Outdoor

Marie McAden

SOUTH CAROLINA INSIDER

 

Now's a great time to visit Caesars Head

Posted 12/10/2010 10:20:00 PM

There’s no better time to visit Caesars Head State Park than in late autumn when the leaves have fallen off the trees, opening up dramatic views of the Blue Ridge Escarpment rising 2,000 feet from the rolling hills of the piedmont below.

If that weren’t reason enough, the fall also brings thousands of migratory raptors to the park, the only place in South Carolina with the natural characteristics to create thermals and updrafts — those mad wind currents hawks, falcons, kites and eagles love to catch for a free ride skyward.

A great place to look out for these graceful avian flyers is from the park’s 3,200-foot overlook that sits atop a giant granite gneiss. The wheelchair-accessible perch is just a short walk from the parking area. Binoculars are available on the observation platform to get a better view of any raptors that happen to be gliding about.

The outcropping also affords a fantastic panorama of the surrounding mountains and South Carolina’s signature natural landmark, Table Rock, another geologic wonder dating back 350 million years.

Take your time and enjoy the scenery, but don’t stop there. Just beyond the overlook is a path that leads down a set of steps, through a narrow crack in the granite to a smaller observation area offering a side view of Caesars Head. One look at the rock’s profile and you’ll understand why some believe it was named after Julius Caesar.

Now that you’ve warmed up your legs, consider taking a hike through this pristine southern mountain forest. Part of the 11,000-acre Mountain Bridge Wilderness Area, Caesars Head features a 50-mile network of easy to strenuous trails that connect the park to adjoining Jones Gap State Park.

One of the most popular trails leads to the 420-foot high Raven Cliff Falls. I’ll be blogging about that hike later this week.

Before you start hoofing it, be sure to check out the large relief map in the Visitors Information Center and Gift Shop. You can see the terrain each trail crosses, giving you an idea of how much climbing you’ll be doing. The map also features 12 different buttons you can press pinpointing the location of some of the area’s top destinations, including Raven Cliff Falls.

Caesars Head is located on U.S 276 just shy of the state line. Picnic tables overlooking the escarpment are located by the parking area. In addition to its great trails and bird watching perch, the park offers prime trout fishing on the Middle Saluda River.

Want to learn more? Visit www.southcarolinaparks.com or call (864) 836-6115.