Let’s Hike: Caesars Head State Park
Caesars Head State Park is one of South Carolina’s favorite mountain getaways. Some families have owned homes here for generations. If you aren’t lucky enough to have a cabin, the state park offers a fantastic view for a picnic, with plenty of fun on the way.
Upper & Lower Wildcat Falls
Our family makes the first stop at Wildcat Wayside Falls, also known simply as Wildcat Falls. Coming north from Greenville on Highway 276, the falls are on the right, after the turn for Jones Gap State Park. If your kids have a case of the Are-We-There-Yets, tell them to look for the pink unicorns! (Hint: a homeowner on 276 between Travelers Rest and Scenic Highway 11 has eccentric taste in garden statuary. Watch the passenger side.)
The brown sign for Wildcat Falls is obscured by trees. Instead, I look for cars parked on the right. Note: there is another pull-off just before the falls; keep going. A boiled peanut truck often signals arrival. Our last midweek visit, however, the vendor wasn’t there. Allergic families should be aware we once skipped the falls because someone dropped a whole bag of boiled peanuts in the pool.
Both Upper and Lower Wildcat Falls provide a shallow wading pool. Kids and adults love the refreshingly cool pools in warm weather. No hike required. The falls are steps from the car. On the left, stone stairs lead to Upper Wildcat Falls. Some visitors climb to the top of the upper falls, but after seeing another worried caregiver warn a boy away from the edge, I opted against. My kids were content splashing in the water.
Continue toward Caesars Head for another poorly-marked local favorite, Bald Rock Heritage Preserve, more commonly known as simply Bald Rock. This granite outcrop is tarnished by sun-faded graffiti; nevertheless, the view remains incredible. Table Rock appears on the far right of the vista. If the kids are hungry from a morning of water play, this spot is just as easily viewed after lunch at Caesars Head. Parents should heed a few precautions. Access from the parking area requires crossing a bridge over a small stream. The handrails are taller than a preschooler and offer no side protection. Also, watch for tiny glass shards (from littered bottles) and wear tennis shoes. Lastly, unlike Caesars Head, there isn’t a small safety rail enclosure. Children who don’t consistently follow instructions should skip this site.
Ceasars Head State Park
Caesars Head State Park offers a mountaintop picnic area. Near the picnic tables and parking lot, an overlook affords a view for miles, all the way to the Piedmont and Paris Mountain. Table Rock and its lake offer the most recognizable landmarks. Check the panoramic photo sign to identify other features. The park has restrooms, a gift shop and drink machines, but no trash receptacles. Plan to pack your garbage for disposal at home.
Jones Gap State Park
If we leave in the morning for a picnic lunch at Caesars Head, our family spends the remaining afternoon at Jones Gap State Park, although Table Rock State Park is also nearby. The scenic Middle Saluda River runs through Jones Gap. We enjoy strolling along the river and playing in the grass until time to go home. The park is a convenient final stop, with plenty of room to explore in close proximity to Greenville – or Travelers Rest if grumpy kids need to eat sooner! Jones Gap Fall is a 2.2-mile hike, rated easy to moderate.
Additional Hiking Opportunities at Caesars Head
Consider a variation of this day trip with some nearby hikes. Frank Coggins Trail is 1.8 miles roundtrip to two small falls. Bryn Harmer, Mountain Bridge Wilderness Area Park manager, estimates 90 minutes of walking time. The trailhead is across the street from the main parking lot at Caesars Head. Families with older children may also enjoy Raven Cliff Falls, which Harmer estimates to be two to three hours roundtrip. The 4.4-mile hike ends at an observation platform overlooking the falls from a distance, Harmer said.