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Stumphouse Park Offers the Perfect Mountain Experience

Marie McAden Marie McAden
A former staffer with The Miami Herald, Marie moved to SC in 1992. She is passionate about the outdoors, and enjoys exploring the state’s many natural treasures from the Lowcountry to the Upstate.
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Take a hike in the woods. Check. Go mountain biking. Check. View a waterfall. Check. Have a picnic lunch in a scenic spot. Check.

It’s a winning travel plan for a fun day in the South Carolina mountains. At Stumphouse Park in Walhalla, you can do all of these activities in one easy-to-get-to location.

Add to that a curious historic landmark and you have an out-of-the-ordinary destination that should be on every Upstate itinerary.

Bordering Sumter National Forest, the 440-acre Stumphouse Park is set in the shadow of the Blue Ridge Mountains in a location featuring two popular attractions—Issaqueena Falls and the historic Stumphouse Tunnel. Along with several hiking trails, the park also offers a newly built, state-of-the-art mountain biking trail system designed for riders of all skill levels.

Of all the falls in the Upstate, Issaqueena is among the most popular because it’s so accessible. From the parking lot, it’s a five-minute walk to a viewing platform overlooking the top of the falls. As legend has it, a Native American girl named Issaqueena was chased to the falls by her tribe after warning a nearby community of white settlers of an impending attack by the Cherokees. She pretended to jump over the falls but actually hid behind the wall of water.

Like Issaqueena Falls, Stumphouse Tunnel also has an interesting story behind it. Approximately 1,600 feet long, the tunnel was part of a 19th-century project to build a rail line from Anderson, South Carolina to Knoxville, Tennessee. Cut through blue granite by 1,500 Irish miners using hand drills, hammers, chisels and black powder, the tunnel was abandoned at the start of the Civil War. After laying idle for nearly 80 years, Clemson University bought the tunnel in 1951 and originally used it to create its now-famous blue cheese made with milk from its dairy farm. Moist and cool at a constant 50 degrees, the tunnel offered the perfect environment for the curing process. Visitors are welcome to walk a quarter mile into the tunnel and enjoy the refreshing cool air. A flashlight is recommended.

You can view two other unfinished tunnels on the 2.5-mile Blue Ridge Railroad Historic Trail, which follows the route of the abandoned rail line. About a half-mile down the path is a short spur trail to the Middle Tunnel. While dirt has been removed from the opening, it’s a tight squeeze to venture inside. The Saddleback Tunnel can be found at the end of the trail. It has filled with water over the years and is no longer accessible.

The park is also home to the 1.5-mile Stumphouse Passage and the new 5-mile Ross Mountain Passage, the Upstate end of the nearly 500-mile cross-state Palmetto Trail. It connects Stumphouse Park to Oconee State Park

For mountain bikers, the big draw is Stumphouse Mountain Bike Park featuring 10 miles of trails, including beginner and intermediate loops with big berms, rollers, tables and a rock garden, as well as a black diamond flow trail for more seasoned bikers. An additional 10 miles of trails are currently under construction.

Be aware, the bike trails are closed after heavy rains. Check the Stumphouse Mountain Park Facebook page for weather closure updates.

Marie McAden
A former staffer with The Miami Herald, Marie moved to SC in 1992. She is passionate about the outdoors, and enjoys exploring the state’s many natural treasures from the Lowcountry to the Upstate.