Wide open spaces in the Upstate have opened back up again.
On May 1, South Carolina state parks reopened after closing in late March to slow the spread of the coronavirus. Most of the Upstate’s trails and natural spaces — as well as its visitor centers and gift shops — are now accessible to the public, though on a limited basis. Here’s everything you need to know about the state parks in our area.
Jones Gap State Park, 303 Jones Gap Road, Marietta
Hours: 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily
Fee: $6 adults; $3.75 seniors (age 65 & older); $3.50 children ages 6-15; ages 5 and under, free
Capacity: 25 vehicles
Need to know: Park goers must now reserve a parking spot if they plan on visiting before 2 p.m. on weekends. Parking spots are an additional $5 and must be reserved before midnight the day before.
Must see: Rainbow Falls, one of the park’s two waterfalls, is spectacular. The viewing won’t come easy — the falls sit at the end of a strenuous 2.2-mile out-and-back hike.
Did you know? The state’s first designated scenic river, the Middle Saluda River, runs through Jones Gap.
Paris Mountain State Park, 2401 State Park Road, Greenville
Hours: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily
Fee: $6 adults; $3.75 SC seniors; $3.50 children ages 6-15; ages 5 and under, free
Capacity: 120 vehicles
Need to know: Canoe, kayak and pedal boat rentals are currently unavailable. Playground equipment is off limits.
Must see: North Lake, or Reservoir No. 3, is a tranquil spot with some lovely views. You can reach it by taking Brissy Ridge Trail and then connecting to Kanuga or Pipsissewa trails.
Did you know? Paris Mountain is what geologists call a monadnock — a mountain that rises up out of otherwise flat land.
Table Rock State Park, 158 Ellison Lane, Pickens
Hours: 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Mon.-Thurs., 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Fri.-Sun.
Fee: $6 adults; $3.75 seniors; $3.50 children ages 6-15; ages 5 and under, free
Capacity: 170 vehicles
Must see: It’s a 3.6-mile uphill struggle to the summit of Table Rock Mountain, but it’s well worth it — once you’re finally able to catch your breath. The panoramic views from the top of this imposing granite dome are stunning, and on clear days you can see for miles.
Caesar’s Head State Park, 8155 Geer Highway, Cleveland
Hours: 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily
Fee: $3 adults; $1.50 seniors; $1 children age 6-15; ages 5 and under, free
Capacity: 24 vehicles in the main parking area, 18 at Raven Cliff Falls
Must see: The 420-foot Raven Cliff Falls can be viewed two ways: Via the leisurely 4-mile round-trip Raven Falls Trail, which leads to a scenic overlook, or a 6.6-mile round-trip hike to a suspension bridge that crosses the creek above the falls.
Did you know? Thousands of hawks migrate right through Caesar’s Head State Park every fall from Sept. 1 to Nov. 30.
Devils Fork State Park, 161 Holcombe Circle, Salem
Hours: 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sun.- Thurs., 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Fri.-Sat.
Fee: $8 adults; $5 seniors; $4 children ages 6-15; ages 5 and under, free
Capacity: 115 vehicles, 117 trailers
Need to know: Existing camping and villa reservations that were scheduled to check in after May 1 will be honored. The park is taking new reservations as well.
Must do: Go camping on the shores of Lake Jocassee, a 7,500-acre reservoir lake, for the weekend. Devils Fork provides the only public access point to Lake Jocassee and is home to two campgrounds equipped with one central luxury: hot-water showers. Fully furnished villas — complete with bed linens, satellite TV and free Wi-Fi — can also be reserved.
Did you know? Devils Fork State Park sits in the middle of the Jocassee Gorges, which was named one of the world’s last great places by National Geographic magazine.
Keowee-Toxaway State Park, 108 Residence Drive, Sunset, SC
Hours: 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily
Capacity: 20 vehicles
Must do: Access Lake Keowee via canoe or kayak and enjoy a short paddle to explore Eastatoe Creek. Or view wildflowers along Raven Rock Trail in the springtime. Two rare species that can be found on the park are the Alleghany spurge and ginseng. Other wildflowers include iris, violets, rattlesnake plantain, asters, goldenrod, cardinal flower, Indian pink trillium, various orchids, trailing arbutus, bloodroot, trout lily, galax and wild ginger.
General guidelines to enjoy the great outdoors
- Carry hand sanitizer.
- Use restrooms before visiting a park. Some restroom facilities may be unavailable. Those that are open should be used sparingly to help limit visitor and staff exposure.
- Bring water or drinks — public drinking fountains may be disabled and should not be used, even if operable.
- Comply with Leave No Trace principles at all times. Bring a suitable trash bag and leave no trash or recyclables.
- Touch nothing, if at all possible. The sanitization of frequently touched surfaces like handrails and park benches can’t be guaranteed.
- Recreate alone or only with people you live with.
Trail etiquette during COVID-19
- Familiarize yourself with who should yield in what circumstance on the trail. Remember, uphill traffic has the right of way when meeting someone on the trail.
- Travel the trail in a manner that allows you to yield when it’s your turn to do so. When approaching others on the trail, slow down, be aware of blind corners, be mindful of traffic coming from behind and have your dog under control.
- If it’s your turn to yield (or even if it isn’t but you’ve chosen to), move directly uphill off the trail and keep at least six feet of distance, if possible.
- When passing other trail users, avoid continuing to travel parallel to the trail. This will cause more damage to vegetation and more rapid trail widening.
- Hike single file when passing, and be kind and courteous to others.
- Use less popular trails or access trails at less popular times like early in the morning or later in the evening.
*Source: South Carolina State Parks