When it comes to enjoying the great outdoors, Greenville, South Carolina is a natural
Here’s the simple truth: the natural attractions of Greenville, South Carolina will surprise you. No matter how far you’ve traveled or how many places you’ve been, there’s just no getting around the fact that this place – from its 21 mile rails-to-trails masterpiece called the GI-IS Swamp Rabbit Trail to a seemingly endless collection of lakes, trails and waterfalls – is one long and delightfully winding road of outdoor discovery.
The gems of the region, Lake Jocassee, Lake Keowee, and Lake Hartwell are three of the largest and deepest lakes in the state. Lake Jocassee is the northernmost of the three, covering 7,500 acres and reaching a depth of 300 feet. Widely regarded as the state’s most scenic and pristine, Jocassees cool, clear waters create a recreational paradise. Separated from Jocassee by a hydroelectric dam, 18,300 acre Lake Keowee is one of the area’s most beloved recreation destinations. Known for its breathtaking mountain views and crystal blue, warm waters, Keowee also boasts outstanding bass fishing. Checking in at more than 56,000 acres, nearby Lake Hartwell completes this watery trifecta. It’s one of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ most visited lakes, largely because of its outstanding watersports and legendary wid emouth bass fishing. Word is that fish of more than 20 pounds are fairly common, and snapshots tacked to the walls of nearby fish camps back up the talk.
While the regions lakes alone are certainly worth the trip, the countryside surrounding Greenville plays no second fiddle. Nestled in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, the entire area presents itself as an outdoor lover’s paradise; and with three state parks within easy driving distance of the city, it’s no wonder.
Seated atop the Blue Ridge Escarpment, Caesars Head State Park is appropriately named for a granite outcropping resembling the helmeted head of the famous Roman emperor. With its panoramic vistas and prime position as a flyway during the fall hawk migration, Caesars Head is a bird-watcher’s paradise which delivers world-class camping, hiking, and fishing experiences. As part of the Mountain Bridge Wilderness Area, the parks trails connect seamlessly to neighboring Jones Gap State Park, the 11,000-acre home of scenic waterfalls including Rainbow Falls, and an absolutely stunning 420-foot cascade tumbling from Raven Cliff. The trails frequently flirt with the Middle Saluda River, where more than one weary hiker has taken a cooling dip.
Perhaps the biggest surprise of all waits just a few minutes from downtown Greenville. Visible from almost anywhere in the city, Paris Mountain State Park offers almost instant access to a wide range of natural adventures. Designated as a state park in the 1930s, Paris Mountain is one of the city’s most popular weekend outdoor destinations for hikers, paddlers, and picnickers alike.
Those with a penchant for cycling will discover limitless opportunities to enjoy scenic rides await in the town 17-time Tour de France veteran George Hincapie calls home. Whether heading for the hills on one of the countless country roads or charting an easier and flatter course along the GHS Swamp Rabbit Trail, leaving your bike at home is one mistake you don’t want to make.