Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Zinta and the Blue Ridge Escarpment

Headed north on US 276 towards Caesars Head State Park you will pass a small turn-out about 5 miles before reaching the Park headquarters. There are no signs, but with views as spectacular as those from the Park, it is well worth your time to pay Bald Rock Heritage Preserve a visit. Part of the Mountain Bridge Wilderness Area that includes Caesars Head and Jones Gap State Parks, Bald Rock is a granite outcrop at least a couple acres in size.

After parking in the pull-off on the east side of the road (using the intersection of 276 & Club Terrace Drive in Cleveland will get you very close to the turn off if you are using mapping software or apps, the turnout is 1/10th of a mile south) cross the wooden footbridge to the rock outcrop. From this vantage point you will be able to look out over Pickens and Greenville county, as well as have a great view of Table Rock and the surrounding mountains. A pine forest surrounds the graffiti-covered exposed rock, but lichens, mosses and pockets of hardy grasses can be found here and there on the rock as well.

We took my sister Zinta to Bald Rock during her visit to the Upstate, on our excursion to Caesars Head. It was cold up on the unprotected mountain, surprising us after warm weather down in Greenville. We bundled up for the short walk out to the Caesar’s Head overlook, switching out shorts for pants on the boys, and digging fleeces and sweatshirts out of the trunk. The sunshine was warm; it was the wind that had us pulling our collars up and warming our hands in our pockets.

The view from the overlook was grand, worth the chill, and after taking in the scene we descended the stairs and squeezed through a long crevice in the rock to follow a spur trail for a glimpse of Caesars Head from below. A granite gneiss outcrop at the top of the Blue Ridge Escarpment, the rock is what gives the park its name, although it is more famous for the views of North Carolina and Georgia from the top than for the shape. Even at the end of the spur trail that provides the view of Caesar's head you will find yourself high above the circling hawks, and we often bring a picnic to enjoy at one of the picnic tables with a view of seemingly all of the Upstate.

A number of trails radiate out from the Visitor Center, including the 5.3 mile-long Jones Gap Trail that we hiked a portion of (from the opposite end) on our Jones Gap Falls hike. The Park is also part of the Mountain Bridge Wilderness Area, and it is from a second parking area a mile up the road that the 2.2 mile Raven Cliff Falls Trail departs, ending at an overlook platform to the 420-foot waterfall. However on this particular day we were headed back down to Highway 11, to see Wildcat Branch Falls.

The lower falls are visible from the road and the pull-off is hard to miss, especially on the days the boiled peanuts vendor has set up shop. To the left of the falls are steps that will take you to a trail that winds on to the upper falls. Zinta, Lauris and I quickly hiked up while the other two boys stayed behind to nap, and were rewarded with a glimpse of the 100ft falls. Then it was quickly back down to the car; there is no trail to the top of the Wildcat Branch Falls, and attempting to reach the top has resulted in numerous fatalities and injuries over the years, the last of which was just this past September.

We complete this multi-stop tour often with visitors to the Upstate; it provides dramatic scenery, waterfalls and short hikes that are easy to reach from Greenville, appropriate for all ages and provide a good impression of the mountainous portion of the Upstate. The last part of the tour usually includes a stop at Table Rock State Park, as it is nearby on Highway 11 and provides yet another perspective of the famous Table Rock. From Caesar’s Head the view is of the northeast face and the Table Rock Reservoir. The view from Bald Rock is from the east, and from the Visitor Center at Table Rock SP we see the south face of the table and "Footstool mountain". The 3,000 acre park provides trail access to the 80-mile Foothills Trail which connects to Oconee SP, and trails up Pinnacle and Table Rock mountains. Within the park are many CCC-built structures, a portion of which are on the National Register of Historic Places (see this post on Paris Mountain State Park for a quick review on the CCC in SC). We chose not to hike, instead we enjoyed a breather lakeside before making the 40 minute ride back to Greenville.


  1. What an absolutely STUNNING view - so beautiful. You're very lucky to have that so close to home. Love the pictures of the forest and falls, although it's sad that some have graffitied the granite rock.... It looks like a wonderful day out. xx

    1. Thanks Heidi! They have waged a clean-up campaign, so there wasn't the first piece of trash to be found, but the graffiti can take away from it all. It does seem to disappear quite quickly however; tags I remember from before we moved to France have already been erased by the wind and water.

  2. There is very nice nature around your home!!!!:) And I loved pictures with Mikus in the bag!:)

  3. Well worth all the effort to experience those beautiful views.
    What a lovely day out for the family.


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