Sumter NF, Andrew Pickens RD

The Andrew Pickens Ranger District covers the northwestern portion of the Sumter National Forest in South Carolina, comprising more than 85,000 acres. It includes approximately 2,857 acres of the Ellicott Rock Wilderness, which also extends into Georgia and North Carolina. It was established in 1936 and is administered by the US Forest Service. The Andrew Pickens RD is in the hill country of South Carolina, and includes the east side access to the Chattooga Wild and Scenic River, and numerous beautiful waterfalls.

This area is primarily hardwood forest, including yellow poplar and chestnut.  It’s a native habitat to such rare plant species as small-whorled pogonia and smooth coneflower, and home to many types of wildlife, including black bear and bobcats. The Audubon Society has designated the Andrew Pickens RD an ‘Important Bird Area,’ and it is the only place ruffed grouse and the watch-listed Swainson’s warbler breed.  

A wide variety of recreational and other activities are available, including: 4 developed and 15 primitive campgrounds, 120+ miles of trails, including sections of the Foothills National Recreation and Chattooga River Trails, fishing, hunting, equestrian, biking, multiple day use areas, and some of the best whitewater in the United States on the Chattooga. I spent several days in late April 2017 exploring this district: I van-camped at Thrifts Ferry and at the end of FS Rd 748, spent a night at the Cherry Hill campground, hiked to several waterfalls, and visited a couple of access points on the Chattooga.  

Fees on the District vary according to the activity; with many areas free to access. Campgrounds range from free to $30/night, depending on the season and amenities. Reservations for Cherry Hill (open 4/1 – 10/31) are available via recreation.gov, although I was able to get a walk-up site, and received a 50% discount with my America the Beautiful Interagency Pass. Check the forest website or with the District’s Ranger Station, which is near Walhalla, SC, for the most current information regarding fees, and also closures and alerts.

**Be advised that cell service is very limited in this area, so make sure you have adequate maps before setting out on your adventure**

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