OK, let’s get the bad news out of the way. This is a long (3.6 miles one-way), steep (more than 2300 feet change in elevation), difficult (most of the trail is rocky, rooty and rough) and time-consuming (expect at least 3 hours up, 2 hours down plus time spent at stops).
BUT, your reward will be one of the two top views in the state of South Carolina. It may be the top view although the Jumping Off Rock fans will probably argue with you.
Table Rock gets its name from the Cherokee legend that a giant used the flat topped rock as his table. The shorter mountain sitting below and adjacent to the “table” is called the Giant’s Stool since that was where he sat when he ate at the table.
The trail begins at the park’s Interpretive Center at Table Rock State Park, so head up SC 11 to the park. If you’re coming in from the East on SC 11, about 1.1 miles from the turn onto West Gate Road and the park entrance, you’ll pass another extraordinary view, this one from ground level, of Table Rock. (See slide show)
From the Interpretive Center, take the paved path pass Carrick Creek Falls. Immediately above the falls, you’ll see another smaller waterfall where Green Creek meets Carrick. The paved path will shortly cross a bridge and the pavement will end. Immediately, Carrick Creek Trail (a loop) splits off to the left (green blaze). Follow the red blaze to the right. This is also green blazed since it is the other side of the Carrick Creek Trail loop. The trail crosses Green Creek on a bridge and follows the creek uphill to another bridge that will take you back to the other side. Between the two bridges, you will find a number of cascades known as Green Creek Falls.
The trail continues to ascend and eventually enters a boulder field with some of the biggest rocks you’ve ever seen. Once out of the rocks, the trail moves into some switchbacks (there are few on this trail) before heading back more vertical.
About 1.75 miles up, you’ll find an open shelter with benches to take a rest and enjoy the view provided. Then back on the trail for the final 0.25 miles to Panther Gap, the ridge line of the mountain. Here, Ridge Trail heads off the left and Table Rock Trail goes right. You’ll get a sense of accomplishment here in reaching the ridge thinking it will now be a flat walk across the top of the mountain to the cliff. Not so, you still have 700 feet in elevation to climb.
Another half mile along, the trail passes across Governor’s Rock with some excellent views to the Northwest including Sassafras Mountain, the tallest peak in South Carolina. Look for a tower on a small “bump” in the far ridge line. That’s Sassafras.
You’ll get a little bit of flat trail after this but soon begins to climb again. It’s another half mile to the summit at 3124 feet, then you start down toward the cliffs. It’s still another half mile away. You’ll pass several views along the way but don’t get caught up in them, continue to follow the red blazes (some will be at your feet) until you reach the cliff face. You’ll know when you get there.
Along the way, you may see some orange blazes on trees immediately to the left of the trail and wonder what these are. These blazes mark the boundary of the Table Rock Watershed, which provides water for Greenville. Trespassing is prohibited.
Once at the cliff face, you’ll have the Giant’s Stool immediately to your right, Table Rock Reservoir 1600 feet below you, Caesar’s Head right in front (6 miles Northeast) of you about two ridges over (look for houses on the ridge along with a tall tower) and Slicking Falls (1.5 miles due North) to your left. The entire valley below and to the left is the watershed.
Spend some time. You earned it with this hike.