Country road curving to the left flanked by trees with leaves turning yellow and red under a blue cloudless sky.
Fall is a great time to road trip down South Carolina Highway 11.

South Carolina Highway 11 Road Trip

Looking for The Great Carolina Road Trip? If you’re anywhere near north western South Carolina, I would humbly suggest taking a drive along Highway 11. Known as the Cherokee Foothills Scenic Highway (and yes it does live up to that name), Highway 11 passes through some of the most scenic areas of the state. In the shadow of the Blue Ridge Mountains, there are plenty of places where you can get up high and enjoy the view, but if you’re not a fan of winding mountain roads, there’s still plenty of stuff to see.

Country road curving to the left flanked by trees with leaves turning yellow and red under a blue cloudless sky.
Fall is a great time to road trip down South Carolina Highway 11.

For this list we, we choose spots along Highway 11 or just a short drive from the highway. We focused on places where you could stop for a little while, walk around, maybe have a picnic, and then hit the highway again to see something else. You know a Road Trip. That’s why some major spots along Hwy 11 like Table Rock aren’t listed. They may be great places to visit, but you could spend all day at one place. So without further adieu, lets jump right in and start at the Oconee County end of Highway 11.

Stumphouse Tunnel

Looking Down Stumphouse Tunnel - an unfinished railway tunnel walls are hand cut the end of the tunnel terminated with a brick wall.
Looking down the Stumphouse Mountain Tunnel in Walhalla, South Carolina, the centerpiece of Stumphouse Mountain Park.

An unfinished railroad tunnel just a few miles off of Highway 11 in Walhalla, South Carolina. Work began in 1856 with workers using hand tools to cut the tunnel through the solid granite of Stumphouse Mountain. Construction was abandoned in 1859 after only 1600 feet had been dug.

Stumphouse tunnel opening in mountain side partially obscured by vegetation leaves litter the ground around the tunnel opening. The opening and tunnel walls are visibly rough cunt in the mountain side.
The entrance to Stumphouse Tunnel hand cut into the side of the mountain. Be sure to bring flashlights – the tunnel is really dark at the fat end and there aren’t any lights.

Admission is $5 and includes the nearby Issaqueena Falls. Picnic tables are available on a first come first served basis. You can walk about a quarter mile into the tunnel, so expect it to be dark and damp. It’s a cool sight and a great place to visit, but not an all day thing. But it’s a great place to start our Highway 11 Road Trip.

Issaqueena Falls

Issaqueena Falls cascading over a number of ledges shot from the base with large boulders around.

This is a two for one on our Great Highway 11 road trip. You leave your car in the same spot and just walk from the tunnel to the Falls. There’s an interesting legend that surrounds Issaqueena Falls that I’mnot going to spoil here, but if interested click the link below. Since the falls share the same facilities as Stumphouse Tunnel, you’ve got picnic tables and restrooms at the falls too.

Hagood Mill Historic Site

Dirt path with millstones lined to left and mill in distance along path
Old Indian Path leading to Hagood MIll

Heading back down Highway 11 you’ll pass just a few miles from one of the best spots of the road trip. Hagood Mill is a fully functional water powered grist mill dating back to around 1845. It doesn’t operate every day, but if happen by during their monthly folk life festival, you can not only witness the mill in all its glory, but enjoy live music and home life demonstrations too. If you miss the festival but still want some grits or meal ground the old fashioned way, stop by the gift shop and pick some up.

Hagood Mill - old two story grist mill with waterwheel seen from the left side - wood is greying and looks weathered but intact windows and door are open - historical road marker reads "Hagood Mill" but the rest of the text is illegible.
Hagood Mill in Pickens, South Carolina from the side. The mill still operates and you can buy stone ground grits milled on site at the visor center.

Besides the mill itself, there’s also a Petroglyph Center that houses a large boulder that was found onsite decorated with stick figures that researchers believe date to prehistoric times. There are also a few other historic houses that have been moved to the site and a one mile nature trail.

There are picnic tables available near the mill and restrooms nearby. The gift shop is open most days where you can find out more about the mill and local history as well as buy books, trinkets, or grits ground onsite. All in all, Hagood Mill is a great place to spend a few hours on your Highway 11 road trip and a must see.

Sassafras Mountain

Looking south from Sassafras Mountain at fall - some lower peaks and lots of trees and leaves changing color.
Sassafras Mountain, the highest point in South Carolina offers and excellent place to enjoy fall leaves.

Our next stop is a little further off of Highway 11, but still worth the detour up winding mountain roads. It’s of course Sassafras Mountain, the highest point in South Carolina. Built right on the state line, the observation tower offers a spectacular 360 degree view of the surrounding area. On a clear day, you can see a good 50 miles all the way into Georgia. If driving along Highway 11 during the fall, Sassafras Mountain has some of the best views of fall color in South Carolina.

platform with line running down the middle - North Carolina written on one side South Carolina written on the other
Sassafras Mountain Tower right on the line between North and South Carolina

Other than the observation tower and a couple benches there’s not a lot of infrastructure at the site. There are open areas around the tower where you can put down a picnic blanket and some boulders that can be used, but there aren’t any picnic tables. If you want a picnic table, hold on to your appetite and drive to Caesar’s Head. You can get there via back roads without having to drive all the way back down to Highway 11, and in the fall it’s a much nicer drive. You can reconnect with the highway later.

Caesar’s Head

Side profile of Caesars Head overlook. Granite rock formation on the left pushing out over the valley below. Leaves changing color in fall with reds, yellows, and still some green mixed in..
“A Mass of granite, rising from the vale, through which a rapid river winds its turbulent way…the ledges of stone, rising almost perpendicular, and at length, hanging over at [the] top, so that they seem to totter to their fall.” – Robert Mills describing the stone ledge we’ve come to know as Caesars Head.

You could spend all day at Caesar’s Head and lots of people do. There are over 60 miles pf hiking trails accessible from the park including hikes out to Ravel Cliff Falls. But most people who come to Caesar’s Head do so to take in the view. The overlook at the namesake rock offers an amazing view of the valley below and Table Rock in the distance. It’s a popular stop all year round, but especially in the Fall when people come from miles around to enjoy the changing leaves and annual hawk migration that can see upwards of 1000 raptors a day pass over Caesar’s Head.

the rock known as Caesars Head on the right looking out over the South Carolina Piedmont in fall. leaves are all different colors and the sky is bluse
Just before reaching the Overlook at Caesars Head you pass over the wooden deck lookout. The overlook can be really crowded in the fall, but the vies from the lookout are just as good.

There’s a line of picnic tables just off the parking lot as well as bathrooms and a park store. Combined with the trip to Sassafras Mountain for a great two for one on your Highway 11 road trip.

Poinsett Bridge

Stone Bridge with creek flowing under gothic arch
Poinsett Bridge in Spring

As we travel out of the mountains, we have two historic bridges just a few miles away from each other. The first is Poinsett Bridge, a stone bridge featuring a unique Gothic Arch. Built in the 1820, it was part of the State Road project that sought to connect the Port of Charleston to markets in North Carolina and Tennessee.

Stone bridge arch with creek running through
Poinsett Bridge Gothic Arch

The bridge still stands today, but this stretch of the old state road is no more. It sits in what seems to be the middle of the woods in the Poinsett Bridge Heritage Preserve. Parking is available on the other side of the road from the entrance to the [reserve and if you’re careful you can walk down to Little Gap Creek at the base of the bridge. If you’re looking to a place to have a picnic, you’re out of luck here, but just a few miles away you’ll find the second of the historic bridges on our road trip.

Campbells Covered Bridge

Campbell Covered Bridge in Fall - red covered bridge with creek running below and tin roof - trees behind the bridge have their leaves turning - lots of reds some yellow and still some green leaves.
Campbell’s Bridge Park is a great stop along any fall road trip. The fall leaves surrounding the old covered bridge make the whole scene look like something from Norman Rockwell.

As the last historic covered bridge in South Carolina, Campbells Covered Bridge played an important role in bringing the local area into the twentieth century. Built in 1909, Campbells Bridge was part of an effort to improve transpiration between the Dark Corner of South Carolina and the rest of the state. Today it’s a roadside attraction with picnic tables and a short nature trail. It’s only a few miles from Poinsett Bridge and the two bridges together make great stops on our road trip.

Red covered bridge seen from the front and to the side
Bridge from the front with the foundation of grist mill in background

Cowpens National Battlefield

silhouette of continental aiming a rifle in front of interpretive sign that reads "the continual army at cowpens" the rest of text is too small to read and a map underneath at Cowpens Battleground
After the Battle of Camden, America militia was seen as week and unreliable. Morgan used this perception to his advantage. Putting his battle hardened Continental Troops at the back and using militia to lure the British into his trap.

For the next stop, we’re going to have to drive all the way to Gaffney, but we’ll find one of the most important sites from the American Revolution. On this site in 1781, Patriot forces under the command of General Daniel Morgan defeated British and Loyalist forces under the command of Lt. Colonel Banastre Tarleton. On it’s own, the Battle of Cowpens didn’t turn the tide of the American Revolution, but it did start a series of events that led to Charles Cornwallis’ eventual defeat at Yorktown Virginia.

32 foot granite monument outside the Cowpens Battlefield Visitor Center 2 sides can be seen with plaque and inscription but they can't be read - and teh Great Seal of the United States on top
Dedicated in 1932, the United States Monument stands next to the modern visitor center at Cowpens National Battlefield.

The site features a battlefield trail where interpretative signs tell the story of the battle and a visitor center where you can get more information and view a short film on the battle. There’s also a two mile nature walk and picnic areas all part of the national historic site.