As the highest point in South Carolina, Sassafras Mountain in Pickens County has long been a popular destination to enjoy beautiful views of the Blue Ridge Mountains. With a new observation tower now open on the pinnacle of the mountain, visitors will get an even better vista of the surrounding, unspoiled wilderness.
Standing 11 feet above the 3,553-foot high point, the tower puts you over the tree line, offering a 350-degree panorama with views into three states—South Carolina, North Carolina and Georgia. Access to the tower is available from sunrise to just past sunset so early risers and late afternoon visitors can watch the sun explode in a kaleidoscope of colors over the mountains.
The top of Sassafras Mountain sits on the border between the two Carolinas in the pristine 50,000-acre Jocassee Gorges, named among “50 of the World’s Last Great Places” by National Geographic Magazine. The circular stone tower, measuring 44 feet in diameter, features a compass rose etched into the floor with the state line running through the middle of it. If you place a foot on each side of the line, you can stand in both states at the same time.
The drive to Sassafras Mountain takes you through lush hardwood forests and white pine woodlands in the Jim Timmerman Natural Resources Area. You’ll travel nearly 16 miles along U.S. 178 to the town of Rocky Bottom before turning on F. Van Clayton Memorial Highway for the 4.7-mile trip to the top. At the end of the winding road is the gravel parking lot for the tower as well as a trailhead for the Foothills Trail, a 77-mile footpath between Table Rock and Oconee state parks.
Before the tower opened in the spring of 2019, the high point on the mountain was difficult to access and the views obstructed by trees. With the new perch, visitors can see 30-50 miles in virtually every direction on a clear day.
The original overlook—a wooden platform several feet below the apex—is still open to the public. Located at one end of the parking lot, it offers an outstanding view of Whiteside Mountain in North Carolina and South Carolina’s Lake Jocassee.