Explore Historic Sites Along SC’s Cherokee Foothills Scenic Highway

By:Page Ivey


The Cherokee Foothills Scenic Highway winds 115 miles from the Georgia state line along the southern edge of the Blue Ridge Mountains to the North Carolina state line. The views are some of the most scenic of the state’s rolling hills.

There are plenty of apple orchards, lakes, rivers and streams, but the road is chock-full of historic sites.

Here are some you shouldn’t miss.

  1. Cowpens National Battlefield is the location of a key 1781 victory for the revolutionaries, in which Gen. Daniel Morgan handed the dreaded Banastre Tarleton his worst defeat. The park has a walking trail, road tour, picnic area and visitors center.

    Cowpens National Battlefield is at 4001 Chesnee Highway, Gaffney, 864.461.2828. Open daily 9 a.m.-5 p.m.; free.
  2. The Bob Campbell Geology Museum is a self-guided museum with rocks, fossils and Smilodon, a skeletal replica of the saber-toothed lions that once roamed the area. A favorite with kids is the fluorescent room with glowing minerals, a light show and a scavenger hunt.

    Bob Campbell Geology Museum is at 150 Discovery Lane, Clemson, 864.656.3311. Open 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Wednesday-Saturday (closed on Clemson football game Saturdays) and 1-5 p.m. Sunday; $3 adults, $2 children; free for children younger than 2.
  3. Hagood Mill is home of a historic gristmill built in 1845, and its waterwheel, at 20 feet, is the largest one still in operation in the state. The historic site includes a farm exhibit with an 18th-century log cabin, a blacksmith shop and a moonshine still.

    Hagood Mill is at 138 Hagood Mill Road, Pickens 864.898.5963. Open 10 a.m.-4 p.m., Wednesday-Saturday. Free, but donations are appreciated.
  4. Fort Hill was the home of US Vice President John C. Calhoun before it was passed to his daughter and son-in-law, Thomas G. Clemson. Upon their deaths, the home and surrounding plantation were given to the state of South Carolina for an agricultural college named for the Clemsons. The home is decorated with period furniture and family mementos.

    Fort Hill is at 101 Fort Hill St., Clemson, 864.656.2475. Open Monday through Saturday 10-noon and 1-4:30 p.m.; Sunday 2-4:30 p.m. Admission is $5 for adults, $4 for seniors and $2 for ages 6–12.
  5. Oconee Station State Historic Site was a base for early South Carolinians during skirmishes with Native Americans during the 18th century. Many of the buildings date back to this time, with a trading post added later. The site includes a fishing pond, a nature trail that leads into Sumter National Forest and the 60-foot Station Cove Falls. Come in the spring or fall for vibrant foliage.

    Oconee Station State Historic Site is at 11500 Oconee Station Road, Walhalla, 864.638.0079. Open daily except in winter, when the park is open on weekends only. Historic structures open 1-5 p.m. Saturday through Sunday only, with guided tours available. Free.
  6. Cherokee County History & Arts Museum is located where the South Carolina Militia once mustered. Exhibits include geology, Native American life and the area’s role in the Revolutionary War as well as information on textiles, peaches and auto racing.

    Cherokee County History & Arts Museum is at 301 College Drive, Gaffney, 864.489.3988. Open 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Wednesday-Friday and 2-5 p.m., Saturday. Admission: $5 for adults ages 13 and older, and $3 for younger kids, seniors and college students.

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