Keowee-Toxaway State Park straddles Cherokee Foothills Scenic Highway (Hwy. 11) between Devils Fork State Park and Long Shoals Wayside Park, one of eight South Carolina State Parks located along the edge of the Blue Ridge Escarpment. Known for spectacular views of the Blue Ridge Mountains, the 1,000 acre park is considered a gateway to the Jocassee Gorges, the area defined by a series of steep-sided gorges delivering mountain rivers and streams down to the Piedmont of South Carolina.
Things to do at Keowee-Toxaway State Park
Have a picnic
The Park is split by Highway 11, with the picnic shelters located on a short loop to the south. Five picnic shelters are available for rental, and the picnic tables with free-standing grills throughout the park are offered on a first come, first serve basis.
Stop at the Visitor Center
Once you’ve finished your picnic lunch, head across Highway 11 to the north portion of the park. The Park Visitor Center houses exhibits about the natural diversity and history of the park, and its importance as a scientific research destination of the region. If you’re looking to check out the Visitor Center, be advised that office hours are 11 am to noon and 4 – 5 pm. Despite these rather short hours, the Park is open Saturdays through Thursdays from 9 am – 6 pm and Fridays 9 am – 8 pm. Keowee-Toxaway State Park is free to the public.
Hiking & Creek Stomping at Keowee-Toxaway
There are 5.5 miles of trails in the Park, the two main hikes being Raven Rock Trail and Natural Bridge Trail. The trailhead for these two trails is located behind the park office. Natural Bridge Nature Trail is a 1½-mile loop, and at the far end of the loop is the Raven Rock trailhead, that combined with the Natural Bridge loop provide for a 4.4-mile hike to Raven Rock and back.
Natural Bridge Trail
Hiking the Natural Bridge loop clockwise starts you off along Poe creek and numerous small waterfalls. Soon you’ll come to the intersection with Raven Rock Trail with its views of Lake Keowee, passing rock outcrops and a boulder field before reaching Raven Rock. Looping back to Natural Bridge Trail you’ll cross Poe Creek on the trail’s namesake, an enormous natural rock ‘bridge’ before crossing through an upland hardwoods forest to reach the parking lot.
The ½ mile Lake Trail departs from the campground, and emerges from the woods near the Villa to Lake Keowee, where guests can enjoy fishing for bass, bream, crappie and catfish.
Keowee-Toxaway is a perfect hike for a spring day; keep your eyes peeled for the wildflowers that enjoy the moisture along Poe Creek, and enjoy the rhododendron and azaleas blooming in late spring and early summer. On a hot summer’s day prepare to cool down in Poe Creek, the irresistible tumble of water making it hard to leave. Autumn brings colorful fall foliage, but catching the right day in winter means less-crowded trails and parking lots – this is a park for all four seasons.
Camping at Lake Keowee
Ten paved camping sites have individual water and electrical hookups for RVs up to 40 feet, while the tent camping area has 14 sites with central water, individual tent pads and fire rings. Restroom facilities with hot showers are available, as well as a dump station. Backcountry camping is allowed at three designated sites on Lake Keowee accessible by a hike on Raven Rock Trail, or by paddling to them in a canoe/kayak. For larger groups a primitive group area is located in the backcountry; registration is required and reservations are accepted.
If camping isn’t for you, reserve the three bedroom villa that overlooks Lake Keowee near the boat launch. The cabin is completely furnished, heated & air-conditioned with all the amenities: linens, cooking and eating utensils, washer/dryer, satellite television, Wi-Fi, two fireplaces and a private boat dock.
Enjoy Lake Keowee!
Boating: Keowee-Toxaway provides non-motorized boat access to Lake Keowee; to launch a motorized boat you have to use the access at Fall Creek Landing, five miles southwest of the park.
Fishing: Fishing is allowed. Bass, bream, crappie and catfish are commonly caught fish.
Swimming: Swimming is allowed, however there are no lifeguards or designated swimming areas in the park; swim at your own risk.
With easy access to Lake Keowee, three beautiful trails with all kinds of unique natural features, and spectacular views throughout the park, Keowee-Toxaway has plenty to offer. We’ve enjoyed our visits in all four seasons, however spring has a special magic with the ephemeral wildflowers blooming and trees budding electric green. Head north to this gem of a state park and experience the magic for yourself!
A portion of this post originally appeared on Femme au Foyer.
Keowee-Toxaway State Park website
Keowee-Toxaway SP trail map
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