When people think of South Carolina, they usually picture the Atlantic coastline destinations of Hilton Head, Myrtle Beach and Charleston. While there are lots of great outdoor spots in the low-country, we love exploring the upstate. My wife, Kendra, is from a community near Greenville, so when we visit her family, our adventures start from there and do not disappoint.
An advantage of visiting South Carolina between September and November definitely center around climate; still warm, but missing the blazing heat of summer. While we are donning down vests and sweaters up north, South Carolinians are still enjoying moderate temperatures, making the Palmetto State a great place for a family getaway. Our favorites? A variety of walks, bikes, and hikes that feed the photographic need of leaf-peepers and provide kids plenty of room to roam.
The Swamp Rabbit Trail
We love biking, especially on rail trails (former sites of railroad tracks converted to pathways). The Swamp Rabbit Trail?is a 28.6 mile rail-trail that runs through downtown Greenville and ends in the nearby town of Traveler?s Rest. Pack a lunch and stop at Falls Park on the Reedy River for an afternoon picnic, and don?t forget the camera to capture fall foliage.
Falls Park on the Reedy River
This 26-acre natural refuge in the middle of downtown Greenville sports plenty of green space, walking trails, and prime viewing of the Reedy River Falls. Explore beautiful gardens, picnic by the falls, and admire public art throughout the park. For the best view of the falls, make sure to cross architecturally-stunning Liberty Bridge. Falls Park?is open daily from 7 am to 9 pm. There is no admission fee.
Once the power source for the textile mills of Greenville, the Saluda River now serves as an excellent source for outdoor recreation like kayaking, canoeing, rafting, tubing, and fishing. In addition to public access points for your own gear, plenty of places offer rentals, including Saluda River Rafting, and the Saluda River Yacht Club.
Mini Miracles Farm
What kid doesn?t love a wagon ride and hay maze? Mini Miracles Farm?in Taylors has fall fun for everyone. For just $5 (2 and under are free) you can enjoy a hayride, learn about animals on the farm, and access the children?s play area that includes a grass maze and balance maze.
Each weekend in October, Fishers Orchard in Greer holds a Fall Festival. For just $4 per person, families can ride in wagons and explore mazes, visit with farm animals, buy local apples and pumpkins, and spend an autumn day on a working farm.
Table Rock State Park
There are 12 miles of hiking trails among the 3,000 acres of Table Rock State Park, ranging from the easy Lakeside Trail to more challenging climbs up Pinnacle and Table Top Mountains. These strenuous hikes would be tough for little ones, but older kids will be rewarded with fantastic views from the summits. Table Rock State Park also has two campsites, primitive trailside camping, and cabin rentals. Keep in mind the cabins are far from rustic, and are fully furnished with heating/air conditioning, kitchen appliances, and linens. These amenities are of course reflected in the price, which ranges from $95-$250 per night, worth it if you are looking for an overnight adventure in the woods but don?t want to lug extra gear.
Split Creek Farm
About 40 minutes outside Greenville, Split Creek Farm?in Anderson is an award-winning goat dairy. This locally-owned farm is quite busy but offers tours with a quick call ahead. Afterwards, kids can visit with the goats and chickens while you pick up goodies from the farm?s store. Visitors are welcome to stop by the farm shops daily, Monday-Saturday (9am ? 6pm) and Sunday (2pm -5 pm).
Sumter National Forest
We love hiking in Sumter National Forest?s Andrew Pickens Ranger District, located in the most northwestern part of the state, about an hour from Greenville. The forest?s 85,000 acres offer plenty of outdoor opportunities, including hiking, camping, fishing, and whitewater rafting on the Chattooga River. Many day hikes in Sumter National Forest lead to impressive waterfalls. The Oconee Station Cove Falls Trail, leaving from South Carolina?s?Oconee Station State Historic Site in Walhalla, ends at the 60-foot Oconee Station Cove Falls in Sumter National Forest. This is an easy two-mile round trip hike with a big payoff, so bring lunch and eat by the towering falls. If you?re looking for more of a challenge, Yellow Branch Falls Trail is a moderately difficult three-mile round trip hike that leads to the 50-foot Yellow Branch Falls. The trailhead leaves from the Yellow Branch Picnic grounds in Mountain Rest.
Camping is another option in Sumter National Forest. The Cherry Hill campground has 28 sites nestled among azaleas, rhododendrons and hardwoods. Amenities include flush toilets and hot showers. Check the Sumter National Forest website for current conditions and pricing.
Overnight Trips from Greenville
Another perk of vacationing upstate is proximity to Georgia, Tennessee, and North Carolina. We love using Greenville as a base for other adventures. Pisgah National Forest, North Carolina This 500,000+ acre hardwood forest is beautiful year round, but the fall colors are spectacular. Having a lazy day? View the changing colors from your car via the Forest Heritage Scenic Byway? that runs 79-miles through the Pisgah Ranger District. We usually stay at Mount Pisgah Campground?right on the Blue Ridge Parkway, from which we can hike up Mt. Pisgah. Though the summit is at 5,722 feet, the trail is just under 3 miles, with 800 feet of elevation gain ? easy enough that our oldest conquered it just after turning four.
If you are looking for something a bit more challenging, the Mt. Pisgah Trail is a 6-mile trail that leads to Frying Pan Lookout Tower. One of the best parts of camping at Mt. Pisgah Campground aside from easy access to the trailhead entails a quick walk across the street for dinner at the Pisgah Inn?? don?t miss the fried green tomatoes.
Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Just over two hours from Greenville is Great Smoky Mountains National Park, straddling?North Carolina and Tennessee. There are plenty of hiking trails in the park, all offering beautiful views of the fall colors and 10 campgrounds, backcountry options, and group sites with plenty of space to pitch your tent for scenic autumn camping.
Chattahoochee National Forest
The border of South Carolina and Georgia marks the division between Sumter National Forest and Chattahoochee National Forest. There are at least 20 campgrounds, a wide variety of hiking options, and opportunities for fishing, horseback riding, and boating.
There?s a lot to love about upstate South Carolina ? especially as fall colors descend on the region. Skip the beach and head up a mountain or two for your family’s autumn outdoor adventures.
Jen Bauer (right) and her wife Kendra are raising three young children just outside of Boston, Massachusetts. On her blog Adventurous Moms, Jen writes about their travels, outdoor adventures and life as gay moms. Jen?s writing has also been featured on theBump, National Park Foundation, Travel Mamas, BonBon Break, FamiliesGO!, VillageQ and Equallyfamily.