Top Ten Tent Camping in the Carolinas
Cherry Hill Campground is the focal point for the Cherry Hill Recreation Area. And, as one of the best national forest campgrounds in the Southern Appalachians, it is a fine place to be. The campground, located in the shallow upper valley of West Fork Creek, lies covered with an abundant understory beneath a towering forest of hardwood and pine. The Forest Service must work hard to keep the vegetation from reclaiming this land.
Just off SC 107 is the entrance to Cherry Hill Campground. Immediately to the left is a circular turnaround, known as the overflow area. It once was home to a settler, whose chimney is still standing just off the loop; a short path leads to the ruins. Four new campsites have been carved into the woods there, but you must park your car on the loop and carry your belongings a few feet from the loop to the new campsites.
The main campground lies beyond the overflow area on a short spur road that descends to tranquil West Fork Creek. Just past the self-service pay station are two isolated sites on their own mini-loop. A water spigot is nearby. Three other sites are located off the spur road before you reach the main loop, which makes a large oval beside the West Fork.
All the sites along the West Fork are shrouded in rhododendron and are ideal for campers who like deep, lush woods. Four relatively open sites are located on the inside of the main loop and offer a generous amount of space for even the most gear-laden camper. The sites away from the West Fork back against a hill beneath more open woods. Three water spigots are situated throughout the main loop. A clean, well-kept comfort station is at the north end of the loop; it has warm showers and flush toilets. There are no electric hook-ups.
Near the comfort station, a small circular drive splits off the main loop. It holds four campsites with large parking areas, apparently designed for RVers, who were the only campers I saw at that spot during my visit. The circle has its own water spigot.
A campground host is stationed at Cherry Hill and keeps the place immaculate and safe. This only adds to the relaxing atmosphere of the area. Just as you get really comfortable, a notion will strike you to venture beyond your folding chair to explore more of the beauty of Sumter National Forest. And you don't even have to leave Cherry Hill to walk some of the area trails. For starters, try the Cherry Hill Nature Trail. It leaves the campground and makes a half-mile loop among the ferns and brush of the white pine forest.
The Winding Stairs Trail also leaves from the campground. Follow it down as it switchbacks through an oak forest along the south side of the West Fork. I can only guess that the gentle switchbacking led to the Winding Stairs name. At any rate, after a mile, you'll come to a small but steep waterfall, as West Fork Creek has picked up some volume on its way to merge with Crane Creek. After the fall, the Winding Stairs Trail veers south to Crane Creek, then returns to West Fork only to end at 3.5 miles on Forest Service Road 710.
If you want bigger water, the Chattooga Wild and Scenic River is only a stroll away on the Big Bend Trail. The trail starts just across SC 107 from the campground and leads 2.7 miles west into the protected corridor of the Chattooga just above Big Bend Falls. From there, trails lead along the river in both directions for miles. Either way you go, you'll soon understand why this border river between South Carolina and Georgia is protected. The flora, fauna, and tumbling white water are yours to appreciate. And the fishing's good too.
Cherry Hill is a quality campground in an attractive forest setting. And for ten bucks, it is a superlative value. Get all your supplies back in Walhalla, because once you're at Cherry Hill, you won't want to spoil your vacation with an early return to civilization.
Address: Cherry Hill Campground, 112 Andrew Pickens Circle, Mountain Rest, SC 29664; (864) 638-9568; http://www.fs.fed.us/r8/fms
Open: May to September
Assignment: First come, first served; no reservations
Fee: $10 per night
Elevation: 2,250 feet
Pets: On leash only
Fires: In fire pits only
Alcohol: At campsites only
Other: 6 people per campsite; tents in designated areas only
From Walhalla drive north on SC 28 for 8.5 miles to SC 107, then turn right. Follow SC 107 for 7.5 miles. The entrance to Cherry Hill Campground will be on your right.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication