Monday, May 11, 2015

A Pretty Place

Have we really exhausted all the scenic spots in the Upstate to take our guests? Not by a long shot, although this particular place is accessible only by crossing four state lines… Into North Carolina, then back into South Carolina, and of course retracing our steps on the way home.

Tucked into the NE corner of the Mountain Bridge Wilderness Area is YMCA Camp Greenville. Encompassing 1,400 acres, Camp Greenville was established in 1912. Not just a summer camp, there is also a year-round environmental education center, a group and conference center, a wedding venue and Fred W. Symmes Chapel.

The chapel at the top of Standing Stone Mountain is locally referred to as "Pretty Place" because of the breathtaking view rivaling that of Jumping Off Rock, and has become a popular place to exchange vows; more than 100 couples get married there a year. Because of the frequent ceremonies and services, it is recommended that visitors call ahead to verify that the chapel is open to the public; dialing (864) 836-3291 (extension 0) will reach a recording with information on scheduled events.

The current chapel was constructed in 1941 and most recently major upgrades were made in 2012. Every aspect of the chapel is stunning – my boys were even impressed by the facilities! (Which are open only April through October.)

To reach Fred W. Symmes Chapel we drove north from the entrance to Caesars Head State Park on US 276. After making the first right onto YMCA Camp Road it’s another 5 miles until the parking area. Just as with the road up to Caesars Head, the way to Pretty Place is winding and steep in places. It is about 1 hour and 15 minutes from Greenville, and you are likely to see wildlife on or near the road.

It’s not necessary to drive to reach Pretty Place; a challenging 8 mile round-trip hike from Jones Gap State Park will take you past Hospital Rock 1,800 feet up Cleveland Cliff. I can imagine the view comes as a mighty fine reward after that hike... Open from dawn until dusk, the sun rises to the east over Jones Gap State Park and the Middle Saluda River Valley. I hope to someday return to watch the sun come up, although I can’t imagine navigating those roads in the dark – they are challenging enough in the daytime.

A day trip to Pretty Place is easily combined with stops and hikes at Caesars Head State Park, Bald Rock, Wildcat Wayside and Raven Cliff Falls. On a beautiful day such as we had on Friday, we made frequent stops, soaking in the unparalleled views of the Upstate from several of those spots. Although there is no shortage of “pretty places” in the Upstate, Fred W. Symmes Chapel provides one of the most exceptional scenic viewpoints in Upstate South Carolina; I hope you have the opportunity to see it for yourself.


  1. That *is* a pretty view, and looks like you lucked out with nice clear weather!

    1. We did - and the clouds added another dimension of green to the landscape with their shadows!

  2. Had to make a copy (and printed it) of your entire blog post... Told George that those are some areas we have never been and they look fabulous. I'd love the Fred W. Symmes Chapel and that view. WOW. Thanks for sharing.


    1. Thanks Betsy! Stay tuned in the next week or so for some more pictures from the Mountain Bridge Wilderness Area - we had a gorgeous day up in the mountains, if only we had been able to do the Raven Cliff Falls hike!


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