The hike begins at the far south side of the Visitor Center parking area (to the left when facing the building on the Blue Ridge Parkway). The trail starts at the end of the rock wall, and it has a sign. This is an out and back trail that travels uphill through a forest of stunted, twisted high-elevation mountain ash, birch, beech, and then through a heath bald. Depending on your trail selection, as there are alternative adventurous options, and your curiosity to explore the surrounding areas, you should plan to spend 45 minutes to two hours for this hike. It is a moderate climb, so it is fairly easy, and a nice family activity. Soon after leaving the parking area, you will approach a signed intersection. The Mountains to Sea trail comes in from straight ahead and goes right; the Douglas Falls trail starts here and goes right as well. You should bear left and go uphill. The Craggy Gardens trail and the Mountains to Sea Trails share this path. Along the way, you will pass under tunnels of tall, twisted Rhododendron and you will pass a small spring. You will also see the historic trail shelter, built from Chestnut logs. Although it is almost a century old, it remains sturdy, and it will still more or less keep you dry if you get caught in a rain shower in the area. However, be prepared for fluctuating temperatures, as the shelter will not necessarily keep you warm. From the shelter, you can go left on a side path and explore the gardens. A couple of pleasant little paths also wind through the meadows, eventually reaching a nice overlook if you go all the way to the top. The Craggy Gardens trail continues through the shelter and down the other side of the summit. You will reach the Craggy Gardens picnic area shortly on a moderately steep trail. If you are picnicking at the picnic area, hike up to the gardens and back from there. Going this way would involve a climb of about 450 feet over the same distance as from the Visitor Center. If you can use a vehicle shuttle, starting at the Visitor Center and finishing down at the Picnic Area is an easy hike. If you are up for a more moderate workout, start at the Picnic Area and end at the Visitor Center.
From Asheville, take the Blue Ridge Parkway north 18 miles past the Folk Art Center. Pass the road to the picnic area, and after about 3 miles, park at the Visitor Center. The trail starts on the left side of the parking lot behind the rock wall.
Rattlesnake Lodge Hike is an easy-to-moderate and convenient day hike that will not take all day. The trail is just a short drive away from both Asheville and Weaverville. It runs along the Mountains to the Sea trail, and the total length of this hike is 2.6 miles. It’s an out-and-back trail, rather than a loop. However, past main lodge site, which you will spot during the hike, you will reach an intersection. The trail leading right meets up with the Blue Ridge Parkway at the Tanbark Ridge tunnel about 1/2 mile down the mountain, so you can also make this a shuttle hike. The elevation ranges from 3180 feet to 3720 feet. Although the views are not extraordinarily spectacular, this day hike’s beautiful woods and conveniently close location makes it a worthy hike to keep in mind. It is a well-designed trail that meanders through a multitude of switchbacks, following an old wagon route that has an interesting past. The wagon route was built to reach a historic private lodge, the remains of which you will see at the end of this hike.
From Asheville, take the Blue Ridge Parkway north, from any of its access points, to the intersection with Ox Creek Road. It’s about 8.9 miles north of the Folk Art Center. Turn left. The parking area is on the right after 0.9 miles. It’s just big enough for about 3 or 4 cars. If this area is full, you may park where the Mountains to Sea trail first crosses Ox Creek Road near the Parkway, adding about a mile and some climbing to the hike.
The Glassy Mountain Trail begins at the Carl Sandburg Home National Historic Site. It climbs from near the main house up to the round, flat summit of Glassy Mountain, which is the highest point in the park at an elevation of 2783 feet. The hike is rated as moderately difficult and is around 2 miles round trip, which is appropriate for all ages. On this trail, you will pass an old reservoir and a few rock outcroppings while hiking through a pleasant forest with many white pines, some of them quite large, before ending at a larger rock opening with a view to the northwest. Since it is an out and back hike, be sure to allocate some time to rest and enjoy the scenery from the final destination. If you are able to carry some snacks, it is a wonderful place for a picnic, especially with an excellent view from the granite outlook.
From Greenville, head west on Hwy 183 through Berea towards Pickens. Cross Hwy 153 in Pickens County and drive about five miles towards Pickens and look for South Glassy Mountain Road on the right. Turn here and proceed up the mountain until you come to the trailhead just past Glassy Mountain Church Road on the right.
The Sulphur Springs Trail is the most scenic of the four trails in Paris Mountain State Park, but also the most difficult. From Picnic Area 6, you can start in either direction on this narrow and rugged loop trail. If you cross the park road and begin at the trail sign, you will climb up and down wooded slopes until you reach the parking area at Buckhorn Gate. At the trail kiosk stay right, continue up another steep slope, and bear left at the fork with the Brissey Ridge trail. You will walk through mixed pine and hardwood forest on a mountain ridge and pass the Old Firetower Trail on the left. Then, you begin to climb up and down along deep ravines and running streams lined with mountain laurel and rhododendron. The trail levels out near Mountain Lake, a picturesque pond, which at one time was one of Greenville’s water reservoirs, where you will pass a large dam and follow one of several trail branches that return to the parking area where you began. It is important to note that part of this trail is hiking only. Also, when approaching Buckhorn Gate from either direction you choose, keep in mind this is where the Sulphur Springs Loop, Brissy Ridge Loop, and Fire Tower Trail all come together. This is convenient because it allows you to customize the hike into the distance you want. The Sulphur Springs trail is a 3.5 to 4 mile loop. There is a $2 entrance fee per person into Paris Mountain State Park.
From downtown Greenville, drive north on US 25/276 and turn right onto SC 253. At the traffic light bear left to continue on SC 253. Drive for 2.5 miles and turn left onto State Park Road (Greenville County S-23-344). The park entrance is on the left. Enter the park and drive approximately 2 miles to the large picnic area on the left.
From Asheville, merge onto I-26 E/US-74 E for 16.3 miles. Take exit 54 to merge onto US-25 S toward US-176/N Carolina 225/Greenville entering South Carolina for 25.8 miles. Turn left onto State Park Rd and drive 4.2 miles. Turn right onto County Rd 169 for 1.5 miles. Turn left onto State Park Rd and continue for 0.6 miles. Take a sharp right onto Paris Mountain State Park. The destination will be on the left after driving 98 ft. To get to Sulphur Springs Loop, continue on the main road past the lake. Turn right (going straight will take you to the campground) at the stop sign. On the left, there will be a good size parking area for Picnic Shelter #6. This is the best place to park for the Sulphur Springs Loop.
Although the Table Rock Trail is quite strenuous, but could be considered moderate for those in great shape, it is well worth it because of the views it offers; some argue they are the best views in South Carolina. During the 6.8 mile hike, you will walk through a field of giant boulders and may come across other rocky areas of the trail due to erosion. However, at 1.6 miles, you will spot a rain shelter that serves as a nice resting spot. You might even join fellow hikers in the “recovery zone.” After two and a half miles of steep climbing, you will reach Governor’s Rock. Luckily, chiseled steps help as you climb up this neat rock formation. There is a small spring between Governor’s Rock and the summit of Table Rock. After hiking for nearly 3.5 miles, the trail takes you out onto the spectacular white rock face that is Table Rock. From there, you can stare out at Table Rock Lake and other surrounding mountainsides. I would also recommend packing a lunch; you will probably want to rest for a bit after making it to the top.
On highway 11, the park entrance is four and one half miles east of the intersection of Hwy 11 and Rt. 178. The park is approximately 25 miles from Greenville and just north of Pickens, South Carolina. From Asheville, the drive takes about one hour and 15 minutes. Merge onto I-26 E/US-74 E for 16.3 miles. Take exit 54 to merge onto US-25 S toward US-176/N Carolina 225/Greenville entering South Carolina for 16.3 miles. Take the South Carolina 11 exit on the left for 0.2 miles. Turn left onto S Carolina 11 S/Cherokee Foothills Scenic Hwy for 4.5 miles. Turn right onto S Carolina 11 S/US-276 N/Greer Hwy. Continue to follow S Carolina 11 S for 12.0 miles. Turn right onto Table Rock State Park Rd and continue for 1.6 miles. All of the trails begin behind the Nature Center, which is also fun to explore. Take the wooden walkway to the back of the center and follow the blazes.
As you begin the hike, you start to climb. Be sure to bring plenty of water, because the first 2 miles are dry. The first mile and a half is a descent incline. In fact, at one point you will climb 600 feet in less than a quarter of a mile. There are nice views on the way up, so this hike is beautiful during the autumn season because you can see a greater distance. You will descend from Sharpy Mountain for about a half mile and then you will climb again for 200 or 300 feet. At that time, which should be about 2 hours into your hike, you will see a trail that goes to the right, which is Wagon Road Gap. Follow this trail down. After a short distance, you will find yourself in an area that some say seems like the Garden of Eden. Once you get to a large opening, you will hear the river. You should then turn right onto South Mills River Trail. It will lead right to the river. There will be a trail back 100 feet that steers to the right and leads to a swinging bridge.
Take I-26 East from Asheville, NC Turn Right onto Airport Rd (280 West). You will come to an intersection which divides RT 191 & NC 280 (Mills River), stay on 280 for approximately 7 miles. At the Henderson/Transylvania County line, just past Boyleston Creek Baptist Church, Turn right onto Turkey Pen Rd. This is a really rough road. Go approximately 2.3 miles to the end. You will see the parking for Turkey Pen trailhead. Begin on the Turkey Pen Trail.