New section of Palmetto Trail opensPublished 6:14pm Tuesday, May 1, 2012
The Palmetto Conservation Foundation (PCF) Saturday, April 28 opened to the public the new 9.1-mile Saluda Mountains Passage segment of the Palmetto Trail.
This new segment, the second phase of the Poinsett Reservoir Passage, runs from Orchard Lake Campground to Talisman Camp near Zirconia, N.C.
Hikers can now start at the Blue Wall Preserve near Lake Lanier, take the Blue Wall Passage to Vaughn’s Gap and continue to Orchard Lake Campground on the Poinsett Reservoir Passage, where they can connect to the Saluda Mountains Passage.
This new moderate to strenuous hiking trail includes trailheads at Orchard Lake Campground in Saluda and Vaughn’s Gap in South Carolina.
Kirk Hall, owner of the Orchard Lake Campground, said his campground was glad to be a local starting off point for both segments of the trail.
“We were happy to provide parking because we are all hikers ourselves,” Hall said. “The only thing is that I am surprised its not as well known in North Carolina as it is in South Carolina – [The Palmetto Trail] is a beautiful hike.”
Hall said he regularly hikes a mile or two from his campground to a church along the way of the Poinsett Reservoir Passage. And he said in the wintertime hikers can catch really nice views of Hogback Mountain.
Hall said parking for hikers interested in tackling either end of the trail is now located at the rear exit of Orchard Lake Campground. For safety and property maintenance, hikers are asked to park only in designated lots.
The Poinsett Watershed is a 19,000-acre tract of property that includes the entire watershed feeding the Poinsett Reservoir of Greenville Water. The trail heads west along Orchard Lake, Mine Mountain and Mountain Page Roads for 2.8 miles to the trail kiosk at the NC/SC state line. It turns north and enters the forest for 1.6 miles, climbing 500 feet up the ridgeline through a series of switchbacks and stairs. Merging onto the unpaved Heatherly Heights Road, where it travels southwest for 0.9 miles before it reenters the forest. For the next 3.5 miles the trail follows the ridges southwest through the Saluda Mountains along the SC/NC state line until it reaches Old US Highway 25. The Talisman Camp parking area is a 0.4-mile walk along Gap Creek and Anders Roads.
The Greenville Watershed, according to the PCF, is one of the most significant wilderness areas in South Carolina and a unique natural habitat for rare plants and animals. The watershed property was acquired by Greenville Water in the 1950s and has been protected since then as a principal water source for the system. In 1993, Greenville Water conveyed an easement on the property to The Nature Conservancy. The commissioners of Greenville Water have granted permission for this hiking trail along the northern perimeter of the watershed.
The opening of the Saluda Mountains Passage was made possible by support from Duke Energy, REI, Greenville Water, South Carolina State Parks, The Cliffs Communities, The Graham Foundation and the Daniel-Mickel Foundation.
Founded in 1989, the Palmetto Conservation Foundation’s mission is to conserve South Carolina’s natural and cultural resources, preserve historic landmarks and promote outdoor recreation through trails and greenways. The non-profit organization also works to protect natural areas through land trust assistance or local government programs, preserve Revolutionary War battlefields and develop greenways and the Palmetto Trail.
For maps of the new passage and all other passages of the Palmetto Trail, visit PCF’s website at www.palmettoconservation.org.