Astute readers have by this point noted my ridiculous love affair with Table Rock State Park, but I am not ashamed. Since I did my hike up to Table Rock Mountain back in June, I’ve been itching to hike the other main trail there, which is Pinnacle Mountain Trail. I finally got to it this past Saturday.
Both trails are rated as “Strenuous”, and Pinnacle Mountain is a bit longer one-way (4.2 vs 3.6 miles), but both online reviews and park rangers say that Pinnacle is somewhat easier because it doesn’t have as many stair-like sections. It’s also, by far, less traveled than Table Rock Trail, which I found to be the case on this sunny humid August morning. I checked the weather before leaving because the sky looked somewhat ominous. Here in Taylors, there was a 7% chance of rain, but in Pickens, which is only 30 miles away, it was a 51% chance. I decided to believe the Taylors forecast and headed out around 8:30.
It takes about 50 minutes to drive up to Table Rock from my apartment, and the sky remained somewhat threatening throughout the drive. I arrived at the parking lot and saw the fewest cars I’ve seen in my five trips there this summer – by a longshot; you can tell school is back in session down here.
I stopped in the Nature Center and registered my intent to hike and had a short conversation with the friendly rangers staffing the desk, then headed out past the paved portion of the trail, and headed onto the combined Pinnacle Mountain and Carrick Creek trails.
The first 3/4 mile or so of Pinnacle Mountain Trail shares its path with the Carrick Creek loop, which I had hiked a few weeks back, so I was familiar with this section. Once I got onto the Pinnacle trail itself, the sky quickly darkened and I heard the sound of rain on the canopy overhead moving towards me. A couple ahead of me decided to turn around, but I just chuckled to myself and and kept walking. For as much noise as the rain was making overhead, there was very little making it down to me and even that ended after about ten minutes.
Pinnacle Mountain Trail is indeed the quieter of the two trails, as saw no one for the next three miles. The trail climbed steadily through thick forest, which held the humidity to ridiculously high levels; even though the climbing is easier than Table Rock, the sweat was the same. There frankly wasn’t much to photograph along this stretch, though if I had brought a macro lens with me, there were several forest mushrooms and tiny wildflowers that would have been very interesting to photograph.
At around the 2.5 mile mark (there are mile markers, which helps keep the imagination from running wild when lungs are burning), I reached the 0.4-mile spur to Mills Creek Falls. This trail was not very well marked, and there were several places that I had to stop and try to guess the way forward. It was also quite overgrown, and I’m positive that I was the first person down the trail on this morning, because I had to bust through spider webs every ten steps or so.
Mills Creek Falls
I arrived at the falls, where there is a short bridge which used to continue, but is now closed off at the far end, as the main trail up to Pinnacle Mountain no longer passes through this point. I was underwhelmed by the falls, especially when compared with other waterfalls in the area. Even if the water had been flowing hard, the view is obstructed by tree branches, and there are many downed trees as well. It might be worth it when the leaves change, or if the falls were partially frozen, but I don’t think I’ll be eating spider webs again to repeat this part of the hike.
I backtracked to the main trail and then the trail really started climbing, before a short downhill section takes you to a stream crossing. At this crossing, I could see signs that this is where the trail from the falls used to connect. After the crossing, the climbing for the next half-mile is similar to much of the Table Rock Trail, with large steps up roots and rocks, but I was soon rewarded with the best park of the hike: Bald Knob Overlook. This is not the summit, but the summit is in the woods with no view, so I didn’t bother going up past the overlook.
Bald Knob Overlook
That lake in the right third of the picture is where I had started the hike, and where we spent a day swimming when the girls were here. I was 4.07 miles in at this point with 1,865 feet of ascent behind me. This was a fantastic place to take a break, eat some food, and take some pictures.
Breaking into the sun meant the temperature increased from the woods, but the humidity was much less once getting out of forest. The main overlook area has some trees blocking the view, but I walked down a short distance to the left and found this awesomely clear view from south to west. I had my new Fuji XT-1 camera with me on this day with the 18-135mm lens, and it has a fantastic panorama shooting feature which I used to take a few panos.
As usual down here, I had great chats with several people while at the overlook, and we agreed this would be a great place to base jump or use a hang glider since the drop off was so steep. As you would expect on such a humid day, there was a great deal of haze in the sky, but I actually found the haze quite nice, and thought it made the distant peaks look as if they had been painted.
The sun actually began to break through while I was up there and some of the haze burned off, giving a clearer view of the surrounding area.
After I felt ready to tackle the descent, I scrambled back up to the main overlook area and shot some pictures of the wildflowers. Again, these would have turned out better with a macro lens, but they were pretty nonetheless.
I went fairly fast on the trip back down, which is much easier than the trip back down Table Rock Trail, because you don’t have as many huge drop-offs that destroy your knees. I did take one picture on the downhill:
I was thinking about why I wasn’t taking pictures during the hike up or down, despite the fact that this was my first hike with the new camera. I realized that there are days I hike to take pictures, and days I take pictures while I hike; this was the latter. I’ve had this trail as a challenge in my mind since tackling TR two months ago, and it was a challenge, especially with the humidity. There were several people ascending the trail as I went down, and they were all just as soaked as I was, and most of them were in better shape than I am. A couple of them also complained about the humidity, which made me feel better.
This was about the limits of what I can do right now, but I probably couldn’t have even completed this hike three months ago. I of course rewarded myself with the best Mexican restaurant in Greenville, La Reata, then cleaned up at home and collapsed on the couch.
Including the Mills Creek Falls spur, I hiked 7.23 miles with 1,865 feet of ascent on the day. This hike took me over 60 total miles of hiking and 12,000 feet of ascent since I moved down here in June. I will definitely do this hike again, but perhaps once the leaves are off the trees so there are more views along the way.
I’ve now hiked two of the three mountains at Table Rock State Park, but there is a third, Stool Mountain. There is not a publicly-accessible trail, but apparently there are sometimes ranger-led hikes up that mountain as well, so that’s something I’ll look into.