Oconee State Park offers the joys of a mountain retreat without the work. The historic park rests deep in the Blue Ridge foothills, with several picturesque but non-demanding hiking trails and well-kept cabins and campgrounds that have welcomed families for annual trips since the days the park was first built by the Civilian Conservation Corps during the Great Depression. The parks fishing lakes offer bass and bream and the woods are full of wildlife, fur and feather alike. Oconee State Park also serves as the southern trailhead for the Foothills Trail, an 80-mile wilderness hike on the dramatic Blue Ridge Escarpment on up to Table Rock. Adjacent to Sumter National Forest, the park also serves as a jumping off point to the nearby Chattooga and Chauga rivers, hotspots for whitewater rafting and trout fishing. For those wanting to take it easy, Oconee State Park is an ideal destination. After all, its mailing address is the town of Mountain Rest.
Our group thoroughly enjoyed this beautiful trail. There are multiple streams to cross throughout the hike and a breathtaking view of the falls mid-hike. The elevation change isn't much at all, so not much to worry about. I would highly recommend this Trail even for beginners.
I through hiked the trail from Table Rock State Park to Oconee State Park in late February.
The entire through hike is 77 miles (not 67 as listed above), and includes a good bit of elevation change—you'll begin and end around 1200', regularly climb to over 3000' (Sassafras Mountain is over 3500') and regularly descend to below 1600'. There are many sections that are easy, and many that are quite strenuous for backpacking. Water is plentiful, as are camping sites. Thanks to the work of the Foothills Trail Conference, the trail is in great shape and very clearly marked.
For my through hike, I did about 9 miles the first day, 25 the second, 29 the third, and 15 the final day. That was arduous. I had set out to do the trail in three nights, and the next time around, I'll take my time. There is so much to see and so many delightful places to stop and rest. Waterfalls, overlooks, gorgeous streams. It's truly a special place.
Late February was a perfect time and my weather couldn't have been better. Highs in the low 70s, low around 31, clear sunny skies, and no leaves on the trees. Ideal conditions.
My favorite sections were where the Toxaway River enters Lake Jocassee (best camp sites on the trail) and the 5+ miles along the Chattooga River just after Burrell's Ford.
I relied heavily on Scott Lynch's exceptional little guide, "Hiking South Carolina's Foothills Trail."
I posted a bunch of pictures here:
This was a great relaxing and fun trail! Most of the trail is really easy, though it is not marked super well and can be a little confusing at some points. I did have to stop and question if I was on the path at a few points. You do have to cross through some creek beds, and the first one doesn't really have any rocks to step on, so be prepared for wet feet. There are also several fallen trees to climb over, but nothing difficult.
Once you get to the first little water fall, be prepared to climb. To get to the large, main waterfall, you have to go to the left and follow the not very well maintained path over fallen trees and rocks. It is definitely manageable, but also a little bit of a fun challenge and totally worth it if you make it all the way up right by the waterfall. If it was warmer out, I would have probably attempted to get closer to the mist of the falls.