With warm weather upon us, many will make the biannual pilgrimage to nearby Jones Gap, Pretty Place, Bald Rock, or Caesars Head, each less than an hour from downtown Greenville. But sometimes the adventure bug demands new exploits. When it’s time to wander farther afield, here are some well-vetted suggestions for scenic drives, each with utterly delightful optional stops.
A Carolina Quest
Landrum, SC, Tryon, NC, and Saluda, NC
2 hours round-trip, cute villages, meandering roads, and vintage mercantile
Getting there: From downtown Greenville, head north on Poinsett Highway to State Park Road (SC-253 N) and enjoy beautiful Foothills vistas. When you arrive at North Greenville University in Tigerville, turn right onto SC-414 (follow signs for a slight detour to include Campbell’s Covered Bridge) and follow to SC-14. Turn left and head north. When Landrum’s quaint downtown emerges in front of you, stop and explore, or turn left on US-176 N to Tryon, a short trek over the state line. Tryon is loaded with attractions, from art and antiques to equestrian-themed décor; its Architectural Warehouse is an eye-popping stop. Follow US-176 as it winds along the North Pacolet River, and you’ll arrive in charming downtown Saluda. Park the car and check out the shops along Main Street. Just northeast of Saluda, on State Road 1142, is the Gorge, which offers zip-line canopy tours of the Green River Gorge and a stunning visitors center.
Getting home: For an alternate return route, take Greenville Street south from downtown Saluda to Old Hwy 25 for a pleasant drive past the protected North Saluda Reservoir, the source of Greenville’s divine drinking water.
Hot spot: The Purple Onion in downtown Saluda (live music on the weekends)
Clayton, Lake Burton, Lake Rabun, and Tallulah Falls, GA
4.5 hours round-trip, boathouses, galleries, and waterfalls
Getting there: Take Pete Hollis Boulevard (SC-183) west from downtown Greenville to Pickens. Cross Lake Keowee and drive through the charming towns of Walhalla and Westminster, where you’ll then head west on US-76 across the Chattooga River (keep your ears primed for that iconic banjo line—this is where Deliverance was filmed). This route drops into the heart of downtown Clayton, GA, a excellent spot to stretch your legs. Continue west on US-76 for seven miles, then turn left onto Charlie Mountain Road and catch views of Lake Burton, where million-dollar homes dot the shoreline. When the road ends at Bridge Creek Road, make a right and go until that road also ends. Make a left on Seed Lake Road and soak in the waterfront properties in this chain of lakes. The road changes names to Lake Rabun Road as you approach the Lake Rabun Inn and Louie’s on the Lake. Both offer a comfy spot for a break with food and drink. Continue through the village of Lakemont—home to several galleries—and you’ll now be on Old 441. At 1.3 miles out of Lakemont, take a right on Wylie Connector Road to US-441. Head south to the small town of Tallulah Falls, where you’ll spot the turn-off for Tallulah Gorge Trails and Scenic Loop, an interesting detour that includes Karl Wallenda’s tightwire across the gorge.
Getting home: Continue south on US-441 to US-123, which takes you through Toccoa (home to more falls), Clemson, Easley, and back into Greenville.
Hot spot: Universal Joint in downtown Clayton
Flat Rock, Brevard, NC, and Sassafras Mountain, SC
3.5 hours round-trip, mountain orchards, valley farms, and long-distance views
Getting there: Take US-25 N toward Asheville, exiting onto NC-225 to Flat Rock. Explore this colorful village on foot if you’re so inclined. Make a left on Little River Road toward the Carl Sandburg home on your left (the heralded Flat Rock Playhouse is on your right). This pastoral setting is a beautiful outdoor stop, especially for kids, who can greet the goats raised at the Sandburg home. Continue north until the road ends at Crab Creek Road. Hang a left and enjoy the valley views. You’ll pass the Oskar Blues REEB Ranch, which abuts Dupont State Forest and its triple falls. When you see the US-64 junction, make a quick left just prior onto Old 64, or Old Hendersonville Hwy. This will take you past Oskar Blues Brewery (an excellent stop for a pint) and into the heart of downtown Brevard, where you can stroll, shop, and grab a bite. (For a fun side-adventure, try to glimpse Brevard’s famous white squirrels, most often spotted on the Brevard College campus). Continue west on US-64. After about eight miles, turn left onto US-178. Pass through Rosman and drive eight more miles to Rocky Bottom and follow signs to Sassafras Mountain, South Carolina’s highest peak. Climb (or drive) to the top for views of four different states.
Getting home: Continue south on US-178, crossing SC-11. Take a left on SC-288 to Pumpkintown. Continue through Slater-Marietta, turning right on US-276 to Travelers Rest and on to Greenville.
Hot spot: The front porch of Marco Trattoria in Brevard, NC
Head for the Hills
US-64 through Cashiers, Highlands, and Franklin, NC
5–6 hours round-trip, upscale resorts and towns, mountain lakes, and magnificent waterfalls
Getting there: From Greenville, take US-25 N to Hendersonville, NC. Hop onto US-64 and head west. Filled with tight curves and sharp drop-offs, this gorgeous highway winds through the Blue Ridge Mountains. Each of the popular towns along the way—Cashiers, Highlands, and Franklin—is a destination in itself; explore as you wish. West of Highlands, look for signs to Dry Falls, an easy-to-reach must-visit cascade where you descend a flight of stairs to walk behind a massive waterfall.
Getting home: Reverse course and enjoy the drive from a different perspective, or for a shorter return take US-441 S from Franklin, where you can hop onto US-76 E, then to US-123 back to Greenville.
Hot spot: Mountain Fresh Grocery in Highlands (Eat in or take out; plenty of provisions for picnics, including a diverse wine selection. Don’t miss the doughnuts made fresh that morning.)