Walhalla likes to call itself the “Main Street to the Mountains.” Driving through town, it’s easy to understand why. The main corridor through the historic downtown district takes you straight to Sumter National Forest with its many picturesque waterfalls, hiking and mountain biking trails, and the National Wild and Scenic Chattooga River.
Whether you’re looking to set up base camp for an itinerary packed with outdoor activities or you’re simply driving through to hike or camp in the mountains, don’t miss the opportunity to check out this charming small town.
Along Main Street, you’ll find a fun collection of antique stores, one-of-a-kind shops, friendly cafes and an inviting coffee shop offering a great cup of joe, fresh-baked pastries and ice cream. Most of the businesses are housed in historic buildings, adding to the appeal of a stroll through the town center.
The area also offers a number of other historic sites, including an elementary school built in 1903, now home to the Walhalla Performing Arts Center; Patriot’s Hall, built in 1933 by the Civilian Conservation Corps; and the iconic St. John’s Evangelical Lutheran Church, organized in 1853 by members of Charleston’s German Colonization Society.
Unable to find land along the coast that suited them, the group settled in the South Carolina foothills, which reminded them of the landscape they left behind in northern Germany. They named their new community Walhalla or “garden of the gods.”
Each October, the town honors its German roots with one of the best Oktoberfest celebrations in the state. Businesses along Main Street go all-out decorating their storefronts in a fall motif. The community event includes exhibits, walking tours, live music, Bavarian dancers demonstrating traditional German folk dances and lots of bratwursts, German pastries and German beer and wine.
The town also hosts a number of other unique events, including the monthly Main Street Cruise-In for classic cars, Walhalloween and Rally in the Valley, a spring cycling event that ends with barbecue, craft beer and bluegrass music at Lake Jemiki.
Visitors also will want to hit Stumphouse Park, featuring Issaqueena Falls, Stumphouse Mountain Bike Park and the famed Stumphouse Tunnel, part of a railroad project that was left abandoned with the start of the Civil War.
Add to that, Oconee Station State Historic Site, a former military compound established in the late 18th century to defend against attacks from Cherokee and Creek Indians who lived in the area. The stone blockhouse that served as an outpost for the South Carolina State Militia remains on the 210-acre state park.