This hike is part of the WPA & Conserving Carolina White Squirrel Hiking Challenge 5. It’s an easy walk to big views at the overlook. What a thrill to know the vast wilderness you see is now protected!
A New Wonderland to Explore
Headwaters State Forest consists of 6,730 forever-protected acres of mountain wonderland featuring beautiful waterfalls, pristine trout streams, and rare mountain bogs. Adjacent to more than 100,000 acres of protected land in North and South Carolina, Headwaters helps to provide an unbroken conservation corridor for both people and wildlife. The forest is open for hiking, hunting, and fishing, and it borders a nine-mile stretch of the Foothills Trail. It is home to numerous rare or endangered plants and animals, including native brook trout and hellbender salamanders. And its namesake headwaters of 50+ miles of crystal-clear streams flow into the French Broad River.
Conserving Carolina and partners The Conservation Fund and NC Forest Service worked for nearly a decade to ensure the permanent conservation and public recreational access to this special land.
The best view within—and of—Headwaters State Forest it from its highest point atop Sassafras Mountain. This peak is also the highest point in South Carolina since the summit is crossed by the NC/SC state line. The summit is crowned with a new observation tower that enables a 360-degree view of the surrounding protected landscape.
CHALLENGE: Hike to the top of Sassafras Mountain
Primary Route: Access road/Foothills Trail from summit parking area
Hiking Distance: 0.5 mi. miles round-trip
Elevation Gain: 80 feet
Click here to enter your address and receive turn-by- turn directions to the trailhead. GPS users may enter N35.0650703, W-82.7769513 in their units. The trailhead is located at a large gravel parking area at the end of Sassafras Mountain Road.
From the parking area, hike the gravel road beyond a metal gate uphill. The summit observation tower comes into view quickly as you begin your short but steep climb uphill to the top of the peak. Climb the stairs of the tower and enjoy the 360 degree view that includes all 6,730 acres of the new Headwaters State Forest visible to the north.
This short walk is all you need to complete this hike for the Hiking Challenge, but if you want to go further you can continue on the Foothills Trail or check out another hike in Headwaters State Forest.
About the WPA & Conserving Carolina Hiking Challenge
The popular White Squirrel Hiking Challenge is back! Take the challenge and go on 8 hikes, all on lands that Conserving Carolina helped protect. If you complete all 8 hikes and you are a Conserving Carolina member, that makes you a Hiking Challenge 5 Champion. You will earn an awards package, including your white squirrel patch and a $10 gift card to Mast General Store in Hendersonville. Most importantly, you get to experience 8 great places and deepen your personal connection to land conservation.
Hiking Challenge 5 is brought to you by Witherspoon Platt + Associates (WPA)—a full service, conservation-oriented real estate brokerage connecting people with the beauty, history, and culture of Western North Carolina through both the built environment and land protection.