Despite the fact that Sassafras Mountain is the highest peak in South Carolina, it gets very little attention. Once you’ve seen it, you’ll know why. The summit is astonishingly unremarkable. A power cable runs across the top, and a dumpster and propane tank are all that greets visitors.
So why did I bother? Well I’ve been reading a book called A Walk Atop America by Douglas Butler, a North Carolina resident. Dr. Butler spent several years reaching the highpoints of all fifty states. This particular hobby is known as highpointing. There is supposed to be a highpointing register at each summit, but I found the register missing from Sassafrass. On the metal register container someone had scratched, “Needs new register September 2001.”
At a 3560’elevation Sassafras is not much to brag about, especially considering that Tennessee’s and North Carolina’s high points are almost twice the elevation - those being Clingman’s Dome (6643) and Mt. Mitchell (6684). Even though it’s possible to drive to the summit, I suggest you hike to it, via the Foothills Trail. The shortest route is to start from Chimney Rock Gap, located here. This is a 5 mile round trip. The trail is nice and will give you a nice walk in the woods, but it’s not spectacular. If you’d like a truly outstanding trail, start at Table Rock State Park located here. Take the Pinnacle trail to the beginning of the Foothills trail and follow it to Sassafrass. This will likely take two days though. It will also take you past SC's second highest peak, Pinnacle Mountain, which is nothing special either but the trail to it makes it worth the trip.
In the meantime, I highly recommend Dr. Butler’s book. His writing is informative but conversational in tone as he describes his adventures reaching the fifty state highpoints. That’s quite an accomplishment considering that several of them are above 12,000 feet.
(Incidentally, Clingman’s Dome and Mt. Mitchell were originally named after two rivals. Mt. Mitchell was originally called Clingman’s Peak and a nearby peak was called Mt. Mitchell. Later it was determined that Mt. Mitchell was higher than Clingman’s Peak so they reversed the names, paying homage to Elias Mitchell who first made the mountain famous. Thomas Clingman actually discovered the highest peak but he was such a jerk about it, that the public chose to honor Mitchell anyway, later naming Tennessee’s highest peak after Clingman. Clingman’s Dome is located in Smokey Mountain National Park. The Mountains to Sea Trail starts there and the Appalachian Trail runs crosses the mountain as well. Clingman’s Peak can be seen on the left while driving up to Mt. Mitchell. The Mountains to Sea trail passes through Mt. Mitchell and Clingman’s Peak as well. You read more about the history of these mountains in another great book called Mt. Mitchell and the Black Mountains by Timothy Silver.)
Distance from downtown Greenville: 42 miles
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