Fork State Park, the lake is surrounded by more than 7,000 acres of mostly undeveloped land. Inside the park, campers may stay in one of two campgrounds or rent one of 20 fully furnished villas. Visitors can also hike throughout the year at Lake Jocassee on the mile-long Oconee Bell Nature Trail located within the park. Nearby, you can take a 2-mile hike to Lower Whitewater Falls, a 15-minute walk along Reedy Cove Creek to Twin Falls, or explore the 1.7-mile trail into a mountain gorge in the Eastatoe Creek Heritage Preserve.
“Devils Fork State Park only has only one hiking trail unless you get on a boat to access more remote areas,” said Jocassee Lake Tours co-owner Brooks Wade. “We drop off and pick up hikers at the Foothills Trail, Upstate South Carolina’s premier hiking trail.”
In addition to hiking, the lake features three public access boat ramps to allow pontoons and boats onto the water. Due to the size of the lake and surrounding area, most people will find themselves on a boat at some point during their visit, whether it is for swimming in the Jocassee Gorges waterfalls, taking a waterfall tour on the lake, participating in water sports or kayaking in upper or lower lake areas. Visitors may want to bring their own boat, go on a pontoon tour or pay for a shuttle service to get around, Wade said.
While Lake Jocassee has areas for swimming and exploring, it is also popular for trout fishing. Along the Eastatoe River, which flows through a secluded mountain gorge, there is a habitat preferred by wild rainbow trout.
“It’s a great trout fishing lake,” said Blake Jones, general manager of Take Cover Storage. “It’s kind of what it’s known for. It’s produced the state record for spotted and smallmouth bass as well as rainbow and brown trout.”
Joining the waterfalls and hiking areas surrounding the lake are several areas with unobstructed views. The first is Jumping Off Rock, which is part of the Jocassee Gorges. This spot offers views of Lake Jocassee and the surrounding mountains. The other is Sassafras Mountain, which is the highest point in the state. From this spot, visitors can see North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and Tennessee on clear days. Sassafras Mountain features an overlook, which is accessible by cars, just below the high point. There is also a short pathway from the parking lot to a viewing platform at the top of the mountain.
“It’s the most beautiful place you will ever see in the eastern United States,” Wade said. “It’s the Grand Canyon of the Southeast. It is more visually beautiful than you can imagine. The experience of three to four hours on the lake is overwhelming. [It’s a] totally unique environment to find in this part of the world.”