Paris Mountain State Park
Located just a few miles outside of Greenville, South Carolina, Paris Mountain feels like it’s hundreds of miles away and offers a welcome escape from the traffic and congestion. The isolated peak rises above the Piedmont to a total height of 2000 feet above sea level, and offers a history lesson on the earliest European settlement of Upstate of South Carolina.
Paris Mountain Named After The First European Settler in Greenville
Legend has it that when the white man first began arriving in Greenville, a Cherokee chief sought to protect what we now call Paris Mountain. For his entire life he refused to allow settlers on Paris Mountain, but as the years took their toll on his health, he was forced to turn this responsibility over to his daughter and her husband.
Seeing a chance for profit, his son in law sold Paris Mountain to a white settler. The chief’s daughter was furious, and in a fit of rage killed her husband and then fell on the knife herself.
That white settler may have been Richard Pearis from Virginia. Well known to the Cherokee people, Pearis had traded extensively with the Cherokee all over the south east before arriving in South Carolina. In the mid 1750’s Pearis is known to have fathered a son named George with a Cherokee woman.
In 1770, Pearis and his family, including George, arrived in Greenville claiming to have a land deed to 12 square miles. After a few years, he was forced to surrender his claim on the land due to a 1739 law banning British Citizens from owning Indian land. But Pearis was able to convince Cherokee leaders to resell the land, this time to his half Cherokee son. George then transferred the land back to his father.
Part of the land Richard and George owned in Greenville County included what came to be known as Pearis Mountain, but over time the spelling changed to Paris Mountain.
They wouldn’t own the land for long, though. When hostilities broke out between the Colonies and Britain, Richard Pearis remained loyal to the Crown. Patriot forces seized his land and burned his house. Pearis was forced to flee to the British controlled Bahamas where he lived the rest of his life as a planter.
Utilitarian Conservation Movement on Paris Mountain
During the 19th Century, the Paris Mountain was caught up in the “healing waters” craze. The mineral springs around Paris Mountain were so sought after by the rich wanting to “Take the Waters” that a resort was built atop the mountain in 1890. The hotel only operated for a few years before being sold to N. J. Holmes who founded the Holmes Bible College on site. It was again sold around 1918 to a group planning on converting it into a sanitarium to take advantage of the “healing waters”, but it mysteriously burned down before completion.
But the rich and desperate weren’t the only ones interested in the waters on Paris Mountain. By the late 19th Century, the city of Greenville was growing rapidly. The need for clean water led city leaders to eye the watershed at Paris Mountain.
The Paris Mountain Water Company was established in 1888, and began building the dams and reservoirs that now form the centerpiece of the state park. Realizing the need to keep the water clean for human consumption, they bought much more land than was needed. This ensured that they could keep the city’s water supply free of pollutants.
Protecting the water supply had another effect. It also protected the rest of the natural resources on and around the mountain. This utilitarian conservation philosophy protected the plants, animals, and soil around the reservoirs and created the perfect conditions for when the state park movement began.
Civilian Conservation Corps Comes to Paris Mountain
Established in 1933, the Civilian Conservation Corps was a key component of Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal. The CCC was the driving force in building state parks all over the country including 16 in South Carolina.
Most of the buildings in the park today as well as the trails and roads were built by the CCC in the 1930’s. The philosophy of the early state park movement can still be seen at Paris Mountain today. The idea was to make everything blend into the natural surroundings and not stick out.
Local materials were used and building techniques such as using rough-hewn logs give structures a rustic look like they’re from pioneer days. Paths and bridges were built the same way, and the buildings constructed from local stone give everything a captivating style. Conservation and recreation were the overarching goals in designing the park.
Paris Mountain Today
Most of the CCC structures are still standing and in use today. As recreation was a major concern in building state parks, the lakes at Paris Mountain became the central focus of the park.
The only lake accessible by car and the first point of interest you reach after entering the park. Lake Placid is located at the foot of the mountain and has become the focal point of the park.
The original bath house built by the CCC has been converted into a visitor center and it looks out on a small beach and swimming area. During the warmer months canoes, kayaks, and pedalboats can be rented from the office.
A trail runs around the lake and past CCC picnic shelters and across a footbridge constructed by the corps. At the far end of the lake, you can still visit the original dam built by the Paris Mountain Water Company. And there are lots of spots around the lake for picnics and fishing.
At the heart of the park and behind a locked gate is Camp Buckhorn. Constructed by the CCC as a lodge with 10 adjacent cabins, Buckhorn is rented out by the park for private events. While it’s not normally open to the public, I was told that on Thursdays by appointment, they allow people up to see the camp. But you need to call the park office for details.
North Lake and Mountain Lake
Only accessible via hiking/mountain bike trails. Most of the 9 hiking trails are dual use hiking/mountain bike with the exception of Saturdays when it’s hiking only. Reaching the more secluded lakes requires starting on either the Sulpher Springs or Brissy Ridge trails and then turning onto either the Kanuga or Pipsissewa Trails. Primitive camping sites are available around North Lake.
Visiting Paris Mountain State Park
Paris Mountain is only 5 miles from Greenville, but it feels like a world away. If you travel to the top of the mountain, the only sounds you’ll hear are birds singing, the wind blowing, or the occasional stream. It can be a bit daunting to realize that you’re so close to the largest city in South Carolina, but you don’t hear a single car. Most of the park faces away from downtown, so the mountain buffers you from the noise and congestion just a few miles away.
The park also has a range of activities that will suit almost everyone. If you’re looking for a strenuous hike, follow the park road past Lake Placid to either the Sulphur Springs trailhead or continue up to the Brissy Ridge Trail. If you want a nice stroll around a lake, stay around the base of the mountain.
Lake Placid has a designated swimming area and pedal boat rentals during the warmer months. Picnic shelters are along the lake along as well as number of individual picnic tables as well. Fishing is allowed, and you can even see some fish from the shore.
Further up the park road, there are a more picnic shelters including some original CCC shelters at the Sulphur Springs trail head. Sulphur Springs is a scenic spot with a creek running between picnic shelters on either side of a small footbridge. As such it can be a busy spot.
Fast Facts About Paris Mountain State Park
|Admission:||$6 adults; $3.75 SC seniors (age 65 & older); $3.50/ child age 6-15; Free for children 5 and younger.|
|Location:||2401 State Park Rd, Greenville, SC 29609|
Things to do: Hiking (easy to strenuous), Fishing, Swimming, Kayaking, Picnicking