Ascent of Hogback Mountain on 2017-02-25

Climber: Tom Layton

Date:Saturday, February 25, 2017
Ascent Type:Successful Summit Attained
Peak:Hogback Mountain
    Location:USA-South Carolina
    Elevation:3189 ft / 972 m

Ascent Trip Report

As the most prominent mountain in SC, Hogback Mountain is on the EPIC list for peaks that lead their states in Elevation, Prominence, and/or Isolation.

It was an epic climb by my standards--9 miles roundtrip climbing 2,100 feet.

To find the trailhead, set your GPS for Pennell Road, Landrum SC. There is room to park about a dozen cars, and on this bright Saturday I got the last spot. Pennell Road is named for the owner of a Spartanburg cement factory who had a retreat here for his employees. Most of the valley is now owned by the Nature Conservancy as the Blue Wall Preserve.

The hike can be divided into three sections: 1.6 easy miles along a gated road (climbing 350 feet), 1.6 strenuous miles up a trail to Vaughn's Gap (gain: 1,120), and the final 1.3 moderate miles on a posted and gated gravel road (gain: 640).

The first 3.2 miles of the hike are along the Palmetto Trail's Blue Wall passage. (Mileage here is from my GPS, which was about 10 percent less than the mileage on the Palmetto Trail signs.)

Pennell Road is gated just beyond the parking lot (el. 1130). Follow Pennell Road west for 1.5 miles as it goes from pavement to gravel to dirt. At 0.7 miles pass a pond on your left, and at 1.0 turn left to cross the dam of a second pond. At 1.5 miles (el. 1460), walk around a white gate. Almost immediately you may notice a transition from the red clay of the Piedmont to the black soil of the mountains. There is a fork about 100 yards beyond the gate. Go left to stay on the Palmetto Trail toward Vaughn's Gap.

At 1.9 miles (el 1660), the path leaves the valley floor and climbs toward Vaughn's Gap (2580). Along the way you'll cross a couple of creeks and pass a sawmill that's over 100 years old. There are seven switchbacks as you near the top.

At the gap is a gravel road that leads south to Hogback and north to Rocky Spur. (The Palmetto Trail follows the road north on the Poinsett Reservoir Passage.) I intended to climb Rocky Spur on this same trip but started too late in the day and overestimated my off-season conditioning. (A third road that forks to the west leads toward Hoghead Mountain.)

The road to Hogback is gated and posted for No Trespassing because of High Level Radio Frequency Energy. I've gotten you this far, and I think you can find your way from here.

Peakbagger lists the summit of Hogback at 3,189 feet, which is converted from the top contour of 972 meters. It's actually about 30 feet higher. The Greenville County GIS map shows an elevation of 3217.8 based on LiDAR. Edgar Woodfin, who works on Hogback (or did in 2010), has a Hogback website that gives the summit elevation as 3211. The USGS benchmark datasheet shows 3229. The Blue Wall Preserve sign at the first pond along the Palmetto Trail says Hogback is 3,209 and Vaughn's Gap is 2585. However this sign mislabels Rocky Spur as only 2,713 instead of 3,090.

The views are disappointing. Hogback is a wooded plateau, and the only clear view from the summit is east of the TV tower toward Spartanburg and Gaffney. The Charlotte skyline is visible 80 miles east. If you can find clearings facing the right directions, you could see four states (SC, GA, NC, and TN). To glimpse the view potential, see Woodfin's photos from a weather station halfway up the 459-foot tower. Sixteen of the 40 "Southern Sixers" should be visible from up there.

The USGS benchmark is inside the fence under the tower, but there is a reference mark stamped Hogback just outside the gate.

Looking at the maps, it's tempting to try this hike via Hogback Mountain Road from Tryon. That will get you within 3 miles of the summit, but be warned that there is another gate on that road where the signs threaten to tow tresparkers.

I now have climbed 16 of the 96 peaks on the EPIC list. Half of them are not hard--I just haven't been there yet. The Front Runners List is a Who's Who of peakbaggers.
Summary Total Data
    Total Elevation Gain:2179 ft / 663 m
    Extra Gain:60 ft / 18 m
    Round-Trip Distance:9 mi / 14.5 km
    Trailhead:1130 ft / 344 m
    Quality:8 (on a subjective 1-10 scale)
    Route Conditions:
Road Hike, Maintained Trail
    Weather:Pleasant, Breezy, Clear
Ascent Statistics
    Time:3 Hours 
Descent Statistics
    Time:2 Hours 

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