Best time to travel to South Carolina

South Carolina Fall Foliage

Discover top leaf-peeping spots of Upstate South Carolina

South Carolina Fall Foliage
South Carolina Fall Foliage
South Carolina Fall Foliage
South Carolina Fall Foliage
South Carolina Fall Foliage
Fall colors at Mountain Bridge Wilderness Area

From Piedmont to the Blue Ridge Mountains and coastal plains, South Carolina has quite a diversity of landscapes. With 47 state parks, it turns into a leaf-peeping heaven every fall, colors bursting in every corner. Red maples, box elders, hickories, scarlet and black oaks, birches, and serviceberries create an amazing palette, from golden to bright red.

When is the best time to see fall foliage in Southern Carolina

Fall colors become visible around early October, particularly at elevations above 5,000 ft (1,524 m). Dogwood and sourwood trees usually turn first. Later, brilliant maples, oaks, and hickories join in, forming a sea of gold and bronze carpeting the landscapes in every direction. On lower elevations, the peak time to see fall foliage throughout the state falls in late October and runs through early November. However, every year might be slightly different.

Scenic Drives

The Cherokee Foothills Scenic Highway, running along the border with North Carolina, is a must-see in the fall. Passing through quite a few state parks, Cherokee Foothills Scenic Highway is also known as Highway 11 or Keowee Path. The Cherokees and European fur traders once used it. The highway stretches for 130 mi (209 km), starting near Gaffney and ending by Lake Hartwell.

Best places to see fall foliage in Southern Carilona

Jones Gap State Park

If you start your trip on Highway 11, near the border with North Carolina, you will soon reach Jones Gap State Park, rich with oak, hickory, and maple trees. Jones Gap State Park is part of South Carolina’s Upstate Mountain Bridge Wilderness Area. The area boasts quite a few historical sights including Campbell's Covered Bridge and stone Gothic Poinsett Bridge, the oldest in South Carolina. Additionally, there are several waterfalls that look stunning in the fall: Rainbow Falls, Jones Gap Falls, Buckeye Falls, and Falls Creek.

Caesars Head State Park

The vast Caesars Head State Park is considered one of the best leaf-peeping destinations in the state. The park borders North Carolina and is comprised of dense hardwood forests. Take a hike to Raven Cliff, which leads to 420 ft (123 m) Raven Cliff Falls. You will be treated to stunning views framed with golden foliage.

Table Rock State Park

Table Rock State Park, just southwest of Caesars Head, is another spectacular fall foliage spot with miles of hiking trails. The Pinnacle Mountain Trail and Foothills Trail are the most scenic, with plenty of oaks, maples, and hickories forming beautiful color combinations. Stop by the Kemberling Bridge over Table Rock Lake on the north side of the park for a stunning panoramic shot.

Jocassee Gorges

Lake Jocassee, the north part of Lake Keowee, and Devils Fork State Park belong to the fall bucket list in South Carolina due to the stunning Jocassee Gorges that were featured by National Geographic in "50 of the World's Last Great Places". Mountains surrounding the lake are completely covered with orange and bronze foliage, forming a unique landscape, perfect for fall photography.

Oconee State Park

Located in the Blue Ridge Mountain region, Oconee State Park boasts beautiful mountainous scenery, particularly, the popular Foothills Trail, the Palmetto Trail, and the half-mile scenic Station Cove Falls trail. The park has two lakes and plenty of cabins to spend time in.

The abundance of waterfalls, scenic parks, and mountainous foothills, make Sothern Carolina a great choice for a fall-time trip. The northwestern part known as the Upcountry lies off the beaten track and away from the crowds, a great secret leaf-peeping destination to discover!

Practical info

When can one observe the Southern Carolina fall foliage season and why?

The Southern Carolina fall foliage season peaks between late October and early November. Late October is recommended for elevations over 5,000 ft. The dogwood and sourwood trees are first to turn to golden orange, while maples, oaks, and hickories follow, carpeting the forests in bronze and gold hues. The peak time may change from year to year. Coastal regions offer limited colors contrasted by the mountainous regions with stunning views and is strongly recommended. Show more

What scenic routes can one take to experience fall foliage viewing in Southern Carolina?

For fall foliage viewing, Cherokee Foothills Scenic Highway, Highway 276 and 178 are great options. Bordering North Carolina, Cherokee Foothills Scenic Highway is an absolute must-see during the season. The roads also run through state parks amidst shade of vibrant fall colors, perfect for road trips and leisurely country drives. Show more

What sites and attractions in Southern Carolina are perfect for fall foliage viewing?

Jones Gap State Park is an excellent Upstate Mountain location, with historic sites and many waterfalls to heighten the autumn viewing experience. The park's beauty is complemented by the rainbow falls, Buckeye Falls, Jones Gap Falls and Falls Creek. Caesars Head State Park, a dense hardwood forest with great views of the golden autumn colors, is surrounded by well-marked trails making it an ideal hiking destination. Table Rock State Park, owing to its lake and Kemberling Bridge, is also a clear fall foliage viewing hotspot. Lake Jocassee and Oconee State Park also offer stunning autumn views. Show more

What are some waterfalls that one can visit during the Southern Carolina fall foliage season?

Rainbow Falls, Jones Gap Falls, Buckeye Falls, and Falls Creek are the prominent waterfalls in Jones Gap State Park, while Raven Cliff Falls is the one in Ceaser Head State Park. These waterfalls offer exquisite displays of fall foliage, from leaves that are in transition to those that changed. Both parks' hiking trails lead to these beautiful locations, making autumn foliage viewing a pleasant and serene activity. Show more

What makes Upstate South Carolina an ideal fall destination?

With 47 state parks, Upstate South Carolina offers diverse and varying landscapes from the Piedmont to Blue Ridge Mountains and coastal plains. The region is saturated in orange and bronze hues forming a unique landscape perfect for fall photography. Visitors can enjoy the increasing burst of various autumn leaves on display, mainly red maple, oak, hickory, birch, and serviceberry. The Upstate region, situated away from crowded coastal cities, offers peaceful yet beautiful autumn getaways. Show more

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Last updated: by Olga Valchyshen