QUICK TAKE: Mountain Bridge State Natural Area
DRIVE TIME: Mountain Bridge State Natural Area is located in the northwest corner of South Carolina, about 135 miles (21/2 hours) east of Atlanta, Georgia, and 95 miles (2 hours) west of Charlotte, North Carolina.
THE WAY: From Greenville, South Carolina, follow US 276 north for 25 miles to Caesars Head State Park. Park at the visitor center or Raven Cliff Falls trailhead.
TRAILS: The 18 trails offer more than 46 miles of rugged hiking. The 85-mile Foothills Trail courses through the north end of the wilderness.
ELEVATION: The highest point is the overlook at Caesars Head (3,200 feet); the lowest point is Jones Gap trailhead (1,320 feet).
CAN’T MISS: The area is a flyway for raptors such as hawks, osprey, and peregrine falcons. Spring and fall is when the action occurs; more than 10,000 birds were counted last fall.
CROWD CONTROL: Camp at designated sites only. Spring and fall weekends are the only times campsites may be full, but at midweek there are almost always vacancies. Jones Gap and Raven Cliff Falls are the most popular trails to hike.
MAPS AND BOOKS: You can purchase a topo map of the area ($2.10) and the Mountain Bridge Trail Guide ($18.50) at either Caesars Head or Jones Gap visitor centers or in advance at the address to the right.
PIT STOP: Brevard, North Carolina, just 20 minutes north, has several outdoor shops for any gear crisis.
WALK SOFTLY: Mountain bikes and horses are prohibited on the trails.
MORE INFORMATION: Caesars Head and Jones Gap State Parks, 8155 Greer Highway, Cleveland, SC 29635; (864) 836-6115. Camping permits must be obtained from either one of the state park headquarters. They cost $2 per person per night.