This time of year, the Upcountry is a popular destination for visitors looking to experience the beautiful fall foliage. If you're ready to get out of your car and enjoy the show in living color, a great starting point is the Mountain Bridge Wilderness Area.
Within the 12,000 acres of woodlands are miles and miles of trails to suit every level of experience and fitness. At Caesars Head or Jones Gap state parks, you can pick up a color-coded trail map that includes the difficulty rating, distance and estimated time of travel for each trail.
For those of you new to hiking, I thought I'd pass along a few tips to help keep you on track and out of trouble.
When you're picking a trail to hike, consider the physical abilities of everyone in your group and choose a difficulty level suitable for the least fit hiker among you. Be aware, the time and distances indicated on the trail map are "one way" estimates. Choose a trail length that will allow you to be off the trail before dark.
You'll want to pack plenty of water (the general rule of thumb is eight ounces per mile), snacks and a jacket or extra layer of clothing. You might not need it when you're hiking, but if you work up a sweat and stop to rest, you'll be glad to have something to throw on when you start feeling cold and wet.
At the trailhead, you'll find a kiosk with hiking registration forms. It is mandatory that you fill out a form and drop it in the box before you venture out on any of the state park trails. The required information includes your name, car model, make and tag, emergency contact information and the trail you plan to hike. Park rangers will use the information should you need to be rescued.
Each trail is identified by a number and colored blaze. Most of the time, the swatches of color will be painted on trees. If trees aren't available, you might find them painted on rocks.
A single blaze indicates the trail continues straight ahead. A double blaze is a warning that the trail is changing. Usually it means there's a turn up ahead, but it could also alert you to steep or rough terrain.
At points where trails intersect, you'll find a post or markers in trees showing you the direction of each trail. A map of the trail network may also be available.
South Carolina state park trails are well maintained with plenty of blazes and markers along the way. Stay on the trails, take your time and enjoy the scenery!