Caesars Head State Park: The Complete Guide

Caesars Head State Park, Blue Ride Escarpment, Table Rock Mountain, South Carolina
Caesars Head State Park, Blue Ride Escarpment, Table Rock Mountain, South Carolina. John Coletti / Getty Images
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Caesars Head State Park Visitor Center

Address
8155 Geer Hwy, Cleveland, SC 29635-9428, USA
Phone +1 864-836-6115

Nestled in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Greenville County is home to three large state parks, including Caesars Head. It is part of the 13,000 acres of mountain woodlands called the Mountain Bridge Wilderness Area, which connects to nearby Jones Gap. Located 25 miles north of downtown Greenville along the North Carolina Border, the park has 60 miles of hiking trails, which climb to craggy mountain summits and descend to tumbling waterfalls and through grassy meadows filled with local wildlife and vibrant wildflowers. The park is also renowned for its bird watching, which includes large hawk migrations in the fall, as well as freshwater fishing.

If you're planning a trip to Caesars Head State Park guide, read on to learn about the best hikes, birdwatching, camping, and more.

Things to Do

With 60 miles of trails ranging from beginner-friendly paths leading to tumbling waterfalls to steep, rocky routes to craggy cliffs, Caesars Head is a great destination for hiking in all seasons. Fall is particularly great time to visit, with the brilliant forest foliage at its peak and opportunities to watch the migration of hawks, bald eagles, falcons, and other species as they head south for the winter from the rocky peak of the Blue Ridge Escarpment. Fishing is permitted in the Middle Saluda River as well as Matthews and Julian Creeks, which are both known for their rainbow and brown trout. The park also offers geocaching and picnic shelters for group gatherings.

Best Hikes & Trails

The park's trails range from short, easy hikes to day-long treks over rock faces and steep terrain, which take you to tumbling waterfalls, through dense woodlands filled with birds and wildflowers, and to craggy mountain summits with panoramic views.

  • Falls Creek Waterfall Trail: A short but fairly strenuous hike, the Falls Creek Waterfall Trail travels out and back just over 2 miles to its namesake waterfall and departs from Falls Creek Road just south of Trammel Lake. The trail is steep in some places, though it rewards with stunning views of the falls. Note that parking is limited and fills up quickly on weekends and during the summer; arrive early to secure a spot.
  • Tom Miller Jones Gap Trail: For a longer excursion inside Caesars Head, try the Tom Miller Jones Gap Trail, a moderately paced, 10.2-mile out-and-back trail. The trailhead to this steep and rocky path starts a mile north of the Caesars Head parking lot on Highway 276. From there, you'll follow the Saluda River, passing several waterfalls, wildflowers, and local wildlife as you ascend more than 1,500 feet into the woods.
  • Raven Cliff Falls: Formed by Matthews Creek and plunging 420 feet down from Raven Cliff Mountain, Raven Cliff Falls (named for the 150-plus species of ravens in the region) is the state's largest waterfall. The moderately challenging, 4-mile out-and-back trail, which departs from Highway 276/Geer Highway in Cleveland, is well marked and well maintained, though it does get muddy in the rainy season.
  • Dismal Loop Trail: For an advanced hike, opt for the 6.6-mile Dismal Trail Loop in Caesars Head. You'll start by following the Raven Cliff Falls Trail for 1.7 miles before reaching the junction of the blazed Dismal Loop. A suspension bridge will take you over the top of the falls, then you'll continue down its side for the rest of the hike. With a sheer rock face, cable and ladder assistance, and water crossings, this trail is recommended only for experienced hikers.

Bird Watching

From September 1 to November 30, watch as hawks—often in groups of 200-300 circling overhead in a formation known as "kettling"-migrate south from the main overlook perched 3,266 feet above the Carolina Piedmont. The hawks are often joined by bald eagles, osprey, ravens, hummingbirds, and red-headed woodpeckers, and the best viewing times are from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. Access the overlook via a short, easy trail from the Visitors Center. In the spring, those same birds return, and over 167 species have been spotted in the park. Watch them from the overlook or other popular trails like Raven Cliff Falls and Rainbow Falls.

Fishing

Home to rainbow and brown trout and book, the Middle Saluda River and is tributaries are some of the best places to fish in the Upstate. Fishing is permitted with a valid South Carolina fishing license and artificial lures and flies only.

Camping

While overnight camping is permitted inside the greater Mountain Bridge Wilderness Area, there are no drive-up campsites at Caesars Head. 18 permit-only trailside backcountry campsites are available inside Jones Gap State Park, a 6-mile hike from inside Caesars Head. Reservations can be made by calling 1-866-345-PARK(7275) or booking online at least one day in advance of your stay, and the cost is between $14-30 per night.

14 sites offer fire pits, and most are located in shady spots along the river. Note there is no running water or electricity and guests must hike-in and carry out all supplies and food, as there are no trash bins. Jones Gap also offers one group site for 10-20 guests, available at a rate of $4.40-5.50 per person per night, and reservations must be made directly through the park.

Where to Stay Nearby

  • Hampton Inn Greenville/Traveler's Rest: Located 18 miles south of the park, the Hampton Inn is a moderately priced option and a good choice for families. In addition to free parking, complimentary breakfast, and Wi-Fi, the hotel has an outdoor pool and fitness center and is close to the town's many shops, bike trails, galleries, and restaurants.
  • Hotel Domestique, Traveler's Rest: Looking to splurge on accommodations? Experience European luxury in the heart of the Upstate at this luxury hotel owned by world-renowned cyclist George Hincapie. Just 13 miles from Jones Gap State Park, the property—with rustic hardwood floors, manicured lawns, and Tuscan-hued draperies and linens—has it all: guided bike excursions, seven golf courses, an infrared sauna, saltwater pool, and tennis courts, plus on-site fine dining.
  • Best Western Traveler's Rest/Greenville: For those on a budget, this reliable chain in Traveler's Rest is a solid option. Rates are generally less than $100 per night and include a full breakfast and access to an indoor gym and outdoor pool. The park is only 20 miles (a 30 minute drive) away.
  • AC Hotel Greenville Downtown: Stay in the heart of downtown Greenville and within walking distance to major attractions such as museums, restaurants, independent boutiques, coffee shops, and the stunning Falls Park on the Reedy at this modern, high-end hotel. Hotel amenities include seven separate dining experiences—including a rooftop garden gin bar—as well as a fitness center and an art collection with over 100 works by local artists.

How To Get There

From downtown Greenville and Traveler's Rest, take Highway 276-W all the way to the Caesars Head Visitor Center at the intersection of 276 and Geer Highway. The entrance area includes large parking lot, restrooms, small gift shop, a picnic shelter, and access to most of the park's hiking trails.

Tips for Your Visit

  • Arrive early, especially on weekends and during peak leaf season in the fall, as parking is available only on a first come, first served basis.
  • Wear waterproof shoes, as many of the trails require stream and water crossings.
  • Consider bringing hiking poles to assist with scrambles and water crossings if hiking the park's more technical trails.
  • Be aware of the time. All trails close one hour before dark, and thru-hikers and overnight campers must enter the park at least two hours before close.
  • Keep all dogs leashed and on trails and dispose of all waste properly.
  • The park does offer free wi-fi, but grab a map at the Visitors Center or download trail directions in advance, just in case.
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Caesars Head State Park: The Complete Guide