Table Rock State Park is one of our area’s premier hiking destinations and not a far drive from Greenville, SC. Offering beautiful waterfalls, swimming holes, and trails from the leisure to the strenuous, all nestled in an incredible mountain forest setting. At just 30 miles from downtown Greenville, this park would make a great day trip for your next family adventure.
What to expect at Table Rock
There are many wonderful trails at Table Rock State Park in Pickens, SC. Located right off Highway 11, if you’re coming from Greenville, you’ll likely spot the giant rock looming as you approach the park that the park derives its name from. From trails to swimming holes, this park is rightly one of the most popular in the state.
Especially during peak seasons of late spring, summer, and early fall, you’ll need to plan to get to the park early in the morning to get a parking spot. If you’ve got a SC State Park All Park Passport, your entire carload gets in free but it doesn’t mean you’ll get into the park if it’s full so plan accordingly.
The trails at the park range from easy to strenuous. There are two lakes, a Visitors Center, a Nature Center, a playground, lakeside beach, camping, and cabins.
Of the many offerings, the park boasts, my favorite trail for hiking with little ones is the Carrick Creek Trail. This was the first trail I hiked when I first moved here to South Carolina and it’s been a favorite ever since. Beginning at the Nature Center, this trail starts out paved and immediately opens up to the beautiful Carrick Creek Falls where your kiddos can wade around in a cool, shallow lagoon fed by a cascading waterfall. There is a wooden platform where people can sit or leave their shoes before they wade into the water.
Beyond the waterfalls, the pavement ends and the trail becomes a bit more moderate as it follows the creek for a while and then loops around back to the falls for a grand total of two miles. It’s generally an easy trail but some parts are hilly. If the water is high, you may get your feet wet during the water crossings.
The lakeside trail is the easiest one at the park as is meanders around the lake for just under two miles. The Civilian Conservation Corp (CCC) started this trail in the 1930s but it wasn’t finished till many years later in 2011. Table Rock is one of several Upstate parks created by the CCC.
There are a few other trails in the park you can venture off on but be sure to always carry enough water and food with you, especially during the hotter months. It gets very hot and humid there.
Table Rock Trail to the Summit
If easy or moderate trails aren’t enough of an adventure for your crew, there are plenty of other longer and more difficult trails to choose from with overlooks and waterfalls to seek. Namely, the Pinnacle Mountain Trail which leads to Mill Creek Falls and Bald Rock Overlook. I have not done those, although they are on my list. However, I have completed the Table Rock Trail to the summit of the large granite dome multiple times (and each time I wonder why I wanted to do it….joking, kind of).
The park does ask visitors to fill out a little card at the Nature Center or kiosk at the start of the trail with their name, how many people are in their party, an emergency contact, what trail(s) they are doing, and what their car looks like. I always do this for safety reasons and I advise not skipping it.
The Table Rock Trail is one of the most strenuous trails in the Upstate. It’s a little over seven miles round trip and involves a lot of stairs and steep treks up rock hewn steps. Think going on a stair stepper for a few hours. The trail splits from Carrick Creek about a mile in and you start really ascending the mountain. You’ll climb through boulders and up steep inclines and then more steep inclines. About halfway up, you will reach a little shelter where you can grab some water before really getting into the toughest part of the trail. When you reach Governor’s Rock, you can rest again and enjoy the sweeping views.
Then you’ll need to huff and puff up to the summit. The parts of the trail right before Governor’s Rock and then right before the summit are the toughest spots. Once you reach the summit, you’ll see a sign that literally says “Table Rock Mountain Summit” but don’t stop there (sorry). Keep going for another quarter mile to reach the truly awesome views you just worked so hard for. You’ll be looking out over the Table Rock reservoir and directly at Caesars Head State Park. Wave to them since they’ve got binoculars over there.
The park says to allow at least 5-6 hours to do this trail. I’ve completed it anywhere between 4-5 hours with some time spent at the top to enjoy the view and eat lunch.
Taking Kids up to the Summit
First of all, the Table Rock Trail is not a beginner trail. It is very, very difficult. I make it a point to hike hard trails and this is easily one of the hardest I’ve ever done. One big thing is that you absolutely need to do is to carry enough water and make sure you have enough time to complete it before the park closes.
That said, if you have kids that hike often, they will likely be fine. Just carry enough snacks and water and stop when you need to. I’ve hiked this with my kids, ages 11 and 8, and they did great. I know families who have hiked this with their kids who were much, much younger, and they also did really well. This really depends on your kids but if you all are up for a challenge, this is it.
As with any trails and time spent outdoors, leave no trace and pack out what you pack in.
The Beach and Playground
Table Rock SP also has a small beach with plenty of sand. You can also rent boats to paddle around the lake for a fee. Entrance to the lake is included in your entrance fee and no dogs are allowed on the beach.
There is an admission charge to enter the park, which you can find updated on the park’s website. If you have an All Park Passport, there is no admission charge.
There are bathrooms and changing rooms near the beach and picnic area but don’t expect a five star resort experience. Especially during the summer, there are bugs and spiders but you’re outdoors so it’s expected.
The playground is across from the beach and consists of monkey bars, swings, and slides. You can also camp at the park and there are cabins to rent for those of you who need something softer than a blowup pad on the ground.
Things to do Near Table Rock
Table Rock is located in one of the prettiest areas of South Carolina with lots of lakes and hiking trails nearby.
Caesars Head State Park
Right across the valley from Table Rock is Caesars Head State Park, where you can enjoy miles and miles of hiking trails and waterfalls. You can also check out the view from the summit at Caesars Head without any hiking at all and look directly at Table Rock. During the fall, falcons are often seen from here as they migrate.
Bald Rock Heritage Preserve
Just minutes from Caesars Head is Bald Rock Heritage Preserve, a huge outcrop where you can hang out and enjoy the views. On a clear day, you can see the Greenville skyline. My kids and I love to take our hammocks up here on a nice day, string them up, and read and relax.
Located right on Highway 11 about 15 minutes from Table Rock is Wildcat Wayside, a mile long loop trail that also has a roadside waterfall. This spot is hugely popular in the summer as parents bring their kids to wade in the shallow pool at the bottom of the falls.
Table Rock Tea
The Upstate’s only tea farm is quite literally in the shadow of Table Rock. It’s a really neat place where you can tour the farm (by appointment) and learn all about how tea is grown and made and, of course, purchase your own tea right from the farm.
This famous open air chapel is located on the property of YMCA Camp Greenville and is just stunning. If you go, be sure you check the schedule beforehand since it may be closed for private events.
Where to Eat Nearby
There are not a lot of restaurants in the area but here are a few places to grab a bite near Table Rock.
Pumpkintown Mountain Opry
The Pumpkintown Mountain Opry serves a deli style lunch Thursday – Monday from 11 am – 5 pm. They also have coffee and a market on Saturday mornings. They are a seasonal business and not open in the winter.
3414 Hwy 11, Pickens, SC
Mountain House is only open Saturdays and Sundays (definitely check their social media pages before going) and serve fudge, ice cream, and some breakfast and lunch fare. They are only a minute down the road from Caesars Head State Park.
8101 Geer Highway , Cleveland, SC
Tropical Burger is about 25 minutes from Table Rock and if you hiked the summit trail, this will be your reward, I promise. They have some of the very best burgers I’ve ever had and the owner is the kindest guy. I love, love, love eating here.
207 NE Main Street, Easley, SC
See our guide to Pickens County for more fun things to do!
Plan your own trip to Table Rock
158 Ellison Lane
Pickens, SC 29671
Visit the Table Rock website here.
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