Devils Fork State Park is an outdoor-lover's dream. You can hike, boat, fish, swim and even scuba dive - all right inside the park. Situated along SC Scenic Highway 11, the park serves as the perfect base for day trips to explore other parts of the South Carolina upcountry.
If you love to camp, you can pitch a tent or bring your RV. The park also has 20 newly renovated two- and three-bedroom villas, complete with full kitchens to cook up what you catch in a mountain stream or bring from home. There aren't many options close by for dinner, groceries or other supplies, so most folks bring what they eat. If you do forget something, the park has a small shop, and there's a supply store just a few minutes' drive from the park's entrance.
Day One: Settling in and Hiking
When you first arrive at Devils Fork, you'll spend some time setting up camp or moving into your villa. Once you're settled, though, you'll want to start exploring right away.
Explore Bear Cove Trail, a moderate two-mile trail that weaves its way through the predominantly hardwood forest while offering views of the lake. If you're interested in a longer hike, check out the Lower Whitewater Falls Trail, located just a 30-minute drive northwest of the park. A five-mile round-trip hike starts from the Bad Creek Pumped Storage Project and will take you to the Lower Whitewater Falls overlook. You'll agree that the view is worth the hike as you stand on the overlook while listening to the mesmerizing roar of the 200-foot drop of the cascade down a rock face into the Jocassee Gorges area, a protected area of some 43,000 acres.
In the evening, settle in by the campfire or on your villa's screened porch. Never pass up an opportunity to roast hot dogs and marshmallows or to make a few s'mores.
Day Two: A Day on the Water
Lake Jocassee, a 7,500-acre spectacular mountain lake, is nothing short of a boater's paradise, and it is best appreciated from the water. If you have your own boat or kayak, you'll definitely want to bring it along for this trip. You can also rent Jet Skis, paddleboards and other boating equipment from local outfitters.
Spend the day cruising the lake, waterskiing, tubing or wakeboarding. Comb the shoreline for hiking trails and swimming holes. Explore a few of the waterfalls that empty into the lake and some of the nearby islands.
If fishing is your thing, Lake Jocassee offers some of the best South Carolina trout fishing to be found in the state. Lake Jocassee holds the state records for redeye bass, smallmouth bass, spotted bass, brown trout and rainbow trout, so it doesn't matter whether you like to fly fish or use a standard rod and reel; there's fishing here to suit your fancy.
Ideally, dinner this night would be trout cooked over the campfire. If you're a little less than successful at catching enough to cook, you could head to the Dakota Grill in nearby Walhalla. They specialize in top quality fish and steak dishes as well as Lowcountry favorites.
Day Three: Under the Lake
Go scuba diving. Yes, that's right - scuba diving in the lake.
Lake Jocassee is filled with some of the clearest water in the Southeast, providing excellent visibility for all types of divers. Visibility is usually more than 15 feet and is more than 50 feet at some depths.
There are some pretty unusual things to see and explore once you get underwater. The lake was created on the site of what once was a thriving mountain town, and many of the town structures are still intact. So, put on your tanks and check out the sunken junk (boat), the cemetery, the old inn and even a basketball court. Where else can you play underwater basketball with a bowling ball?
The Jocassee Dive Shop is located near the park entrance and can provide you with all the equipment and guidance you need to discover the hidden gems that lie on the bottom of the lake's floor.
If you want to venture out after your underwater adventure, head down Highway 11 to nearby Walhalla and try the fried chicken at the Steak House Cafeteria (yes, that's right). It's open for dinner Thursday-Sunday.
Day Four: It's All About the View
Spend your morning visiting Table Rock State Park, one of 16 state parks built by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). Go swimming in Lake Pinnacle or take a walk along Carrick Creek Trail. For the more adventurous, plan a day-long hike to the top of Table Rock Mountain. The wide, flat rock makes you feel like you're alone on top of the world, and there's no view quite like it.
Table Rock State Park is located just 21 miles from Devils Fork State Park, and it is well worth the short drive. The park also offers 14 cozy, CCC-built cabins and 94 campsites for tent or RV camping.
Later in the afternoon, check out the sights on nearby Lake Keowee. There are a number of "jumping rocks" that are local favorites, and Keowee-Toxaway State Park has plenty of hiking trails with rocky outcrops that provide views of the lake.
On the drive back, stop for dinner and ice cream at Aunt Sue's Country Corner, a local fixture that often has live music on the porch on weekends.
Day Five: End on a High Note
All good trips must come to an end, but that doesn't mean you can't go out on a high note. After striking camp or checking out of your villa, head down Highway 11 again toward the community of Long Creek for one last adventure - this time along the Chattooga River.
You can take a mini whitewater rafting trip or zip line tour at Wildwater Ltd. for that last high-energy adrenaline rush. The whitewater trip takes you over the Class IV Bull Sluice rapids. And the zip line canopy tour lets you fly from tree to tree, over the water and beyond, with more than a half mile of zips. It makes going out on a high note a thing of beauty. Make reservations ahead of time so you'll be sure to get the time spot you want.
After you leave, treat yourself to some smoky, slow-cooked South Carolina barbecue as you head home.
There are several excellent barbecue restaurants in the area that will be more than happy to help make your return to civilization a welcome one. Check out The Smokin' Pig in Pendleton or Creekside Bar-Be-Que in Anderson to bring your trip to a tasty conclusion.