The Upcountry Is Calling: Cruise the Cherokee Foothills National Scenic Byway

Learn more about this unique drive in South Carolina

Sun setting over Sassafras Mountain in South Carolina Photo courtesy of Discover Upcountry

One of the most scenic stretches of highway in the South meanders from Gaffney to Georgia, so snap that requisite shot of The Peachoid and hop on South Carolina’s Cherokee Foothills National Scenic Byway, your new favorite weekend drive. 

For 120 miles, S.C. Highway 11 — the Cherokee Foothills National Scenic Byway — traces a course along the southernmost peaks of the Blue Ridge Mountains. This road, once called the Keowee or Cherokee Path, served as a market route for Cherokee, French, and English traders, connecting Tennessee with the port in Charleston. Today, it’s a two-lane break from highway speeds, a chance to slow down and take in the sights, an opportunity to discover the Upcountry at your pace. 

Along the way, you can explore as you like, stopping for antique shops, farm stands, and — in season — u-pick apple and peach orchards. But you may want to get closer to nature with a visit to waterfalls — Wildcat Branch Falls sits right on the byway near the Cleveland community; you can see the lower falls from the pull-off or take the easy 1-mile hike to the upper falls — or a stop in one of the state parks, wilderness areas, or battlefields nearby. Cowpens National Battlefield, where a crucial victory was won by the Patriots in the Revolutionary War, has a leg-stretching trail around the battlefield, and Table Rock State Park delivers miles of trails, including one to the top of the namesake 3,100-foot rock. 

Sure, you can take on the Cherokee Foothills National Scenic Byway in one easy drive, but savor the Upcountry and plan for a night or two along the way. State parks along the route offer cabins and camping, but you’ll find charming motels, inns, and B&Bs just off the Byway. The Red Horse Inn in Landrum has pet-friendly cabins and plenty of room in the inn for a couple’s getaway. In Salem, Sunrise Farm Bed & Breakfast is a 10-acre retreat on a onetime cotton farm. And in Walhalla, two charming rooms at Lofts Over Main put you steps away from downtown dining and shopping. 

When should you hit the road and experience the Cherokee Foothills National Scenic Byway yourself? Now, of course, but the Byway offers gorgeous views in any season. From spring’s rebirth of mountain foliage to fall’s fantastic color show, and from summer’s deep green to frosty winter mornings, this drive will have you ready to come back to see what’s in store every weekend of the year. 

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