Depending on which source you check, Sassafras Mountain, the highest point in the state of South Carolina is either 3547 feet tall or 3560 feet or 3564 feet. Even so, the point is that it is the highest peak in SC. But not by much. The NC state line is so close that if you fall off the summit, you’ll probably land in another state.
There is a segment of the Foothills Trails that ascends Sassafras Mountain, starting at Table Rock State Park and climbing over 2300 feet in a hike of over 14 miles. Or you can drive.
Take Hwy 178 North from Pickens to the Hwy 11 intersection and continue across on Hwy 178. After about 5 miles of twisty road, you’ll come upon the small community of Rocky Bottom. There you’ll find 2 roads coming in from your right almost right beside each other. You want the 2nd road. It is the Van Clayton Memorial Highway also known as Sassafras Mountain Road.
It is paved all the way and about a 5 mile run. At the top, you’ll encounter a gate across the road that blocks the final 100 yards to the summit. At this same point, you’ll see the Foothills Trail coming in on the right and a large, gravel parking lot on the left. The size of this parking lot is puzzling in that it can hold more than 50 cars.
Park and walk around the gate up to the rather non-descript summit. The road loops around past a Foothills Trail kiosk and a cell tower. In that the summit is forested, there are no views.
Inside the loop, just across the road from the tower, you’ll find a geodetic marker indicating the surveyed summit point. Be sure and have your photo taken at the market as proof of our arduous journey to the top.
Returning to your car, you’ll notice an Overlook sign at the far end of the parking lot. Investigation of this sign will reveal a short trail to a new viewing platform that provides spectacular views out toward Lake Jocassee and the mountains beyond.
So, is the climb to Sassafras Mountain something you want to move to the top of your bucket list? No, but you should go just to say you’ve been. And, if you’re headed up Hwy 178 past Rocky Bottom anyway, this little side adventure won’t take much time at all.