Table rock has been on my hiking list for a while now and I am excited to say I finally hiked it! Typically if a destination is over 4 hours away I save it for a long weekend. But my work hours have been longer than usual and there is no long weekend in sight. So I kept it simple, packed the essentials and made the drive…and it was absolutely worth it!
Fun fact: Table rock now takes the #1 spot on my completed hike list
Where to Stay
Table rock state park offers accommodations, weather you want to rough it or stay in a cabin. There are 3 separate campgrounds; rustic (no water or electric), tent sites with electric, and RV site. Plus they also have several cabins sleeping anywhere from 2-8 people.
I stayed in the rustic campground, cheap and simple. There were 6 hike in tent sites that were right by a quite lake, Lake Oolenoy. These sites have a tent pad, picnic table and fire pit. No electric or showers and a sign that stated there was a bathroom nearby. I followed the signs for the bathroom and kept walking and walking until I finally gave up and decided to make sure the path was clear and popped a squat. The rustic side is on the opposite side of the street from the rest of the campgrounds. But you get an awesome view of the mountains and can easily point and choose which peak you want to hike to.
Once you enter the park drive to the back, but make sure to stop once the trees open up on the right to get a good view of the mountain you are about to summit. At the trail head there is a nature center that you have to sign in before you hike any of the trails. Beware, if you are like me and not a fan of snakes, there are many snakes in the nature center on display in glass cases. I put my head down, filled out the check in card and ran out quickly with my head down. You can pick up a trail map but it is not needed. Figure out what trail you want to hike and follow the corresponding colored paint blaze to stay on the correct path. The blazes are visible and easy to follow.
What to Pack
Like I said above the hike can vary from 4-6 hours depending on how fast you hike and how many breaks you take. Hiking with only one bottle of water and nothing else will not be sufficient enough for hiking Table Rock. So you need to plan ahead and make sure to pack water, food and other essentials you feel you need. But remember to pack light.
Water: Due to the hot summer temps the park highly suggested packing 3-4L of water to keep hydrated and prevent heat exhaustion.
Food: Pack easy snacks to eat along the way or have lunch while you take in the views at the top. Trail mix and/or granola bars are pack-able and provide sufficient calories. One of my favorite snacks is muir energy. It is a vegan option that comes in a tear-seal 1oz package that keeps a simple and organic ingredient list to fuel your adventures.
Clothes: Depending on the season or time of day you may need to layer. Life with porphyria causes me to be extremely sensitive to the sun. I always pack UV protective clothes to keep me safe. For this trip I wore lightweight UV protective pants by Columbia sportswear and a t-shirt. I also wear Buff upf 40+ arm sleeves and gloves. The hike started off very shaded, but the sun started to peek through the trees more and I knew I had to put the sleeves and gloves on to prevent a reaction due to my rare disease. I dreaded putting them on because I was already hot enough, but surprisingly the wicking specs of the sleeves cooled me down. I highly recommend them to keep you cool, save you from sunburn and also a great way to not get eaten alive by bugs.
The hike is 7.2 miles round trip ascending 2,265 feet to Table Rock summit at 3,124 feet with an average hike time of 4-5 hours. Pretty descent mountain for South Carolina I must say. The hike is deceiving in the beginning with a paved path running along side a creek with several waterfalls You see a lot of people hanging out beneath the water falls. If it’s summer save it for after your hike to jump in or soak your feet in the refreshing cool water. When the paved section ends the climb begins once you reach the red dirt path.
There is trail signs to follow and table rock trail is marked with red blaze on trees. The path is easy to navigate and not misleading to veer off. If you are confused which way to go just look for a red blaze marked on a tree ahead. Be prepared to ascend up man made steps, rocks, roots and fallen trees. The first mile was fairly easy allowing you to warm up and ease into the hike. The 2nd and 3rd mile was the toughest as the straight up climb on rocks became more difficult. There was no flat sections to climb between these miles, but several lookout areas to stop, rest and take in the views. Perfect time to open up a snack! The terrain flattened out more into mile 3 as you have already ascended the mountain, now you just have to walk to the amazing lookout.
There were 3 separate instances that I made it to a huge rock with an overlook which I thought I had successfully reached the end. I walked to the tip of the rock to realize that wasn’t the view pictures had shown. Then I turned towards the woods to see another red blaze to continue the path. Such a tease. The first big lookout is Governor’s Rock at 2,854 feet which gives you views of the back country. It is a steep climb up the rock, but there is man made steps carved into the hard rock to assist with the ascent. The second lookout was off to the right of the path which presented a nice view of Lake Pinnacle. This lake is accessed through the state park and good spot to fish or swim. The 3rd tease of a lookout was right before the summit. I walked to the end thinking once again I made it, but then saw the path continue.
Table Rock Summit
Approaching the granite dome at the summit was such an awesome feeling of beauty mixed with success. The view was way better than any picture has shown me. The view allows you to take in the mountainous terrain as well as Table Rock Lake Reservoir. I reached the lookout at about 4:30pm in which only 2 other people were there allowing it to be quite and peaceful. I simply sat there for over 30 minutes in awe.
It’s a mountain so yes there are animals. I didn’t see anything interesting except a few squirrels, birds and a funky looking caterpillar. Although, on the way back down, a small group about 20 feet behind screamed snake. They saw a small snake on the trail about a foot long. Luckily I walked past it without me seeing it and vice versa. Whew! Other animals that call that mountain home are black bear, white tailed deer, grey fox, bobcat, wild turkey and small amphibians. So be aware and make some noise to keep your presence known.
Yes, all trails are dog friendly as long as he/she is kept on a 6 ft leash. Be sure to pack enough water for your dog as well.
Stay on the marked trail to avoid injury or erosion
Leave no trace- pack out your trash
You are entering a natural habitat so keep it that way and be respecful
The rule for the bathroom is to step away 200 feet from any trail, campsite or water source
Be friendly and step aside if you are at a slower pace, hiking with a dog or passing uphill hikers.
Other State Park Trails
Lakeside Trail: 1.9 mile loop Easy
Carrick Creek Trail: 2 mile loop Moderate
Mill Creek Pass Trail: 0.6 miles Easy
Pinnacle Mountain Trail: 4.2 miles one way Very Strenuous
Ridge Trail: 1.9 miles Moderate to strenuous (connects Pinaccle mountain and table rock trails)
Post Hike Fun
Enjoy what the rest of the state park has following your hike. Dip you toes or jump right under the waterfalls post hike that are located right behind the nature center. Then relax afterwards by a campfire as you reminisce about your hike and plan your next one. The park also offers a roped off swimming area in Lake Pinnacle which is accessed right across from the nature center. You can swim, dive off the platform or lay out on the little beach area. I was not aware of this, but later found out you can rent pedal boats, kayaks and fishing boats for the day. I did however bait up and cast a few lines into the lake by my campsite on my last day before I drove back home. The lake is full of small and large mouth bass, bream, crappie and catfish.
There is plenty to do and see here at Table Rock for all ages and abilities. Take a weekend to get away and unplug. Take an easy hike or challenge yourself, but overall just enjoy the beautiful outdoor mountain views!