Caesar’s Head State Park

About Caesar’s Head State Park

The Cherokee and their ancestors where the first people to lay eyes on what we now call Caesar’s Head in northern Greenville County. Described by Robert Mills, prominent SC architect and designer of the Washington Monument, as 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.” The view from the top has inspired awe in visitors for generations.

Line of mountains dropping off to lower land below with lake in the distance.
The Blue Ridge Escarpment as seen from the Caesars Head Overlook.

What is the What is the Blue Ridge Escarpment?

When people talk about Caesars Head, one of the things they always mention is the Blue Ridge Escarpment which leaves lots of people scratching their heads wondering what that is. Simply put, an escarpment is a steep slope or cliff that separates two areas of different elevations. So the Blue Ridge Escarpment marks the dividing line between the Blue Ridge Mountain Region of South Carolina and the Piedmont.

From high atop the granite face of Caesars Head, you’ll get the best view of the Blue Ridge Escarpment around, and it’s especially stunning in the fall.

Southern Edge of the Blue Ridge Mountains in fall dropping down to the Piedmont below. The leaves are changing and reds yellows an browns and greens color the scenery
The Southern edge of the Blue Ridge Mountains – known as the Blue Ridge Escarpment – in fall as seen from the overlook at Caesars Head State Park in South Carolina.

Caesars Head’s History

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.

Standing on what was once Cherokee hunting grounds, Caesar’s Head became a retreat for the area’s rich and powerful. The cool air and scenic views enticed former state senator Benjamin Hagood to build a summer home and later hotel on the mountain in 1848. Hagood’s daughter and her husband continued to operate a hotel and health resort until finally giving the land to Furman University in 1897.

The resort changed hands a number of times in the following years. But unfortunately the hotel and original house where destroyed in a fire in 1954. Then in 1976, the Department of Parks, recreation, and Tourism acquired the lands and created the park.

Granite overlook with iron safety railings and coin operated binoculars on a clear day with views for miles and miles
The Caesars Head State Park Overlook offers great views all year long, but if you’re able to visit in the Fall, expect a spectacular display of color.

Why is it Called Caesar’s Head?

view of Caesar's head state park outcrop from the side through the trees. the true height of the overlook can be seen from this angle
View of the Caesar’s Head State Park granite outcrop overlook from the side. Even of you don’t brave the Devil’s Kitchen, you can still follow the really short trail at the end of the parking lot to this spot.

The name “Caesar’s Head” is the source of some controversy. No one really knows the reason for the name. Some say the rock outcrop looks like a giant bust of Julius Caesar. Others think the name originated with a hunting dog named Caesar that jumped to its death while chasing a rabbit. Sill others think it’s a corruption if the Cherokee word “sachem” or chief.

Whatever the truth is, what you’ll find from the top of Caesar’s Head is an impressive view of the southernmost boundary of the Blue Ridge Mountains and the valley below. With its panoramic views Caesars Head is one of the best places to check out the mountains in the upstate. Table Rock, Paris Mountain, and the surrounding mountains are all easily viewed from the overlook. On a clear day, you can see as far away as Georgia.

Fall at Caesars Head State Park Overlook

turkey buzzard with wings outstretched seen from the top above forest canopy
Not a Hawk. A Turkey Buzzard soaring above the canopy as seen from the Caesars Head Overlook

The overlook at Caesar’s Head is home to many events during the year. Every fall, thousands of hawks can be seen on their migration to warmer climates in South and Central America. From early September through the end of November, the Greenville County Bird Club keeps and eye on the hawks and other raptors along their journey. Hawk watchers have documented thousands of hawks in a single day with up to 300 traveling overhead at the same time. You might also see other raptors like bald eagles, kestrels, peregrine falcons, or turkey vultures flying along the same route.

wooden boardwalk with black iron fence on each side heading to the Caesars Head lookout just before the overlook at the edge of fthe head. Trees grow on each side with leaves of yellow and orange.
In Fall, even the boardwalk leading to the Caesars Head Lookout offers a kaleidoscope of color even before you get to the overlook.

Fall also brings another dramatic event to Caesars Head. Perched atop the overlook on the high rock outcrop, you’ll have the beast seat in the Upstate to witness the annual leaf change in the fall. Be warned though, expect heavy traffic and lots of people thinking the same thing. Best to go early or during the week when it’s less crowded.

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.

Devils Kitchen at Caesars Head State Park

After you’ve taken in the views from the overlook you can take a quick side trip through the Devils Kitchen. The name sounds scary and if you’re at all claustrophobic you may want to give this one a miss. The path will take you down a narrow crevice between two boulders. The passage is only large enough for one person at a time. After braving the “kitchen” you’ll be treated to a spectacular side view of Caesars Head.

the Devils Kitchen Caesars Head State Park - narrow passageway between two boulders with flight of stars running between
If you’re claustrophobic, you might want to avoid the Devils Kitchen Caesars Head State Park, but if you brave this narrow passageway, you’ll be treated with a side view of the Caesars Head Overlook.

Hiking and Picnicking at Caesar’s Head State Park

They’re still lots of other things for you to do at the park. Caesars Head connects to Jones Gap State Park to form the Mountain Bridge Wilderness Area. That a total of 13,000 acres of unspoiled forest. From Caesars Head, you have access to over 60 miles of hiking trails. Some are loops and others lead into Jones Gap. You’ll find trails to suit any fitness level form easy to strenuous.

picnic tables near caesars head overlook with view of valley bellow
Picnic Tables near Caesars Head State Park Overlook

Six waterfalls are accessible through the park including Raven Cliff Falls, a 420 foot fall over Matthews Creek. The trail to the Raven Cliff Overlook is only 4 miles round trip, but if you’re feeling adventurous, you can try the 6.6 mile trail to a suspension bridge above the falls. There you’ll be treated to a view of the falls plunging into the valley below.

green forested valley with lake and mountains seen in distance
The view from the Caesars Head State Park Overlook includes nearby sights like Table Rock and the Table Rock reservoir.

If hiking isn’t your thing, Caesars Head offers plentiful opportunities for fishing, picnicking, and even primitive camping. Wildlife is plentiful at Caesars Head. Birdwatchers will find 167 species of bird. Other wildlife you may encounter on the trails are black bear, peregrine falcons, and the endangered Green Salamander.

Access to the overlook is free, but trail access starts at $3.00 for adults, $1.50 for seniors, and $1.00 for kids aged 6-15 with children 5 and under free. The park is open from 9 am to 9 pm during daylight savings time but closes at 6 pm the rest of the year.

Fast Facts about Caesar’s Head State Park

Type:State Park
Admission:Overlook and Picnic Tables Are Free!
Trail access: $3 adults; $1.50 seniors; $1 children age 6-15; age 5 & younger free
Hours:9 am-9 pm during daylight saving time. 9am-6pm the remainder of the year
Location:8155 Greer Hwy, Cleveland, SC 29635
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Things to do at Caesars Head: Spectacular views from the overlook, picnicking, hiking, fishing, hunting

Map to Caesars Head in South Carolina