5 of South Carolina’s Toughest Hikes

By:Marie McAden


You’ll need more than a bowl of Wheaties to hike South Carolina’s most difficult trails. These bad boys are a challenge for even the most tenacious trekkers. We’re talking big, steep, sometimes technically difficult climbs that will leave your legs feeling like Jell-O.

One particularly heinous hike is the equivalent of walking up the 897 steps to the top of the Washington Monument … four times!

Think you’ve got the mettle? Here are five of the toughest trails in South Carolina:

1. Table Rock

It’s all uphill to the top of this 3,100-foot-high granite monolith; the elevation gain is 2,000 feet in 3.4 miles. As a reward for your hard work, you’ll be treated to fantastic views of the Table Rock Reservoir, Caesars Head and Pinnacle Lake. Allow five hours for the out-and-back trek.

2. Pinnacle Mountain

You’ll climb 2,265 feet in just 4.2 miles to reach South Carolina’s third-highest point. The most difficult section of the hike comes at the end when you’re dog tired.

How tough is it? It’s so steep that you might have to use your hands to scramble up the side of the mountain. There’s not much of a view from the tree-covered peak, but the panorama of the Piedmont seen from Bald Knob Overlook along the trail will take your breath away.

3. Blue Ridge Electric Co-op Passage of the Palmetto Trail

On this 12.5-mile hike, you’ll have the opportunity to experience the rugged beauty of the Jocassee Gorges, a remote mountain wilderness chosen by National Geographic as one of “50 of the World’s Last Great Places.” From Table Rock State Park, you’ll ascend 1,586 feet to the top of Horse Mountain.

4. Rim of the Gap

One of the most scenic and technically challenging trails in the Mountain Bridge Wilderness Area, this 4.3-mile hike runs from Caesars Head State Park to Jones Gap State Park. Along the rocky and sometimes narrow path, you will encounter numerous small waterfalls, cable crossings, ladders and Weight Watchers Rock, a large boulder balanced atop other boulders with barely enough room to squeeze through. Because the north-facing trail is so wet, it is closed in the winter because of ice.

5. Pinnacle Pass

This hike lays claim to the steepest elevation gain of any trail in the state; you’ll climb 2,000 feet in just half a mile. The 10-mile trek takes you up and over a number of mountains and ridges to a rocky precipice offering a spectacular panorama of Jones Gap and the Middle Saluda River towered over by dramatic mountains. The view is worth every challenging step.

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