Sassafras Mountain is the highpoint of South Carolina. USGS maps put it at 3560 feet, but a recent South Carolina Geological Survey assessment downgraded to 3533 feet, mostly due to grading that lowered the natural height. That still puts it at least 50' higher than nearby Hickerynut Mountain (3,483').
Sassafras Mountain is located in Pickens County, in the Northwestern part of the state, off of a windy mountain road. Northwestern South Carolina is home to small mountain ranges, and Sassafras Mountain is lucky to get any recognition, since it is right on the border of North Carolina. From the top you can view 6,000' + mountains in the distance.
Get on route 178, accessible from I-85 or any surrounding routeways. You drive to the town of Rocky Bottom, a little before you reach the North Carolina state line. If you see a welcome to North Carolina sign on route 178, you have gone too far. From the South Carolina side, you take a right turn where you see a sign for a school for the blind. This road is also called road 199. You drive for 5 miles up a long hill, and you are almost at the summit. You follow a small paved path the rest of the way. I recommend parking a few miles up and hiking up the rest of the road. We had to do that, because the road was covered in ice when we climbed it.
At the top, you can walk off to the side a little bit and see a decent view of North Carolina's Blue Ridge Mountains through the trees. The summit is well marked, and there is a summit register. More recently, there is a deck and overlook located off the west side of the parking lot with nice views of the foothills in the area.
You can take a short hike through the forest on the Foothills trail from Chimneytop Gap
to the summit. For a moderate length approach, you can go about a mile past the turn off to the school for the deaf and blind (i.e. the road to the Sassafras summit. Keep going on hwy 178, and you will see the road cross a small bridge over the Eastatoe river. There is a trail on the right. It is approximately 4.7 miles round trip and 1900 vertical feet to the summit. The trail crosses the mountain road at Chimneytop Gap and again near the summit.
An even longer approach would be reached by driving from South Carolina Highway 11, officially designated the Cherokee Foothills Scenic Highway, which turns into 178 eventually. You can also take Highway 11 to Table Rock State Park and take a long hike on the Pinnacle Mountain/Foothills Trails, which go through several miles of mountains and eventually lead to Sassafras Mountain.
For more information, please see the links section
When To Climb
View towards the North Carolina 6000 footers' from the summit. Photo taken by Hellen at:
You can climb year round, but beware of icy conditions in the winter. The Western Carolinas are known for their ice storms. The road may be icy in winter, but you can park at the bottom of the road, on the side, and you should be alright to hike up the road. If the road is icy, consider hiking the short Foothills Trail route - see the routes to the left of the page
No permits required. Parking is free.
For more information on camping, trails, and routes, call
Table Rock State Park (864-878-9813)