National Scenic Byways Road Trip

It is reaching that time of year again. Mother Nature is offering us respite from the humidity and the leaves are slowly beginning to crisp with radiant color, signaling that it’s now the perfect time for a fall road trip in South Carolina. There are a few routes we have in mind, all of which will lead you to experience breathtaking views, diverse landscapes, intriguing history, and plenty of adventure.

There are only four roads in South Carolina that have the honored distinction of being called National Scenic Byways. By definition, they are roads recognized by the United States Department of Transportation for having archeological, cultural, historic, natural, recreational, and scenic intrinsic qualities. Here’s a breakdown of each byway and some of the must-see stops along the way during this fall season.

Cherokee Foothills

The name says it all…these were the stomping grounds of the Cherokee and a lush landscape that inspired them to call this region “The Great Blue Hills of God.” Today, the ancient pathway is a two-lane paved road that arcs through mountain villages, peach orchards, and over Lake Keowee. This byway is the longest at 118 miles and is a connection for all facets of mountain culture from petroglyphs to moonshine smuggling, battlefields, white water rapids, and grist mills.

For the Fall
There’s never a better season to stop by a local farm, and the Cherokee Foothills National Scenic Byway connects plenty of them for you to choose from. The view of sloping vineyards and rising mountain peaks alone is worth the stop at Chattooga Belle, but they also have a great gift shop, restaurant, and a cabin rental. There’s alsoBryson’s Apple Orchard, which has a huge selection of homegrown produce, fresh-pressed cider, and specialty items too. Cherokee Foothills is also home to the famousJocassee Gorges. Here, you can take a boat tour and see why this area was named a “Destination of a Lifetime” by National Geographic. Fall is also a great time of year for events in this area, including the Pumpkin Festival at Pumpkintown and the Story Telling Festival at Hagood Mill. History Buffs will love stopping by Oconee Station (pictured above), once an outpost for the S.C. State Militia from about 1792-99.

Stay & Eat
Stay overnight or grab lunch at Chattooga Belle Farm, check out the amazing camping and cabins at Devil’s Fork State Park, or have a mountain boutique experience at Three Pines View. You could also grab either a bistro-style lunch atVictoria Valley Vineyards or a traditional country cooking at Aunt Sue’s before hiking in Table Rock State Park for one of the most famous views in the state.

Savannah River

Running parallel to the Savannah River, this byway of the same name weaves through small town South Carolina and boasts farmland views, golf, outdoor recreation, and loads of history. The lush forests and pristine waterways that once enticed colonization here through the Great Wagon Road are still prevalent, making this prime for road trip adventures in a charming rural setting.

For the Fall
We suggest traveling down the Savannah River National Scenic Byway and go town hopping. Start in downtown Anderson, which is just 10 minutes off the actual byway and is an emerging foodie hub. Tuesday evenings you can enjoy the local food trucks, or any time walk around the downtown district for local eateries and shopping. A few other highlights down the road are Abbeville’s town square, which has changed little in its appearance and charm over the centuries. There’s also McCormick, which is surrounded by outdoor recreation opportunities at the Little River Blueway and nearby Hickory Knob State Park.

Stay & Eat
Fannie Kate’s is a quaint restaurant and inn located in the heart of downtown McCormick. You could also check out the camping and cabins at Hickory Knob. In the Anderson area, don’t miss Palmetto Moonshine for your local spirits, The Sweeteryfor some goodies, Viva! il Vino for a taste of wine, and J Peters for dinner before you hang your hat at The Bleckley Inn for the night. In Abbeville, check out the historicBelmont Inn for meals or an overnight stay! 

Ashley River

This 11-mile stretch dates back to least 1671 when paths were cut from the plantations along the Ashley River to the bustling port city of Charles Towne. The dusty trail has seen every era of history from Revolutionary War encampments to the devastation of the Civil War. This byway presents an awe-inspiring view, with huge Live Oaks towering above as you make your way through the South Carolina Lowcountry.

For the Fall
Make this byway a time machine and roam the grounds at Colonial Dorchester, a pre-Revolutionary settlement on the Ashley River. Next it’s on to three very different plantations. Drayton Hall is the oldest, and is meticulously preserved. The main house is a looming brick structure and one of the finest examples of Georgian-Palladian architecture in the United States. The home has no furnishings and the grounds and slave cemetery are maintained as is, offering visitors a rare glance at history in an untouched atmosphere. Middleton Place is comprised of America’s oldest landscaped gardens, a house museum, living history farm, and an on-site inn and restaurant. There are also excursions you can take from here, including kayaking and equestrian trail rides. Magnolia opened its gates to the public in 1870, making it the oldest tourist attraction in the Charleston area. Their gardens are in the Romantic-style, meaning they are not formally landscaped and can almost envelop you in nature. They also have a house tour, zoo, nature train, and boat tours.

Stay & Eat
Stay right on the byway at the Inn at Middleton or venture into Summerville to enjoy a wine tasting at Accent on Wine, dinner at the Ice House, and cozy up at Price House Cottage B&B

Edisto Island

It’s called the “Edi-slow” way of life; a laid-back, barefoot, porch sittin’ type of place.This byway oozes with Lowcountry culture as every inch of pavement is flanked by moss covered trees, marshland, native wildlife, and wooden planked churches. The undeveloped island was once home to the Edistow Indians before it was populated with wealthy Sea Island cotton planters. Relatively small in length at 14 miles, this byway packs in over 30 different points of interest from bridges to farmers markets, historic sites, and nature trails.

For the Fall
Though fall is usually off-season on the coast, Edisto Island National Scenic Byway offers a fabulous road trip during any time of year. The first order of business is Botany Bay, a 3,363-acre Wildlife Management Area with a smorgasbord of historic and natural features. You can take a driving tour, bike, hike, fish, and take an eco-boat ride. There are also several historic churches in the area, which all stand as a solemn testament to the island’s intriguing past. There are also tons of events you might consider this fall, like their annual plantation tourFall FestivalBluegrass Festival, and regular Arts & Crafts Market.

Stay & Eat
There are no hotels on the island, so you’ll have to browse the rentals or check out Edisto Beach State Park for their oceanfront cabins and camping sites. Don’t forget to sample the local flavor along this byway at their several locally owned markets and restaurants like Geechie Boy Market & MillKing’s Farm Market, and Flowers Seafood Company.