When that hint of a nip infuses the air, it’s usually a sign that autumn is on the horizon. Just the thought inspires warm visions of blue skies and blushing leaves, quiet hikes and cozy picnics, strains of bluegrass, mugs of spicy ale, mountainy meetups and festive outdoor celebrations.
In South Carolina’s Upstate, the Greenville area is perfectly positioned to deliver all this and more to those seeking to immerse themselves in this season of changing moods, weather and scenery.
Here are some ideas that will have you falling in love with autumn all over again, Greenville-style.
Fall for a Festival
Fall for Greenville
For three days each October, downtown Greenville heralds the season with Fall for Greenville, one of South Carolina’s most popular festivals and one of the biggest food and music fests in the Southeast. Live music, beer, wine and food from dozens of local vendors, kiddie activities, competitions and more make this free event a fun way to usher in autumn.
Break out the lederhosen and dirndl for this lively gathering in downtown Greenville’s NOMA Square. Bratwurst, pretzels, beer cheese, sauerbraten and a constant flow of German brews are part of the allure. Down it all, then do some Bavarian dancing to the sounds of oompah bands.
Hagood Mill Native American Celebration
Native American heritage is commemorated in November at this event that honors the first inhabitants of the Upstate. Food traditions and customs take the spotlight through the stone-grinding of corn into meal, the preparation of fry-bread and roasting of corn. An interpretive trail outfitted with a sacred fire circle, medicine wheel garden and more help bring to life these time-honored customs rooted in Southern Appalachia.
Albino Skunk Festival
Bluegrass, Folk, Americana, Roots and Rock—you’ll hear it all when you head to nearby Greer for this quirky fall fest honoring a curious critter sometimes seen in the area: the white skunk. The first weekend in October is reserved for a rousing mix of live music, which in the past has included the likes of The Avett Brothers, Shawn Mullins and Riders of the Purple Sage. Enjoy local food vendors, craft beer, kid-centric activities and even a drive-in movie. Primitive tent and RV camping are available, too.
Fall for Foliage
Table Rock State Park
The stunning beauty of Table Rock State Park is just a short drive from the city of Greenville. Hike the Pinnacle Mountain trail for spectacular foliage. During the fall months, second Saturdays are reserved for Music on the Mountain, an open bluegrass jam session for musicians of all skill levels.
Caesars Head State Park
Caesars Head State Park is another autumn gem, with majestic overlooks, hiking trails and trailside camping. Take the Raven Cliff Falls trail (4 miles roundtrip) and treat yourself to a scenic overlook with views of foliage and the 420-foot falls. Also highly recommended for hikers: a 6.6-mile roundtrip excursion to the suspension bridge. Each fall, it serves as a gorgeous vantage point for watching the hawk migration—an awe-inspiring sight.
Paris Mountain State Park
Minutes from downtown Greenville, Paris Mountain State Park is a favorite autumn destination for leaf peepers. The park’s Lake Placid and Mountain Lake serve as mirrors for the fall colors, creating a kaleidoscopic effect that will take your breath away. Reserve a campsite and linger a while.
Swamp Rabbit Trail
Considered one of best autumn biking trails in the nation by enthusiasts, the Swamp Rabbit Trail delivers 22 miles of picturesque fall foliage. Bike or walk your way along the Reedy River surrounded by the graceful beauty of the Blue Ridge foothills. Stop along the way for lunch at one of several eateries dotting the trail, which extends all the way to Travelers Rest.
Fall for a Picnic
Campbell’s Covered Bridge
South Carolina’s only remaining covered bridge is an idyllic spot for a fall picnic. Go ahead—spread a picnic blanket and pretend you’re in Madison County instead of nearby Landrum. The fall foliage and gurgling creek enhance the autumn ambiance.
At the heart of the Poinsett Bridge Heritage Preserve is the oldest bridge in South Carolina. The gothic stone structure extends over Sugar Gap Creek and is surrounded by deciduous trees and other foliage that turn burnished shades of gold and red come fall. Bring a picnic basket and bask in the rustic beauty.
This park defines the historic West End of the city, luring visitors with its picturesque landscapes bordered by the gentle waters of the Reedy River. In autumn, it takes on an ethereal Thomas Kincaid-like lushness that is irresistible. Bring your camera. Picnic on the lawn or settle in at the River Lodge shelter, which is available on a first-come, first-served basis when not reserved. If the kids are in tow, download a family activity guide from the park’s website.
Rock Quarry Garden
Tucked away in downtown’s Cleveland Park is this jewel of a nook that blushes to a gorgeous hue come autumn. A favorite wedding and photo venue, the garden draws visitors with its magical blend of rock, flora and water. Pack a picnic or make an occasion of it by having your fall picnic catered by a service like the Glamorous Picnic Company. Just call and show up—they will do the rest for an unforgettable fall al fresco experience.
Libby Wiersema lived in California and Alabama before settling in South Carolina 35 years ago,
where she's covered the state's best culinary offerings and tells the stories behind the food.