Table Rock State Park might be best known for its 3,100-foot namesake granite dome. But in the summer, this upstate park is all about family fun.
Perched at the edge of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Table Rock is a cool mountain retreat with all the classic summertime amenities - lakes for fishing, swimming and canoeing, nature trails, playground equipment, rustic cabins, shaded campgrounds, picnic shelters and a kid-friendly natural wading pool.
At the center of the activities is Lake Pinnacle, the smaller of the park's two lakes. From the lake shore, you can get a spectacular view of Table Rock's sheer rock face standing out against the deep greens of the surrounding forest. You can swim at your own risk from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. in a cordoned off section of the lake. Lifeguards are on duty seasonally, from Memorial Day through Labor Day.
You can also rent a boat and paddle - or pedal - around the 36-acre lake. A canoe or kayak is $5 for 30 minutes; pedal boats are $7 for half an hour. Non-motorized fishing boats also are available for $15 a day. Private boats are not allowed on the lake.
If you've got a fishing boat with an electric trolling motor, you can take it out on Lake Oolenoy, located on the other side of the Cherokee Foothills Scenic Highway. A boat ramp provides access to the 67-acre lake. There's also a fishing pier accessible to the physically impaired.
The lakes are stocked with largemouth bass, bream and catfish. You'll need a South Carolina fishing license to fish in either lake.
Within the park are 10 miles of trails, including the strenuous 3.4-mile, up-and-back Table Rock trail. It's nearly 2,000 feet up to the top, so be sure to eat your Wheaties before you venture on this calf burner.
If you prefer a more moderate trek, try the 1.8-mile Carrick Creek loop trail. You'll begin at an elevation of 1,160 feet and rise to 1,520 feet where you'll enjoy striking views of cascading waterfalls.
One of my favorite attractions in the park is Carrick Creek Falls, just a short walk on a paved path from the Table Rock trailhead. Sit back and take in the scenery from the large observation deck or kick off your shoes and wade into the shallow pool at the bottom of the falls. This time of year, you're sure to find kids splashing each other with the cool mountain water.
The park also offers several campgrounds and 12 historic cabins built in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps. Designed in classic "parkitecture" style, the cabins were constructed using local stone and lumber to complement the natural surroundings. Of course, they are now air conditioned and fully furnished.