Saluda Mountain Passage of Palmetto Trail

By Jennie Jones Giles
In the 1950s, Greenville County in South Carolina bought “for pennies on the acre,” according to many residents, land in Henderson County for the county’s watershed. County residents whose families had lived on the land for generations were forced to move. Land that once was a part of Henderson County, its heritage and history, now became part of South Carolina.
The watershed enforced restrictive rules on the property. People could not enter the watershed, even to maintain old family cemeteries. For nearly 70 years the watershed property was closed to residents whose ancestors lived on the land and to visitors.
In 2012, the Greenville Watershed allowed portions of the Palmetto Trail, a mountain-to-the-sea trail, to pass through a section of the watershed, including some sections that were Henderson County prior to the 1950s.
The recently opened trail is named the Saluda Mountain Passage of the Palmetto Trail.
If beginning the hike in the Green River community, start at the Talisman Camp trailhead, across from the former Elks Camp for Boys, at the state line in Henderson County. The Talisman Camp parking area is a 0.4-mile walk along Gap Creek and Anders Roads in the Green River community of Henderson County.

The Saluda Mountains passage skirts the northern edge of the 19,000-acre Greenville Watershed, dipping in and out of North and South Carolina, as well as the watershed property. The trail crosses the historic Saluda Gap near the Green River community.
It is 9.1 miles long and ends at Orchard Lake Campground in the Mountain Page community of Henderson County, where the Poinsett Reservoir Passage begins.
The hike is considered moderate to strenuous. Camping and pets are not allowed on the trail.
If hikers begin the trail in the Mountain Page community of Henderson County and hike to the Green River community in Henderson County, parking is allowed at Orchard Lake Campground at the rear exit. Hikers are asked to park only in designated lots.

If one begins the hike in Mountain Page, the trail heads west along Mine Mountain and Mountain Page Roads in Henderson County for 2.8 miles to the trail kiosk at the 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 in Henderson County that separates the communities of Mountain Page and Tuxedo, 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 state line until it reaches Old U.S. 25 in the Green River community.
One of the most strenuous sections is from the state line near Talisman Camp to Vance Mountain, near the actual site of the famous Carson-Vance and Baxter-Erwin duels. The trail ascends to the summit of the 2,440-foot Vance Mountain near the Saluda Gap. This is part of the Old Buncombe Turnpike, the early road from Greenville, S.C., to Greeneville, Tenn. Earlier this was one of the main routes early pioneers entered into what is today Henderson County from South Carolina. It was also known as the Saluda Path and used by the Cherokee.
The trail also passes north of Posey Mountain (also known by local residents as Ward Mountain and Cleveland Mountain) where the Confederate breastworks were built during the Civil War. The trail passes east of the “Kingdom of the Happy Land” property.
Another section of the trail, Poinsett Passage, is a 6.6-mile moderate hike beginning at Orchard Lake Campground near the Henderson County and Polk County line. It travels southeasterly back into Greenville County, S.C. Then it goes through the Greenville Watershed and ends at Vaughn’s Gap. The trail has about a 900-foot ascent from Orchard Lake to Rocky Spur, which is nearly one mile from Vaughn’s Gap. From Rocky Spur, the trail descends about 400 feet. The trail has some steep stair step sections.
This trail also passes through historic sections of Henderson County that became part of the Greenville Watershed in the 1950s. The northern part of this trail is through a famous moon shining section at the corner of Polk County, Henderson County, and Greenville County, S.C.