Embark on an unforgettable journey through the scenic wonders of Greenville County's three mesmerizing state parks: Paris Mountain, Jones Gap, and Caesars Head. From tranquil lakes nestled amidst lush forests to breathtaking waterfalls cascading through rugged mountain trails, these parks offer an outdoor paradise for adventure enthusiasts and nature lovers alike.
May the Forest Be With You.
Just a few miles beyond Greenville’s city limits are three of the best outdoor experiences in the entire region. Brimming with waterfalls, soaring views, and hiking adventures that deliver you straight to the heart of the sweet mountain air, each is a jewel not to be missed.
Greenville County, South Carolina State Parks
For mountain lovers aching to put a little distance between themselves and the city, Jones Gap State Park is worth every scenic second of the forty-five-minute drive north. Also part of the Mountain Bridge Wilderness Area, the park serves as a convenient gateway to the natural beauty of the Upstate forests. Winding its way through the 3,964-acre wooded park, the Middle Saluda River invites guests to take a dip or relieve their weary feet after hiking the 5-mile round-trip trail to Rainbow Falls or the much easier 2.6-mile round-trip trail to Jones Gap Falls. Anglers can try their luck casting for mountain trout, and bird watchers can enjoy the impressive migration of songbirds that pass through each spring. Seasoned backpackers and casual afternoon strollers can enjoy the exuberant early-season wildflowers and brilliant fall colors that line even the shortest trails. For the overnight explorer, hike-in campsites are available by reservation.
🥾 Hike This: Rainbow Falls Trail
👀 See This: The historic Cleveland Fish Hatchery, South Carolina’s first state-owned and operated fish hatchery, now an educational exhibit.
📸 Photo Op: Wooden boardwalk that spans the Middle Saluda River
🔥 Campfire Conversation Starter: The Middle Saluda River, South Carolina’s first-designated scenic river runs through the park. (Currently, 226 rivers have a protected designation, which is less than ½ of 1% of the nation’s rivers.)
Seated atop the Blue Ridge Escarpment, Caesars Head is appropriately named for the granite outcropping that resembles the helmeted head of the most famous Roman emperor. Pegged as the “No. 1 Hidden Gem of South Carolina” by USA TODAY, Caesars Head is really a package deal, offering world-class hiking and fishing opportunities in addition to spectacular high-elevation vistas. As part of the Mountain Bridge Wilderness Area, its numerous trails connect to neighboring Jones Gap State Park and boast a variety of waterfalls—including the stunning 420-foot cascade tumbling from Raven Cliff, the tallest waterfall in South Carolina. With its panoramas and prime position as a flyway during the fall hawk migration, Caesars Head is a birdwatcher’s paradise. Migrating raptors soar on updrafts created by the escarpment, and keen observers might spot the occasional golden or bald eagle mixed in among them. Stop by the visitor’s center for more birding information, and while you’re there make sure to check out the breathtaking views from the Caesars Head Overlook.
🥾 Hike This: Raven Cliff Falls Trail
👀 See This: Hawk Watch, September-November
📸 Photo Op: Vintage coin-operated viewfinder atop the park’s main overlook
🔥 Campfire Conversation Starter: The park harbors a population of federally-endangered green salamanders. (No resemblance to the GEICO gecko, though.)