SC State Parks | The gems of the Upcountry

sparkling lake

Crystal blue waters sparkle ahead of the rising sun behind the Blue Ridge Mountains. Mornings look like this in the Upcountry of South Carolina.

Devils Fork State Park

One of the gems of the Upcountry is Devils Fork State Park, located an hour west of the city of Greenville, South Carolina. The park is home to Lake Jocassee – a 7,565-acre lake with seemingly transparent waters, lush forests, one-of-a-kind wildflowers – the Oconee Bells – and an intriguing and mysterious history.

The man-made lake was constructed in 1973 and named after the Cherokee word for “Place of the Lost One,” alluding to the mysterious tale of star-crossed lovers of Jocassee, a female tribe member, who fell in love with a warring tribesman from across the river. Jocassee’s brother killed her lover in battle, which sent her into shock. She walked into the water to find her lover, but she did not sink, nor float – she found his spirit.

If a present-day visitor were to walk into the lake following in the footsteps of Jocassee, they would sink to find a world underneath the water.

In 1973, when Duke Energy flooded Jocassee Valley to create the lake, dozens of homes and camps were submerged and now lie deep beneath the clear water’s surface, waiting for scuba divers and visitors to rediscover them.

The Jocassee Gorges themselves are some of the most unique waterfalls on the east coast. They outline the base of the Appalachian Mountains and can only be accessed by boat. Devils Fork is home to trails, one-of-a-kind wildflowers – the Oconee Bells – and a lovely surrounding area of Salem, SC.

Lake Jocassee is a drop of aquamarine in a sea of emerald in the Upstate of South Carolina with the most unforgettable mornings.

Keowee-Toxaway State Park

And only a few miles southeast of Devils Fork is Keowee-Toxaway State Park.

Located adjacent to Lake Keoweealmost 30 square miles of sapphire blue waterthe state park is a nature getaway of hiking trails, natural bridges, camping and fishing. All of the activities are beautified by some of the most striking views of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

The park is popular with South Carolina residents who enjoy getting some fresh air and being active, with comprehensive hiking trails and water sports. With nearby cabin rentals with docks and camp sites, the park is a destination for retreat, a beautiful one at that. 

Table Rock State Park

As the weather gets cooler in Autumn, the Upstate is draped in ruby, gold and garnet-colored leaves, but Table Rock mountain protrudes out from the woven tapestry of the South Carolina terrain, marking the tranquil and mysterious Table Rock State Park. 

This park is one of the most well-known parks in the state for challenging hikes, interesting ruins and awe-inspiring waterfalls (check out RiverVenture's Carrick Creek). The hikes lead to stumbling across old, dark train tunnels that lead to nowhere and panoramic views of the Upcountry.  The park is a popular place for relaxation or activity, especially in the fall and winter months. 

The rock itself towers above the park connected to the S.C. 11, the Cherokee Foothills National Scenic Highway.

The state parks in the Upcountry span from vacation and fun in the summer months to retreat and relaxation in the cooler parts of the year. These protected lands are hidden gems of the nation and represent what South Carolina terrain has to offer.


PHOTO CREDIT | Eva Chillura