South Carolina: Sassafras Mountain (3,553 feet)
Distance: <0.25 miles RT
Elevation gain: negligible
Date: April 3, 2015 & March 23, 2016
The name Sassafras holds promise. It sounds sassy. It’s fun to say, rolling off of your tongue with playful confidence. The mountain is named for the fragrant sassafras tree which grows in abundance in South Carolina, adding allure. Jill had been to Table Rock State Park on prior vacations, telling me of the salamanders and frogs the kids could look at or perhaps chase. I’d read this highpoint has a gift shop that carries sassafras items such as tea and soap made from the tree’s oil, both of which I needed to try. With the main hiking over and the promise of unique rewards sharing the mountain’s name, this seemed like the right place to wrap up the Southern highpointing trip.
Still, salamanders, gift shops, bathrooms, tea, civilization – do not come here expecting any of these.
Signage directs you to the correct road, then drops you at a small, unmarked parking lot at its abrupt end. Once there, you’re on your own to figure out where to go, so I started wandering around with my Don Holmes book in hand, trying to follow his directions.
To Reach the Highpoint: Once on foot, exit the parking lot from the side you drove in, opposite from where the overlook sign points you to. Take a left, walking past the steel barricade that prevents vehicular traffic from proceeding further, then walk up the remaining hill into the clearing.
The brief 3 minute walk to the highpoint was swarming with gnats. Having just snacked on several at Georgia’s highpoint, I’d had my fill. My daughter asked if I had personally brought them from Brasstown Bald, as if I was fond of these critters and wanted to maximize my time with them. She then giggled, asking if I ate any more. I can’t say for certain if I did, but at least we only had to battle them on the way up and down. The destination itself was gnat-free.
The highpoint sits in what appears to be a newly cleared out area, perhaps a work in progress. It seems that trees (perhaps Sassafras trees?) ran rampant and someone chopped many of them down to give highpointers a nice view. I describe this as a new event since discarded logs and sticks are strewn about, as though someone plans to return, but got distracted on some other side project with noble intentions to finish this job soon.
A bench, rock with a plaque, and USGS marker all adorn the clearing for your enjoyment. The marker took some searching to find. From the perspective I was standing to capture the bench/rock/sun picture, the marker would have been just behind me to my left. Luckily, my daughter had a surge of energy and made it her personal mission to find it. She did all by herself and was so proud.
The Overlook from the parking area is equally nice, so be sure to check that out.
Perhaps the salamanders, frogs, and the store carrying sassafras goodies are located in the heart of Table Rock State Park. I’m not sure where that is in relation to the highpoint, and sadly we didn’t have time to explore. I’m especially disappointed about the tea. If you’ve tried sassafras tea and it’s worthwhile, let me know so I can track some down online. Or if it’s awful, let me know that too.
This highpoint does not offer a bathroom, but it’s rather secluded even if men in pick-up trucks loiter about.
My final note to efficient highpointers is that three in one day makes for a lot of car time, but is doable. Without a little one in tow, you might even be able to do all four in a day. South Carolina can be a quick in and out. TN and NC can be as long or quick as you fancy. Just be sure to budget some time to enjoy Georgia, which is worthy of savoring.
Jill’s Note: If you can make a day of it, the main part of Table Rock State Park is worth a visit. We spent a few hours there a few years ago, and the kids loved it. And yes, they did have a gift store and bathrooms. They also had tent camping sights that looked really nice and peaceful. Nearby is Cowpens National Battlefield. Being a Massachusetts girl, I didn’t know much about the Revolutionary War battles fought in the South, and this battlefield is worth the visit.
Jill’s Update 2016: We stopped by Sassafras Mountain on a whim while driving from Cheaha Mountain to Asheville, NC. The clear cut conditions were still the same as what Raina saw in 2015. We visited on a nice day, and enjoyed the great views. Other than the views there wasn’t much to explore, and we left after about a ½ hour.
It seems as if the effort to add a viewing plaza to Sassafras Mountain is still ongoing. If what the Pickens County website describes comes true, we will be back. It’s a lovely area.
Note: The Highpointers Foundation added a bench and rock marker to the South Carolina summit in 2012. We always appreciate their efforts!