Have you visited Caesars Head State Park for hiking, picnics, site-seeing, and more? Dramatic views over the Upstate along with easy access and ample parking make for a winning combination at one of our favorite South Carolina State Parks – Caesars Head! Here’s everything you need to know!
About the Caesars Head State Park Area
Caesars Head and Jones Gap State Park form the 11,000-acre Mountain Bridge Wilderness Area, and are connected by several hiking trails including the popular Rim of the Gap Trail and Jones Gap Trail. Less than a mile from the Caesars Head Visitor Center is another favorite trail – Raven Cliff Falls Trail, which takes you to a platform that looks across the gorge at the 420-foot waterfall.
Trails in both Caesars Head and Jones Gape State Park range from easy to strenuous hiking.
Gorgeous Views Without the Hiking: Caesars Head State Park
However, you can get the grand panoramic views without the hike by heading to the Visitor Center, which is only a couple hundred feet from the parking lot to the overlook. This time of year you’ll probably meet members of the Hawk Watch program documenting the annual hawk migration; the past few years the numbers of hawks counted peaked a little after mid-September, while large numbers of turkey vultures were seen into November.
Bald eagles and even peregrine falcons can be seen during these months! To get an idea of how the migration is progressing this year, check the daily tallies; those can be viewed on the Hawk Count website. Also, see our article on the Hawk Watch at Caesars Head for additional information and educational resources.
Fall Foliage at Caesars Head
Autumn is a great time to visit for another reason, as the fall foliage in the foothills can be spectacular while cooler temperatures allow for increased visibility. Views extend over Table Rock Reservoir all the way to North Carolina and Georgia. Remember to bring layers, as it is often 10 degrees cooler on Caesars Head than it is down in Greenville and Greenville County.
From the overlook don’t forget to walk the trail around to view “Caesar’s Head” in profile! The trail descends through “Devil’s Kitchen,” a crack in the granitic gneiss rock, and circles around to a viewing area from the side of the outcrop.
If you cross US 276 from the Visitor Center you’ll find the trailhead for Frank Coggins Trail, which mostly serves as a connector to many of the Mountain Bridge Wilderness Area trails, but is also an easy hike in a less crowded section of Caesars Head.
Amenities at the State Park include restrooms, picnic tables and the Visitor Center, which houses exhibits, hawk displays, and a variety of souvenirs. For those looking for a longer hike, or reservations at one of the 18 backcountry campsites, check in at the Visitor Center for trail maps and information.
Fishing at Caesar’s Head
You can fish for brook, rainbow and brown trout in the Middle Saluda River, as well as Matthews and Julian Creeks.
Plan your own trip to Caesar’s Head
Directions: From Greenville take Hwy. 276 W for about 30 miles. The parking lot and Visitor Center is located at the top of the mountain, 3 miles before the North Carolina border.
Hours and Admission: Trail access cost: $3 adults; $1.50 SC seniors; $1 ages 6-15, ages 5 and younger are free
Days and Hours of Operation: 9 am – 9 pm, daily during daylight saving time. 9 am – 6 pm, daily, the remainder of the year. Trails close one hour before dark, year-round.
Visitor Center Hours: 10 am – 5 pm Monday – Thursday and 9 am – 5 pm Friday – Sunday. The Visitor Center and gift shop are closed on Thanksgiving and Christmas Day, however, the park remains open on these days.
Pets are allowed in most outdoor areas provided they are kept under physical restraint or on a leash not longer than six feet. Owners will be asked to remove noisy or dangerous pets or pets that threaten or harass wildlife.
Have you been to Big Water Marina? Lake Hartwell is home to this combination aqua park, campground, restaurant, and watersport hub! It is just an hour from Greenville, SC, and has tons of family-friendly entertainment, food, water options, and even beautiful cabins. So stay for a day, a weekend, or a week! Media tickets were provided to Splash Island for this review.
I came to the Big Water Marina at Lake Hartwell for Splash Island but stayed for the relaxing island vibe and really wish I could have ended our day watching the sunset from the restaurant, J.R. Cash’s, but had to get back home – which, thankfully, was only an hour drive back to Greenville. There are some pretty intense Margaritaville vibes happening here, which truly will leave you relaxed and happy and wanting to return.
It’s not just the amazing Splash Island waterpark with a floating obstacle course that shines here. It’s the tiny cabins, the delicious cuisine at the restaurant, the hammocks on the beach, the chill pirate ship playground right next to the restaurant, and the staff that make this place so cool. I’m here to tell you all about it.
About the Big Water Marina: Lake Hartwell
The family-friendly atmosphere is immediately apparent at the marina and campground and once I met one of the owners, Trey Boggs, a fifth-generation Anderson, SC resident, who has three daughters of his own, it was easy to figure out why. He spoke my language immediately as he explained how his kids just love the aqua park so much and get so worn out while the parents chill on the beach in the sand – or join in on the fun if they want.
“If the kids aren’t having fun, they are going to whine about leaving and parents won’t have any fun either,” Trey said.
Isn’t that the truth? There’s no danger of that happening at the Big Water Marina thankfully. Trey and his brother bought the marina back in 2017 and gradually added more acreage as time went on so that today, the marina is now about 200 acres in total and an island unto itself with multiple RV slots, boat slips, Splash Island, a restaurant, and shop.
Ever the entrepreneur, Trey, and his brother are planning a lot of new builds in the near future, including treehouses, yurts, more cabins (more on those in a bit), adding to Splash Island, more RV pads, and beach tent camping.
Splash Island Waterpark
Splash Island is an interlocking floating obstacle course on Lake Hartwell at the Big Water Marina. Wibit is a German company that manufactures the actual parts of the obstacle course and they are moveable to create new routes or add onto existing obstacles. This is the second Wibit course I’ve run (well, tried to run, more like slipped around) and it’s so much fun!
The course as they have it set up now is more than 80 feet long and is in deep enough water where you can safely jump off the highest obstacles and into the nice, warm water. They have monkey bars and running obstacles similar to the show, Wipeout, which I love to watch and laugh at all the people falling into the water. Now that I’ve done it myself, people are laughing at me falling into the water after failing to make it across some obstacle.
My kids had such a blast and time just flew by. We were on the course for about two hours but it didn’t even feel that long except that we were completely and utterly exhausted. That thing is a major workout! Kids need to be 46 inches tall to do it by themselves. Kids under that height can still do it but they will need to have a parent or guardian with them on the course.
There was always a staff member on the course paying close attention to the kids – and adults – running it and just making sure everyone was safe. You have to wear lifejackets to do the course as well, which are provided. Tickets are $15/hour or $25/two hours. Splash Island opened for their 2023 season May 11, 2023.
The Beach & Other Water Rentals
There’s a good size beach with sand at Big Water Marina in front of Splash Island. And they have chairs and hammocks and strung lights and picnic tables and I never wanted to leave. It was so relaxing. You don’t need to be doing the water obstacle course in order to use the beach and there is no charge to park or to be admitted to the sandy space on the lake. Pets can be there but they must be leashed and owners must clean up after them.
Big Water Marina at Lake Hartwell also rents paddleboards, kayaks, hydrobikes, and pontoon boats. I didn’t know what a hydrobike was and the good people at the marina let me try one. They are fun! You basically just work it like you’re riding a bike, super easy but also a little tiring. You have to wear a lifejacket and kids ages 8+ who can reach the pedals can ride one. They are $25/hour but also are available for day and weekly rentals.
If a hydrobike isn’t up your alley, give a paddleboard or a kayak a try. I personally love paddleboarding and find it to be an excellent water activity. Those are $25/hour and kids must be age 13+. With kayaks, you can rent a single ($25/hour) or a tandem ($35/hour) and you can bring a smaller child with you on a tandem.
Pontoon boat rentals, which can fit up to 13 people, start at $330 for a half day (four hours). You can rent by half day, full day, sunset cruise, or a weekly rental.
I have a thing for tiny houses. My dream is to live in one somewhere in the woods and read all the books I want. But until I can do that, I’m always on the hunt for awesome tiny cabins to stay in and I’ve finally found the perfect – and I mean, perfect – one at the Big Water Marina campground.
I got a tour of a one bedroom tiny cabin with a double loft (so a loft on both sides of the house), full kitchen, living area, bathroom, and porch and I want it so bad. I wanted to take that little cabin with me to my non-existent plot of land in a forest somewhere. It was so cute and beautiful and decorated with a rustic minimalism. There are ladders that lead to each loft that kids would just love and the master bedroom was gorgeous. They face west so you’ll get to enjoy a glass of wine on the porch and watch a stunning sunset. Trey tells me the sunsets there rival those of Key West. I’m gonna need to test that out.
There are one bedroom and two bedroom cabins. The one bedroom ones can fit a family of six and the two bedroom cabins can fit up to seven people. Cabins can generally fit between four and seven people comfortably. If a weekend getaway is on your mind or a quick summer family trip, this is the place. You’re saving on gas, you have the water and beach for activities, a restaurant to eat at or a kitchen in your cabin to cook in, and Splash Island to wear the kids out at. Prices vary for the different cabins and seasons.
J.R. Cash’s Grill & Bar
The restaurant on site at the marina, J.R. Cash’s Grill & Bar, has some Margaritaville vibes going on, complete with open air dining overlooking the lake, teal chairs, and strung lights. The food is upscale bar food with burgers, fish platters, chicken tenders, and shrimp, plus a creative cocktail menu.
On the suggestion of one of the staff members down at Splash Island, we got an order of the Chicken Tenders and oh my gosh, these chicken tenders were the most tender, flavorful and light chicken tenders I’ve ever had. The honey mustard sauce was really good as well. I may have to go back to this place just for these chicken tenders. We also tried a burger, which was super tasty. But oh, those chicken tenders.
Besides the chicken tenders at J.R. Cash’s, the pirate ship playground really made this place stand out. There is a legit pirate ship that has slides, swinging rings, rope ladders, and even a covered bow. So cool. My kids really loved this and once again, Big Water Marina proved they know what parents want when going out to dinner – a place for the kids to play and them to enjoy their drinks and food. The play area also had a hammock and tire swing for the bigger kids.
Honest Mom Review of Big Water Marina
I’ve been to a lot of neat places in our area but really, really loved this one for a few reasons. I felt that the owners thoughtfully took into consideration the needs of families to have quality time together in a fun and safe environment without having to even leave if they were staying at the campground. Everything they need is right there and it’s set up for maximum enjoyment. I was also so impressed by the staff members. They were attentive and kind and interacted with my kids and were just cool people. You could tell they liked being there.
I think the biggest shocker for me was that this place was only an hour away from Greenville. An hour! This is easily a day trip or a weekend trip if I can snag one of those tiny homes. I can’t wait to see what Trey and his family does next at the Big Water Marina.
Tips on Visiting the Big Water Marina: Lake Hartwell
There are a few important things to note if you want to visit the marina and Splash Island.
Splash Island is open Wednesday-Sunday so don’t go on Monday and except to achieve all your Wipeout dreams. Check the schedule before you go. They are open 10 am – 6 pm and may add more hours after Memorial Day weekend. The management has been turned over to Destination Water Sports since we went so the experience may be a little different.
Purchase your tickets online to ensure your spot at Splash Island. They have a limit of 55 people per session. The cost for an hour is $15 and for two hours is $25. You’ll have to call to book: (864) 332-9125
Height and age restrictions: For adults & children 7+ years old OR 4+ years old and at least 42″+ tall If a participant does not meet the specifications, they must be accompanied by a parent or guardian. Please note: children 42″ in height are requiredto be directly supervised by an approved guardian (18+ years old) at all times while in the Splash Island zone.
J.R. Cash’s restaurant is open Thursday-Sunday as well and they don’t open until 3 pm on Thursday so just plan accordingly. We went to Splash Island first and then to eat and it worked out great since we were so hungry after doing the floating obstacle course.
You can bring chairs, tents, and coolers to the beach. There’s no admission or parking charge.
Bring water and a change of clothes. I hate driving around in a wet bathing suit and it’s hot so you really need to make sure you’re hydrated.
Restrooms and showers are available near the restaurant for the public to use.
Are you planning to visit Big Water Marina?
Big Water Marina & Campground 320 Big Water Road, Starr, SC 864.226.3339 Website
Are you looking for a place to enjoy the great outdoors in Greenville, SC? Paris Mountain State Park, located 15 minutes outside the city of Greenville off State Park Road, is a staple to the Greenville outdoorsy community. You can hike over 17 miles of trails, mountain bike the ridge, and even take a swim with the kids in Lake Placid. The park has multiple trails of varying difficulty.
Plus, Paris Mountain has family-friendly camping sites that make camping more enjoyable. Find out all of the things the only state park in Greenville has to offer in our handy guide.
Want to go camping near Greenville, SC with kids? When it comes to hitting the Great Outdoors with your kiddos for an unforgettable camping adventure, there are lots of wonderful options for you to consider! Our area abounds with family-friendly campgrounds from the primitive to the RV type. Travel a little further for more wilderness or sandy beaches. Read on to learn more about some of our readers’ favorite spots!
Camping can be such a fun family activity to get outside, enjoy nature, and detach from technology. There are lots of great places in our area to go but Hester’s Bottoms in Mt. Carmel, SC is a special campground under two hours from Greenville, SC that we think our readers will really like.
Camping is truly an enjoyable activity for my kids and I, even though I get so little sleep from a lack of finding a comfy sleeping pad (send recommendations if you have a good one!). I’m always looking for great campgrounds to bring my kids, which usually looks like a good location with either nearby trails in the fall and spring or a lake over the summer, spacious campsites, and a safe environment.
Hester’s Bottoms in Mt. Carmel, South Carolina checks all those boxes and way more.
Are you looking for the best place to camp in the Pisgah National Forest? We visited the Davidson River Campground near Brevard and think that you should consider it for your next camping trip! This campground offers not only hiking but also easy access to tubing.
The Davidson River Campground is located in the Pisgah National Forest (off 276) just outside Brevard, NC. It is about an hour and 15 minutes from Downtown Greenville, moments from major grocery stores and dining, and yet seems an entire forest world away. Campers can enjoy wading in the knee-deep Davidson River, diving into the brisk swimming hole, hiking on beautiful mountain trails, tubing down the lazy waterway, fishing for trout, biking through the forest, or simply enjoying the quiet serenity found in the park’s many shaded campsites.
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!