Foothills Trail – Upstate SC
My Life in Aiken
I lived in Aiken for 20 years. To be perfectly honest, horses, real estate and kids kept me pretty busy. So busy, in fact, that I rarely ventured out beyond the confines of Aiken County, aside from the (very) occasional trip to Charleston, Beaufort, or Charlotte. So, over the years, I got it in my head that Aiken was the center of the universe. Recently, I’ve returned to the Southeastern part of the United States and I’ve had the opportunity to explore a bit more of the state I called home for 20 years.
In search of a long distance backpacking trip, I stumbled upon the Foothills Trail. The Foothills Trail stretches 77 miles. from its eastern terminus at Table Rock State Park, in Pickens, SC to its western terminus at Oconee State Park located in Mountain Rest, SC. The trail can be hiked in sections, or in its entirety, typically requiring between 5-8 days to complete. The trail meanders back and forth through Upstate South Carolina and Western North Carolina, passing by waterfalls, rivers, over bridges, with mountain and lake views. After doing some research, I quickly decided that I’d tackle the Foothills Trail in the fall, hoping to catch the leaves changing and ideal weather conditions.
Table Rock State Park
I began my hike on Tuesday, October 19, 2021. From day one, I was completely blown away by the beauty of Table Rock State Park. The setting was gorgeous, the trails well groomed, the Visitor Center absolutely beautiful. Whether your interest lies in camping, hiking, fishing, waterfalls, or just leisurely seeing the sights from a car, this park is well worth a visit on its own. Less than a three hour drive from Aiken, it’s ideal for a weekend, or even a day trip. Nearby Sassafras Mountain, at 3553′ is the highest point in the state of SC. Accessible from the trail, or from a car, there’s an observation tower offering views of four states, as well as the Blue Ridge Mountains.
Oconee State Park
On Saturday, October 23, 2021 I reached Oconee State Park, signifying the end of my challenging Foothills Trail thru hike. Visitors at Oconee State Park were enjoying a Halloween event with trick or treating, costumes for kids and adults, decorated campsites – a huge party was in swing. This 1165 acre park has an old fashioned swimming hole, campsites, Civilian Conservation Corps cabins for rent, hiking trails, and picnic shelters for family gatherings. Just over three hours from Aiken, it’s the perfect weekend getaway for couples or families looking to be surrounded by nature.
Over five days and four nights, I experienced some of the most beautiful views I’ve seen anywhere in this country. Roaring rivers, dramatic waterfalls, rolling mountains, colorful leaves, serene lakes…all in South Carolina, and all within a short drive from Aiken.
So…I must confess. For all these years, I have sold South Carolina short. There is clearly so much more to South Carolina than Aiken.
We’re thrilled to be spending the upcoming holidays in Aiken. We’ll see old friends, and undoubtedly meet new ones. We’ll enjoy the horses, historic streetscapes, downtown restaurants and the Hitchcock Woods. Returning to Aiken is like coming home. There’s no place in the world quite like it. And it’s made all the more special with the wealth of beauty and diversity that surrounds it.
It’s easy to live your Best Life in Aiken. We can help.
Richard Smith says
I certainly agree with the lady about living here for 20 years. I am 69 born and raised here and there is nothing about Aiken that I can suggest to people to come see. All you hear about is Horses and Hopeland Gardens. My wife and I camp a good bit and we go to the upstate of SC to enjoy ourselves. Aiken is just a sleepy town for all the implants and retirees. It could be greatly improved if the City of Aiken officials would back off of some off there crazy rules. We can’t even keep a good restaurant open here for long. Not everyone can afford to take their family to all these downtown and in the Alley restaurants. They don’t appear to even try to get any good restaurants on the west side of Aiken. I usually go to North Augusta or restaurants in Edgefield County. The people there are not rude and the appreciate your business!!
Robyn Reilly Chancey says
I certainly disagree that there is nothing in Aiken worth seeing…it’s such a beautiful place! If you’re into horses, golf, tennis, pickleball, hiking in Hitchcock Woods- it’s wonderful! Sometimes when you’ve been in a place for a while, you forget what’s so great about it. Try to see Aiken with fresh eyes…you might be pleasantly surprised!