Trailside Camping

Nothing gets you more in touch with your natural surroundings than a hike into the deep forest and camping alongside the trail that leads you in. Enjoy a cool, summer night in the South Carolina mountains and awake to the sounds of the Middle Saluda River and the wilderness around you. Trailside camping isn’t only for experienced hikers and backpackers, and three of South Carolina’s state parks offer top-notch pack-in and pack-out campsites for all levels of backpackers and hikers.

Jones Gap

Jones Gap, along with Caesars Head, serves as an access point to the stunning, 11,000-acre Mountain Bridge Wilderness Area. Eight trailside camping sites near the park’s access point to the wilderness area provide a nice transition from car camping to backpacking and are beginner-friendly. The Middle Saluda River, accessed through Jones Gap, offers some of the most tranquil camping spots for backpackers, and is great for intermediate-level backpacking trips. The park also serves as an access point to the Foothills Trail.

Caesars Head

Backpackers seeking a challenge will find what they’re looking for in the Dismal Forest via the Naturaland Trust Trail. This rugged, mountainous trail is located in the Mountain Bridge Wilderness Area and is best-accessed through Caesars Head. Easier backpacking trips in the park include a hike to the quiet, trailside campsites along the Middle Saluda River in Jones Gap, and the access points to the Foothills Trail.


A hike on the Raven Rock Trail to sites along the scenic shoreline of Lake Keowee at Keowee-Toxaway will be rewarding for anyone ready for a true, rugged backcountry camping and hiking experience.  In order to maintain and protect the beauty and natural splendor of these backcountry sites, guests are asked to respect several trailside camping regulations. 

  1. Camp only in designated sites.
  2. Use a backpacking camp stove where possible.
  3. Campfires allowed only in designated areas. Use the existing fire ring and extinguish all fires prior to leaving.
  4. Use only dead and down wood for campfires.
  5. Plants or other natural or cultural artifacts should not be disturbed.
  6. Where privys are not provided, bury human waste 6 inches deep at least 100 feet away from the river or other water supply.
  7. Use only biodegradable soap when washing dishes. Wash and pour wash water 100 feet away from bodies of water.
  8. Keep all pets on a leash 6 feet or less.
  9. Be as quiet as possible.
  10. Never shortcut switchbacks on trails.
  11. Pack out all that you pack in. Do not discard gum wrappers or cigarettes.
  12. Alcoholic beverages are prohibited.