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Discover Writer

Discover Writer

Discover writers share all of the places, activities and adventure that South Carolina has to offer. Read more from some of South Carolina’s locals and discover what’s happening in the Palmetto State.

Wild Wonders: The Raptor Migration

Outdoor Adventure / Mountains / 3 Days

Hundreds of migrating raptors take to the skies above the expansive 10,000-acre Mountain Bridge Wilderness Area from early September through late November of each year. Here, the unique features of the Blue Ridge Escarpment create thermal columns of air that allow these majestic birds to catch updrafts and circle skyward in the 2,000-foot-deep gorge. By catching thermals, a phenomenon referred to as "kettling," raptors can soar and glide, conserving precious energy for their winter journey to Central and South America.

An official North American Hawk Migration Site since 1988, Caesars Head State Park provides an easily accessible front-row seat to witness this avian spectacle. With an elevation of 3,266 feet, the Caesars Head Overlook provides one of the most dramatic views in all of South Carolina. It is the ideal place to observe these majestic birds as they soar over a sea of orange, yellow and red woodlands.


Whether you're looking for a rustic cabin retreat or a luxurious boutique hotel experience, the surrounding area offers a variety of accommodations to suit every traveler's preference.

Interested in roughing it in the great outdoors? Backcountry camping is available at Caesars Head State Park at designated sites. There are no drive-up campsites at the park, and no water or electricity is provided at the campsites.

For those seeking a rustic experience immersed in nature, Table Rock State Park's quaint, rustic Civilian Conservation Corps-built cabins offer cozy retreats nestled amid the wilderness. The cabins are fully furnished with bath and bed linens, basic cooking and eating utensils, an automatic coffee maker and a large, rustic fireplace. They also have heating and air conditioning, so they're perfect to stay in year-round.

Reminiscent of a French country chateau, Hotel Domestique offers a serene, quiet escape at the base of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The boutique hotel blends its European-inspired design with contemporary furnishings and art to create inviting spaces that are relaxed yet sophisticated. The hotel offers a variety of amenities catering to those who enjoy an active lifestyle, including a saltwater pool with lanes for lap swimming and on-site yoga classes. High-performance road bikes are available for rent to explore the rolling hills on your own or with a guide. Breakfast is included, and the on-site restaurant, Restaurant 17, offers weekend brunch and an award-winning dinner menu created almost exclusively from local produce and meats.

A little over an hour's drive away is Travelers Rest, one of the Upcountry's coolest small towns. This welcoming retreat offers an array of accommodations, from a creek-side campground and a modern bed-and-breakfast to well-known hotel brands.

The Caesars Head Overlook
The Caesars Head Overlook provides an ideal spot to observe these majestic birds as they catch updrafts and circle skyward.

Welcome to the Upcountry

South Carolina's Upstate is a beautiful wilderness playground with the peaks of the Blue Ridge Mountains as a backdrop.

If you're staying at Hotel Domestique, take some time to explore the serene surroundings and the amenities the hotel offers. You can enjoy a delicious dinner at Restaurant 17 before having a nightcap at the hotel bar or head to your room for a quiet evening on the balcony, soaking in the tranquil setting.

If you're heading out to Table Rock State Park, you can stop by Aunt Sue's Country Corner before settling in for the evening. This family-friendly "village" has an eclectic array of specialty shops, including the Black Bear Pizza Den, Cool Creek Sweets and The Lightning Bug.

After browsing, walk over to the restaurant for Aunt Sue's and enjoy a plate of fried green tomatoes, a whole stack of ribs or the ever-popular Friday night seafood buffet. Finish your meal with homemade fudge, cobbler or a double-scoop cone from the ice cream shop.

Staying in Travelers Rest? You'll find a wide array of dining options, from wood-fired pizzas and juicy burgers to fresh sushi and savory crepes.

Travel Tip
Travel Tip:

On Thursdays in October, Travelers Rest celebrates small-town living with its Fall Bluegrass & Harvest Market at Trailblazer Park. The community event includes Farmers Market vendors, food trucks, family-style dining and live bluegrass bands performing in the amphitheater.

Hotel Domestique, Blue Ridge Mountains
Hotel Domestique offers a serene, quiet escape at the base of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Sky-High Thrills: Experience the Magnificent Raptor Migration

Wake up early for a captivating morning of watching raptors. Begin your day with breakfast at Tandem Creperie and Coffeehouse, where you can enjoy sweet and savory crepes and artisanal coffee.

Since it will be a long day, make sure to pack a picnic lunch to take with you to Caesars Head. You can order a to-go lunch from Tandem Creperie, pick up sandwiches at Upcountry Provisions Bakery & Bistro, or stop by Marci Jo's Olde Mountain Store on your way to the park.

The best time to view the migrating birds is generally from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. If the weather permits, you may have time for a morning hike along the Raven Cliff Falls Rail to see the park's panoramic vistas before heading to the overlook to witness birds of prey in flight.

Before migrating, some hawks gain as much as 10 to 20 percent of their body weight, serving as high-density fuel for their journey. Many of these species fast for days while migrating, making their stopover in the area an ideal time to feed and re-energize.

Hawk Watch programs, led by interpretive rangers, offer visitors a 90-minute opportunity to learn about these majestic birds of prey.

Every year, Greenville County Bird Club members participate in counting migrating hawks. On good days, observers can spot 200 to 300 hawks kettling overhead. This program is primarily supported by enthusiastic volunteers, affectionately known as "Wing Nuts," who, besides counting, eagerly share their knowledge with visitors. The resulting data from these counts contributes to research conducted by the Hawk Migration Association of North America and Cornell University's Laboratory of Ornithology.

The migrating birds include broad-winged hawks, bald eagles, ospreys, sharp-shinned hawks, Cooper's hawks, merlins, American kestrels, Mississippi kites, turkey vultures and black vultures. Along with the raptors, the checklist includes 167 species of spring migratory songbirds. At peak season in late September, it's possible to see hundreds, even thousands, of birds of prey gliding along the Appalachian Flyway.

After a picnic lunch amidst Caesars Heads' scenic beauty, continue exploring the area, discovering hidden waterfalls and tranquil trails.

Many trails throughout the park offer beautiful views of the mountainous landscape, but one is often overlooked. The short path to the viewing area that overlooks the Caesars Head rock passes a narrow passageway between two giant rocks. Known as "Devils Kitchen," this passageway will take you to a small overlook offering a clear view of the head shape in the rock formation that gives Caesars Head its name.

After an exciting day of bird-watching, return to your accommodations for a well-deserved rest. If you're driving to Traveler's Rest for dinner, try the delicious BBQ at Monkey Wrench Smokehouse or treat yourself to dinner at Topsoil Kitchen and Market, a farm-to-table restaurant specializing in innovative cuisine.

triptic of images from Caesars Head State Park including couple looking at sign about birds, a hawk in flight, and the "Devils Kitchen" passageway
Along with the raptors, the checklist includes 167 species of spring migratory songbirds that can be seen gliding along the Appalachian Flyway. Take the "Devils Kitchen" passageway to a small overlook offering a clear view of the head shape in the rock formation that gives Caesars Head its name.

Explore the Wonders of the Upstate

If you're looking to explore the Upstate beyond Caesars Head, consider visiting one of the other attractions the Upstate has to offer, including Jones Gap State Park, Table Rock State Park and Greenville.

No matter where you decide to go, leave early to make the most of your day.


Jones Gap State Park

The park, interlinked with Caesars Head and offering a connection to the Foothills Trail and Palmetto Trail, spans over 17,000 acres of pristine woodlands. Pick a trail that suits your energy levels and interests, and immerse yourself in natural beauty.

If you're up for a strenuous hike, explore the Rainbow Falls Trail. Rest assured, the view of Rainbow Falls will be worth every step. The waterfall cascades down a 100-foot granite wall that sparkles due to the large, visible grains of mica minerals (known as mica schist), which serve as nature's glitter. The granite wall is not only a natural wonder but also a dazzling display of geology.


Table Rock State Park

Table Rock State Park has an extensive system of trails that lead hikers by streams, waterfalls and stunning views as they make their way to the top of Table Rock Mountain. Table Rock Trail, one of the most popular trails in South Carolina, is a highly strenuous trek that covers 3.4 miles and ascends 2,000 feet to the summit of the mountain. The wide, flat rock makes you feel like you're alone on top of the world, and there's no view quite like it.

If a day-long hike isn't on your to-do list, enjoy a more leisurely walk along Carrick Creek Trail or cool off at an old-fashioned swimming hole on Lake Pinnacle. Canoes, kayaks and pedal boats are available to rent at the park visitor center and offer a fun way to enjoy the park's two lakes.



Known for its vibrant culinary scene and stunning outdoor adventures, Greenville has become a popular destination in the Upstate. At the heart of Greenville's charm is its walkable downtown, teeming with a diverse selection of eateries, casual breweries, energetic dive bars with live music, rooftop bars boasting expansive views, and nightclubs catering to late-night revelers.

A highlight of Greenville is Falls Park, a serene natural oasis nestled downtown that has earned a spot as the 10th top park in the US, according to TripAdvisor. The park is famous for the 28-foot double falls, best viewed from the Liberty Bridge. This architecturally unique cantilevered footbridge draws visitors just as much as the falls.

For those eager to dive into the local food scene, downtown Greenville does not disappoint with its top-notch restaurants. The city boasts a variety of cuisines, from traditional Southern comfort foods to innovative farm-to-table options. With a range of restaurants along Main Street, it is possible to indulge in everything from gourmet burgers and wood-fired pizzas to artisanal ice creams and international delicacies. Many establishments pride themselves on using locally sourced ingredients, providing an authentic taste of the region.

Connecting the dots between downtown's lush parks is the GHS Swamp Rabbit Trail, a 19-mile paved path following the Reedy River on a former railroad line stretching from Greenville to Travelers Rest. This popular multi-use trail winds past restaurants, shops, Furman University and even a craft brewery that playfully incorporates a mural of its namesake hare breaking through the wall.

Travel Tip
Travel Tip:

If you're interested in seeing the view from the top of Table Rock Mountain but can't make the hike, stop in the park office for an immersive, 360-degree virtual reality experience.

From the breathtaking overlooks of Caesars Head State Park to the cozy nooks of local accommodations, the Upcountry offers a unique blend of natural wonder, relaxation and adventure. Whether it's the thrill of watching the raptors circle above or the serenity of the surrounding wilderness, this corner of South Carolina promises unforgettable experiences for nature enthusiasts, bird watchers and travelers alike.

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