The scenic byway winds its way through South Carolina's northwest corner, known as the Upcountry. This 112-mile road was the route used by the Cherokees, the English and French fur traders.
Discover SC's Highway 11
Tamassee Knob Trail takes you through an old growth hardwood forest
Compared to the 3,533-foot Sassafras Mountain — the highest point in South Carolina — Tamassee Knob is a pipsqueak. But the 1,620-foot peak is impressive all the same, rising abruptly from the Piedmont in the northwest corner of the state.
Those who make the strenuous 2.1-mile hike to the summit are rewarded with a breathtaking panorama of the undulating hills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. And that’s only half the prize.
The trail to the top runs through a beautiful old growth hardwood forest. Walking along the ridge, it’s easy to see why these magnificent trees were left untouched for more than two centuries. The steep slopes that fall off both sides of the ridge would be treacherous terrain for a logger to traverse.
Access to this scenic trail is from Oconee State Park. From the parking lot, you’ll walk about a mile on the Foothills Access Trail, past the Oconee Passage of the Palmetto Trail to the junction with the Tamassee (pronounced TAM-ass-ee, as in Tennessee) Knob Trail.
At this point, you’re only about 100 feet below the summit. But don’t be fooled. It’s a strenuous hike to the top as you drop into a number of low gaps and hike back up to the ridges leading to the peak. For your effort, you’ll be treated to magnificent views in every direction.
About a half-mile from the trailhead, you’ll enter the southern cove hardwood forest ecosystem. Along the way, you’ll be shaded by dogwood, black oak, chestnut, hemlock, black locust and redbud trees.
There’s plenty of room to walk along the narrow ridges, but in some areas, the ground falls off sharply on both sides. When you reach the rock ledge, you’ll want to sit back and take in the beauty of the Blue Ridge Mountains rising up in the distance. It’s a view that always lifts my spirits.
By Marie McAden, SC Insider