Five-Star Trails – South Carolina Upstate
By Sherry Jackson
Published by Menasha Ridge Press, 2013
The secret to a good hiking guide is for the author to determine exactly how the material is to be covered and then do a really good job of it. Scopes can be defined geographically, type of hike, hikes for beginners, hikes for the experienced, or some combination thereof. Five-Star Trails has done a good job from both aspects. First, the author limits the guide to just 30 hikes, all of which are exceptional, and all of which are confined within a reasonable geographical area (6 upstate SC counties). Second, she then proceeds to do a good job with each hike.
There are plenty of hiking guides out there but what makes this one special is how many elements are detailed well. And the key word here is “detailed” because that is what is striking about the book – the amount of detail.
The front of the book contains some expected and unexpected segments for the “introduction” to the hikes:
- Six-county map showing trailhead locations.
- Eight categories of “Best” hikes: For Dogs; For Fall Color; For History; For Kids; For Nature; for Scenery; For Seclusion; For Waterfalls.
- Overview of how to use the book and interpret the ratings and presented details.
- Weather in upstate South Carolina.
- Individual county maps showing trailheads.
Then each county’s hikes are presented with:
- Star Ratings. A one to five star rating is given for Scenery, Trail Condition, Children, Difficulty, Solitude.
- GPS Trailhead Coordinates.
- Distance and Configuration. Ex: 2.4 mile loop.
- Hiking Time. Given as total trail time start to finish.
- Highlights. Ex: Scenic vistas, waterfalls, wildflowers, etc.
- Elevation. Given as elevation at the trailhead and at the highest point on the hike.
- Access. If applicable, trail access hours are noted along with any fees.
- Maps. Available ancillary resources are identified.
- Facilities: Physical facilities at the trailhead and along the trail. Ex: Picnic tables, Boat ramp, Restrooms, etc.
- Wheelchair Access.
- Comments: Any special notes, guidance or warnings in regard to the hike.
- Contacts: Phone numbers and web sites for additional information and questions.
- Overview: Brief description of the geography and history of the hike.
- Route Details: Very precise, detailed write-up of the trail.
- Trail Map: A scaled map showing the trail and trail elements.
- Hike Profile: Shows the elevation profile for the entire length of the hike.
- Nearby Attractions: Identifies other locations and activities close enough to tie in with this hike.
- Directions: Road directions to the trailhead.
Several elements of the book stand out as exceptional:
- Route Details. You don’t get instructions to “follow the trail” here. Each trail description is complete with copious descriptions and landmarks to aid you in always knowing where you are on the trail.
- Trail Map. Too many guide books leave these out, probably because they are so hard to do. You’ll find some books with “general” trail maps but here the author has plotted the trails via GPS generating detailed routes.
- Hike Profile. Seldom seen in guides. Great addition showing where the elevation changes are along the trail.
If there are elements that fall short to be named, there are two, both of which are minor when compared to the amount of work that went into the book:
- Photography. While there are photos for each hike, they are in black and white. Admittedly, the value is in the information, not the photos, but color would have added something to the “feel” of the presentation.
- Errors. Given the amount of detail in this book there has to be some mistakes, though nothing that’s going to put you off a trail or get you lost. Examples: Wildcat Branch Falls Trail is listed as being in Pickens County when it is in Greenville; The waterfall in Eastatoe Heritage Preserve Trail is not called Eastatoe Falls, it is known as The Narrows or Eastatoe Narrows. Neither is the waterfall 600 feet tall. It is closer to 50 feet.
This is a very strong book recommended for any hiker’s library, regardless of whether they are novice or experienced.