Ellicott Rock Wilderness sits at the southern tip of the romantically hazy Blue Ridge Mountains. Congress designated Ellicott Rock Wilderness in 1975, later expanding it in 1986. The wilderness uniquely spans three states in Sumter, Nantahala, and Chattahoochee National Forests of South Carolina, North Carolina, and Georgia respectively. It is named after Major Andrew Ellicott who was tasked with the arduous job of locating the 35th parallel to settle a border dispute. On December 26th, 1811, Major Ellicott inscribed the letters "N-G" on a rock along the Chattooga River bank declaring the Georgia-North Carolina border.
Ellicott Rock Wilderness has a temperate climate with an average rainfall of 80 inches per year creating a dense forest with steep, rugged terrain. The landscape is largely covered in a variety of hardwoods, white pines, and hemlocks with bountiful water sources weaving throughout. The untamed Chattooga Wild and Scenic River runs through the heart of the wilderness and is one of the longest and largest free-flowing mountain rivers in the southeast. The wilderness provides visitors with bountiful opportunities to experience solitude and see an impressive array of plant and animal communities while hiking, camping, hunting, fishing, swimming, or kayaking.
Ellicott Rock Wilderness maintains 18 miles of hiking trails with trailheads in both South Carolina and North Carolina. In South Carolina, the highly trafficked Chattooga River Trail (4 miles) and East Fork Trail (2.5 miles) join together and lead you down to Ellicott's Rock itself. For a quieter and longer traverse to Ellicott Rock, you can hike along the winding Fork Mountain Trail (6 miles) that shares a junction with the Ellicott Rock Trail of North Carolina. To find the best opportunities for solitude, access Ellicott Rock by hiking along the Ellicott Rock Trail (7 miles) in North Carolina. The trail has two trailheads along Bull Pen Road and crosses the Chattooga Wild and Scenic River in the middle. Be aware, Ellicott Rock is not visibly marked and can be difficult and dangerous to find. Kayaking the Chattooga Wild and Scenic River is also a scenic, secluded, and adventurous way to experience Ellicott Rock Wilderness. Paddlers may access the river at designated locations, during the boating season (December-April), and when water levels reach 350 cfs or greater.
Plan ahead and prepare for your adventure in Ellicott Rock Wilderness and don't forget to Leave No Trace.
Leave No Trace
How to follow the seven standard Leave No Trace principles differs in different parts of the country (desert vs. Rocky Mountains). Click on any of the principles listed below to learn more about how they apply in the Ellicott Rock Wilderness.
Digital and paper maps are critical tools for wilderness visitors. Online maps can help you plan and prepare for your visit ahead of time. You can also carry digital maps with you on your GPS unit or other handheld GPS device. Having a paper map with you in the backcountry, as well as solid orienteering skills, however, ensures that you can still route-find in the event that your electronic device fails.
Motorized equipment and equipment used for mechanical transport is generally prohibited in all wilderness areas.
This includes the use of motor vehicles, motorboats, motorized equipment, bicycles, hang gliders, wagons, carts, portage wheels, and the landing of aircraft including helicopters.
(Known as the Eastern Wilderness Areas Act) - Public law 93-622 (1/3/1975) To further the purposes of the Wilderness Act by designating certain acquired lands for inclusion in the National Wilderness Preservation System, to provide for study of certain additional lands for such inclusion, and for other purposes
Chattooga River Trail
The Chattooga River Trail has a trailhead that leads visitors into Ellicott Rock Wilderness. This trail is part of a longer system trail (15 miles) that traverses a larger portion of the district outside of wilderness. In wilderness, the Chattooga River trail is 4 miles long, leads visitors to the inconspicuous Ellicott's Rock, and shares intersections with the East Fork Trail and the Ellicott Rock Trail. The trail features a waterfall, a variety of primitive and undeveloped campsites, excellent fishing holes, and a scenic trek alongside the majestic Chattooga Wild and Scenic River. The Chattooga River Trail is heavily trafficked, the most popular trail in Ellicott Rock Wilderness. Directions: This trailhead leading into Ellicott Rock Wilderness is located along Burrell's Ford Road, off Highway 107. The trailhead is located near Burrell's Ford Campground. The Burrell's Ford Road and Highway 107 junction is located 18 miles north of the city of Walhalla, South Carolina and 13 miles south of Cashiers, North Carolina.
Spoonauger Falls Trail (via the Chattooga River Trail)
The Spoonauger Falls Trail is a short 0.1 spur trail located off the Chattooga River Trail and ends at an impressive and well-visited waterfall. This Spoonauger Falls Trail junction is less than 1/4 mile from the Chattooga River Trailhead described above. Visitation to this waterfall is heavily trafficked. Directions: The Chattooga River Trailhead leading to the Spoonauger Falls spur trail is located along Burrell's Ford Road, off Highway 107. The trailhead is near Burrell's Ford Campground. The Burrell's Ford Road and Highway 107 junction is located 18 miles north of the city of Walhalla, South Carolina and 13 miles south of Cashiers, North Carolina.
East Fork Trail
The East Fork Trail is 2.5 miles long, largely follows the East Fork of the Chattooga River, and ends at a trail intersection with the Chattooga River Trail. It is also here where the East Fork of the Chattooga River and the Chattooga Wild and Scenic River merge. The trail features a variety of unique rock and water features as well as sparse primitive and undeveloped camping options. The East Fork Trailhead is adjacent to the Walhalla State Fish Hatchery, and is heavily trafficked. Directions: The trailhead shares paved parking with the Walhalla State Fish Hatchery and the developed Chattooga River Picnic area, and is located at the end of the Fish Hatchery Road off of Highway 107. The Fish Hatchery Road and Highway 107 intersection is located and 20 miles north of the city of Walhalla, South Carolina and 11.5 miles south of Cashiers, North Carolina.
Fork Mountain Trail
Fork Mountain Trail is a 6-mile winding trail with plentiful opportunities for solitude as well as high quality primitive and undeveloped campsites along beautiful creeks. A visitor will enter the official boundaries of the Ellicott Rock Wilderness after hiking around 1.5 miles, and the Fork Mountain Trail itself ends at an intersection with Ellicott Rock Trail in North Carolina. Visitors can continue on down Ellicott Rock Trail and catch the Chattooga River Trail with access to Ellicott's Rock. A 17-mile loop can be made between Fork Mountain Trail, Ellicott Rock Trail, Chattooga River Trail, Foothills Trail Connector, and the Foothills Trail, leading back to the Fork Mountain Trailhead. Directions: Fork Mountain Trailhead is located at the Sloan Bridge Picnic Area directly off of Highway 107. Sloan Bridge Picnic Area is 22 miles north of the city of Walhalla, South Carolina and 9 miles south of Cashiers, North Carolina.
Ellicott Rock Trail
The Ellicott Rock Trail is a secluded 8-mile trail that both starts and ends in different locations along Bull Pen Road. Ellicott Rock Trail treks down to the Chattooga Wild and Scenic River and offers visitors to test their skills by fording the river itself (a 60 foot crossing without a bridge). The trail sees few visitors offering excellent opportunities for solitude as well as a couple primitive and undeveloped campsite areas. Directions: The trail has two signed trailheads at two different locations along Bull Pen Road located off Highway 107 with limited parking. The junction of Bull Pen Road and Highway 107 is located 24.5 miles north of the city of Walhalla, South Carolina and 7 miles south of Cashiers, North Carolina.
Want to Volunteer for Wilderness?
Citizens who volunteer their time to steward our wilderness areas are an essential part of wilderness management. Contact the following groups to inquire about volunteer opportunities.