Sassafras Tower – the New High Point of South Carolina

Sassafras Mountain is 3,553 feet of Blue Ridge mountain high. That is just about exactly 2/3rds of a mile straight up from sea level.

Certainly there are higher points.

In the United States, about 30 states have higher highest points. Our neighbors in Georgia and North Carolina have mountains that can look a ways down on this height. But these 3553 feet are all South Carolina, and are solely part of our mountains.

If you are on the top of Sassafras Mountain in Pickens County, new this year, add another 15 feet, making it 3568 feet.

After about eight years of discussion, planning and finally construction, there is an observation tower from the roof of South Carolina.

In the fall of 2010 a group of interested organizations gathered at the Pickens County Museum to discuss the possibility of constructing an observation tower on top of Sassafras Mountain. At that time, the highest point in South Carolina was difficult to find, the road was not good, and so many trees were on the summit that there was barely a view, except in winter, shared Greg Lucas, spokesman for the SC Department of Natural Resources.

While there has been trail access to the summit of Sassafras, via the Foothills Trail, most access is by road, just off Hwy 176. The new summit tower will have adequate parking. So while there are some additional adventuresome approaches to the top, anyone of any ability will be able to go to the platform on top of the tower.

The existing Sassafras parking lot will be used, and more parking spaces will be created by additional grading. The parking lot is expected to hold about 30 vehicles, Lucas said. There will also be restroom facilities and the tower will be handicapped accessible.

Besides a construction that works with the natural environment, from the tower platform a visitor might be able to see 30-50 miles, into the mountains of North Carolina, Georgia and South Carolina, on a clear day. The view is primarily to the west and to the south, perfect for afternoon views.

The mountain itself is a bit unusual. Three different watersheds roll off its slopes, as does the Eastern Continental Divide. The land is part of the Jim Timmerman Natural Resources Area at Jocassee Gorges.

In the outdoor adventuring world, there is a growing community who seek to reach as many high points in the states as they can. Known as “peak bagging”, this adventure tourism is a fun way for many to see the country. Backpacker Magazine recently did a story on the concept ( new Sassafras tower will add a bit to the spectacular view.

Lucas emphasizes, “The highest point in the state is a geographical landmark that every South Carolinian, young and old, should have the opportunity to see and enjoy. SCDNR hopes that the observation tower will be a place where residents and visitors can go to marvel at the view of three states and the Blue Ridge Mountains and to appreciate what a beautiful and diverse place South Carolina truly is!”

If you want to drive there from here:

Take SC-288 W and US-178 W to Sassafras Mountain Rd in Sunset.
Continue on Sassafras Mountain Rd.
Drive to F. Van Clayton Memorial Hwy.
The parking area is on the left.


Story by Jason Greer
Photos by Derick LaFountain 

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