It’s everyone’s favorite annual rite of autumn—leaf gazing. Nowhere is Mother Nature’s dazzling display of color more breathtaking than along the South Carolina Upstate’s scenic byways.
But it’s hard to savor the spectacle when it’s racing by your car window. If you and your road crew aren’t up for a trek in the woods, you can catch the view from a half-dozen overlooks offering fantastic views of the mountain landscape. All of them require nothing more than a short walk over flat terrain.
Here are six easy-to-access Upstate overlooks you won’t want to miss on your fall foliage road trip:
1. Caesars Head. The 400-million-year-old granite outcropping looks over the Blue Ridge Escarpment, a dramatic 3,000-foot drop in elevation from the mountains to the foothills. From this impressive perch, you can look down the lushly forested gorge ablaze in brilliant, yellows, oranges and reds. The overlook is located at Caesars Head State Park on US 276.
2. Bald Rock. About five miles from Caesars Head State Park on US 276 you’ll find a small pull-off on the east side the road. It offers access to a huge rock outcropping overlooking the South Carolina foothills and the iconic Table Rock. There are no signs marking the overlook, but there’s almost always cars parked at this popular natural attraction.
3. Sassafras Mountain. The highest point in South Carolina, this scenic spot features a platform at the edge of the mountain where you can stand and look out over the Jocassee Gorges and the hazy line of Blue Ridge Mountains. A 15-foot observation tower is being built on the 3,553-foot peak that will offer a 360-degree panorama with views of four states—South Carolina, North Carolina, Tennessee and Georgia.
4. Wigington Overlook. Located along the 14-mile Oscar Wigington Scenic Byway, the drive to this overlook is as awe-inspiring as the birds-eye vista you’re treated to when you arrive at this picturesque destination in Sumter National Forest. Located on a short connector route between SC 107 and 103, it offers views of the crystal clear waters of Lake Jocassee and the 2,000-foot “Blue Wall.”
5. Jumping Off Rock. It’s a long, bumpy drive up a winding gravel road, but worth every minute of the rugged ride to enjoy the hallmark view from this 2,000-foot natural scenic overlook. With no development anywhere in sight, you’ll get an unobstructed view of Lake Jocassee surrounded by trees in full color mode. This overlook is located on Horse Pasture Road in the 33,000-acre Jim Timmerman Natural Resources Area.
6. Chattooga Belle Farm. With its beautiful pastoral setting and hilltop location, this Oconee County you-pick farm is a unique spot to view the palate of color bursting forth in Sumter National Forest and the Blue Ridge Mountains. Fall foliage fans are welcome to stand on the giant compass rose terrace and ooh and aah at Mother Nature’s handiwork. Before you leave, stop by the farm store for a jar of jam or a bottle of wine made with fruit from the farm.