South Carolina Ultimate Outsider

This blog post is part of my South Carolina Ultimate Outsider series. The series chronicles my adventures in South Carolina state parks as I endeavor to become the Ultimate Outsider, a title given to someone who has visited all 47 parks in the state.

My lungs involuntarily sucked in a deep breath. It’s the kind of thing you do when you are unequivocally happy. Leaning on the black metal fence, with towering trees a few hundred feet below, I enjoyed the endless view of the Appalachian Mountain foothills. And just to think I almost didn’t go to Caesars Head State Park.

Caesars Head State Park

Located on U.S. Highway 276 on the Blue Ridge Escarpment, Caesars Head State Park is one of the smallest state parks in South Carolina. Although the park has no campground and few hiking trails, it is an excellent place for exploring the Mountain Bridge Wilderness Area and day hiking to a waterfall.

The Ultimate Outsider stamp is located at a kiosk beside the restrooms, and another stamp is located inside the visitor center.

8155 Geer Highway, Cleveland, SC | 864-836-6115 | southcarolinaparks.com/caesars-head

Favorite Activity

My favorite activity at Caesars Head State Park is enjoying the breathtaking view from the scenic overlook. The rocky outcropping isn’t conducive to bringing your own chair, but there are a few rocks at the back of the overlook that makes a perfect seat. Bring a bottle of water, a good book, and enjoy the gentle breeze to go with that view.

Mountain Bridge Wilderness Area

The Mountain Bridge Wilderness Area covers 10,000 acres of hardwood forests along the Blue Ridge Escarpment in the Appalachian Mountains. The wilderness area includes Caesars Head State Park, Jones Gap State Park, Bald Rock Heritage Preserve, Wildcat Wayside, and the Symmes Chapel at Pretty Place in North Carolina.

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Visitor Center, Gift Shop, and Restrooms

The visitor center and gift shop is the only building at Caesars Head State Park. Located at the entrance to the parking area, the visitor center is a great place for getting information about the Mountain Bridge Wilderness Area and hiking trails in the area.

Inside, a rather awesome 3D interactive map shows the location of the state park on the Blue Ridge Escarpment. Push a button, and a particular trail or point of interest will light up. It’s a fantastic planning tool, but like a kid in a hands-on museum, I thought it was neat to push the buttons and learn about the area.

The restrooms are located in a separate small building near the visitor center. While the visitor center keeps normal business hours, closing at 5 p.m. on most days, the restrooms are kept open during daylight hours.

Caesars Head Scenic Overlook

The Caesars Head Scenic Overlook is the main attraction in the small state park. It’s less than a three-minute walk from the end of the parking lot along a level boardwalk. The overlook is atop a rocky outcropping along the Blue Ridge Escarpment, the definitive edge of the Appalachian Mountains, where the landscape quickly drops to the piedmont region.

I’ll never forget the first time I walked out onto that overlook. It was like approaching a diorama in a museum; the closer I got, the more details I began to notice, all framed through a giant window. To the right, I could see the exposed granite face of Table Rock Mountain looming over the reservoir. The foothills of the mountains tapered off into a flat terrain. Not a sound was to be heard.

My lungs involuntarily sucked in a deep breath. It’s the kind of thing you do when you are unequivocally happy. I leaned against the black metal fence, it burned my arms with the warmth of the sun and enjoyed the endless view to the horizon. Instantly, this was my favorite scenic overlook in South Carolina.

Devils Kitchen

The most interesting attraction at Caesars Head State Park became something of an adventure for me to discover. At first, I didn’t know about it. Then, I couldn’t find it. Now, I’m telling you exactly how to find it and why you need to go!

The view at the Caesars Head Scenic Overlook is amazing, but you need to turn around. A small brown sign points toward Devil’s Kitchen. A set of metal stairs descends through a narrow crack in the rocky outcropping. Follow the stairs to the bottom, about a 10-15 minute walk, to the lower scenic overlook.

Geologically speaking, the narrow passage was created after millions of years of water freezing and thawing in the cracks of the boulders. But the local legend, started by Native Americans and continued by the early Scotch-Irish settlers, is that the devil himself created the passage as he roamed the Earth.

Raven Cliff Falls

The most popular outdoor activity at Caesars Head State Park is a hike to Raven Cliff Falls. The towering, 420’ tall waterfall creates a thunderous echo through the forest far below U.S. Highway 276.

The 4-mile out and back Raven Cliff Falls Trail is only moderately difficult with a 700’ elevation change. The trail does not lead to the base of the waterfall, but instead a scenic overlook with a spectacular view. The trail is mostly primitive, with a few log bridge water crossings.

If you want to get closer to Raven Cliff Falls, though still not the bottom, lace up your hiking boots because this trail is a doozy. The 8.8-mile Raven Cliff Falls and Dismal Loop Trail is quite the adventure through the Mountain Bridge Wilderness Area. The trail crosses over the top of Raven Cliff Falls, passes several other cascading waterfalls, and includes a whopping 2,200’ elevation change.

Hiking Trails

The 5-mile Jones Gap Trail connects Caesars Head State Park with Jones Gap State Park at the bottom of the mountain. It’s a beautiful hike through the Mountain Bridge Wilderness Area. The trail descends about 1,900’ from Caesars Head State Park and about half the length winds along the Middle Saluda River.

Accessibility

The visitor center, gift shop, and restrooms are accessible at Caesars Head State Park. But, unfortunately, that’s about where the accessibility ends.

The gorgeous Caesars Head Scenic Overlook is a rocky outcropping. It includes a big step down from the wooden boardwalk, making this scenic overlook inaccessible for wheelchairs. It’s a big step down, so I don’t recommend this for anyone with difficulty walking.

However, just before the scenic overlook, there is a narrow view to enjoy on the wooden boardwalk. A small infographic explains the Blue Ridge Escarpment, and there is a view of Table Rock Mountain in the distance.

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How to Get to Caesars Head State Park

There are only two ways to get to Caesars Head State Park, and I love both options! I’ve driven the route through there several times now, though I rarely visited the park at all. It’s a speck on a map and almost seems not worth visiting, so please read these words and visit this park.

Greenville to Caesars Head State Park

From Greenville, take U.S. Highway 276 through the charming small town of Travelers Rest. This is a great place to grab something to eat and stretch your legs. Continue along a short section of the Cherokee Foothills National Scenic Byway, a 118-mile route along S.C. Highway 11. This route passes Wildcat Wayside, a small pull-off where you’ll find a cascading waterfall and short hiking trail.

READ MORE: Road Trip on the Cherokee Foothills National Scenic Byway in South Carolina

As S.C. Highway 11 continues toward Table Rock State Park, U.S. Highway 276 takes a turn and begins the switchback climb up the Blue Ridge Escarpment. Along the way, Bald Rock Heritage Preserve is worth a stop to enjoy a breathtaking view of Table Rock Mountain.

The entire drive from Greenville to Caesars Head State Park is just 31 miles and takes about an hour.

Brevard to Caesars Head State Park

When visiting Caesars Head State Park, I usually stay in Brevard, North Carolina. Take U.S Highway 276 out of Brevard, where you’ll almost immediately come to DuPont State Recreational Forest. The forest is one of the best places in North Carolina to hike to waterfalls with four stunning waterfalls to visit.

One of the most interesting points of interest on this drive is the Eastern Continental Divide. This is the point where all the water on one side flows into the Atlantic Ocean, while water on the other side flows into the Gulf of Mexico.

YMCA Camp Road begins at the divide. About a ten-minute drive leads to Fred Symmes Chapel at Pretty Place. It’s one of the most iconic mountain destinations in the country for weddings. On days when nobody is getting hitched, the chapel is left open for visitors to explore.

The entire drive from Brevard to Caesars Head State Park is just 15 miles and takes about 25 minutes.

Where to Stay

Backcountry camping is allowed throughout the Mountain Bridge Wilderness Area, and permits can be picked up at Caesars Head State Park. However, the park itself does not have a campground.

The nearest campground I would recommend is Table Rock State Park about 15 miles away on the Cherokee Foothills National Scenic Byway. The park also has several rather nice rustic cabins to rent.

Brevard, just twenty-five minutes away, is my favorite place to stay when visiting Caesars Head State Park. The Hampton Inn is a bit secluded from the main highway and features an outdoor swimming pool. The Holiday inn Express is closer to downtown and also features an outdoor swimming pool.