Stay on the go with day trips into the outdoors
Members at The Cliffs enjoy easy-access hiking trails within all seven communities and seemingly endless off-the-beaten-path miles just beyond the gates.Take perfect proximity to an abundance of state parks and national forests—then add in some of the South’s ideal fall weather—and you’ve got a calendar chock-full of potential day trips.
Just ask Jim Floyd. He and his wife Shawn purchased a retirement home in The Cliffs at Walnut Cove in 2019 and now they’re making the most of its prime location. A few steps out the door and they can be hiking into Pisgah National Forest; within a mile, they are on the Blue Ridge Parkway segment of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail.
Floyd has been into the outdoors all his life. Raised in eastern West Virginia, he grew up spending as much time outside as possible—much of that in the Shenandoah Valley. He moved to Upstate South Carolina to attend Clemson University, where he earned a degree in Forestry and Forest Management while spending “a lot” of his college years exploring the lakes—Hartwell, Keowee, and Jocassee—and state parks surrounding the Tiger Town campus. After a career that began in forest products with Proctor & Gamble, he knew that he wanted to retire somewhere that offered opportunities to do what he loves best: hiking, kayaking, and spending time in nature.
“I love the Blue Ridge Parkway and trails there, and I love Jocassee, but my favorite [places to explore] may be the ‘Four Jewels’ of the Upstate,” Floyd says, referring to four rivers in North and South Carolina—Whitewater, Thompson, Horsepasture, and Toxaway—that flow into Lake Jocassee. These gems sparkle with multiple waterfalls, including the upper and lower Whitewater Falls along Whitewater; High Falls and Big Falls along Thompson; and Drift Falls (aka Bust-Your-Butt Falls), Turtleback Falls, and Rainbow Falls along Horsepasture.
“The easiest to see is the Toxaway Falls,” he says, noting the accessible location just off North Carolina Highway 64 as it crosses the Toxaway River. “You just park beside the road and walk over and look at Toxaway Falls.”
Parking places filled with day trip possibilities include:
Devils Fork State Park
This South Carolina State Park offers the only public access to Lake Jocassee, a stunning mountain lake nestled within the Jocassee Gorges. Devils Fork is your entry to all of it: clear, cool water, hidden waterfalls, and the Carolinas’ best trout fishing. The park offers boat ramps, fishing, camping sites, and 20 lakeside villas. It’s also home to the Oconee Bell Trail, home of the rare Oconee Bell wildflower. Don’t miss a quick detour to Jumping Off Rock, a high point boasting amazing panoramas.
Pisgah National Forest
This treasure comprises more than 500,000 acres of mile-high peaks, whitewater rivers, cascading waterfalls, and hundreds of miles of hiking and biking trails through the hardwood forests of Western North Carolina. If driving is your speed, head down Highway 276—also known as the Forest Heritage Scenic Byway—where you can find Sliding Rock, Looking Glass Falls and Moore Cove Falls along the 15-mile distance.
Jones Gap State Park
An easy drive from all The Cliffs communities, this South Carolina State Park boasts 4,246 acres of pristine mountain woodlands and South Carolina’s first state-designated scenic river. Part of the Mountain Bridge Wilderness Area, this is a hiker’s paradise, with more than 60 miles of all levels of difficulty and 18 backcountry campsites. For those looking for a view, there are two gorgeous waterfalls: Wildcat Wayside Falls and Rainbow Falls.
Caesars Head State Park
This easy-access South Carolina State Park enjoys national acclaim as a natural landmark with a dramatic overlook atop the rocky peak of the Blue Ridge Escarpment. It also features five waterfalls—including the 420-foot cascade of Raven Cliff Falls—and multiple hiking trails. Like Jones Gap, Caesars Head is part of the Mountain Bridge Wilderness Area.
This story was featured in Cliffs Living magazine. To read more stories like this one and learn more about The Cliffs, subscribe here.