Winding Stairs Sumter National Forest, SC
DURATION 2-4 hours
There And
Back Again
Winding Stairs

Looking for some moderate elevation gain over a few miles to build your trail legs? Winding Stairs trail may be the hike for you. This easy to navigate hike ascends 400 feet/mile over its one way 3.1 mile length, making for an easy-to-medium difficulty and medium length.

Both ends of the Winding Stairs trail have parking access, but it is suggested that you start at the southern trailhead. Travelling in this direction puts all the elevation gain on the first half of the hike. The southern parking lot on Winding Stairs Road is not marked at all. It is just a small parking area off the gravel road. You should easily spot the trail, with a mile marker about 50 feet into the trail from the parking lot. Across the road is a camping area. Another small, unmarked parking lot exists at the northern trailhead along SC-107, with a larger lot .1 miles up the road at the Cherry Hill Recreation Area. All parking is free.

The first half mile of this hike follows a small creek, crossing it twice before coming to the first in a series of long switchbacks at .8 miles. Gaining just under 400 feet/mile makes this a good warm up to more challenging inclines. Several marked and unmarked side trails break away at the end of many switchbacks. Some of these are very difficult, navigating extremely steep slopes to views of waterfalls and water slides and suggested only for those who really want to get their heart pumping.

On the way up, expect to make numerous small stream crossings. Most can be made without problem, but after rainfall, expect to get a little wet or muddy, a good reason to wear boots. With the two creeks on either side of the trail and the frequent stream crossing, the sounds of water can be heard throughout. As you gain elevation, the trail does provide some winter views. At the 2 mile marker, at the end of a switchback several side trails branch off. Taking the middle one for just a few feet will give you a descent view of Miuka Falls.

At mile 2.8 the trail begins to level out again. Shortly before arriving at Cherry Hill Recreation Area, the trail splits. A trail marker points the way straight ahead, but instead, turn left. The trail has been re-routed to arrive at a small parking lot directly off of SC-107 and this marker has not been removed. If you continue straight, you will arrive at the Recreation Area with picnic tables and a drinking water source; however, this section of trail is not being maintained as several large trees have fallen and are difficult to navigate around and over.

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Elevation Map Length (miles) by Elevation (feet)
Slope Breakdown
Elevation Gain
Elevation Range
Grade Range
Elevation Gain
0 - 250 ft/mi
~ 0 - 5 %
1.2 mi
141 ft
250 - 500 ft/mi
~ 5 - 10 %
1.4 mi
522 ft
500 - 750 ft/mi
~ 10 - 15 %
0.4 mi
233 ft
750 - 1000 ft/mi
~ 15 - 20 %
0.2 mi
183 ft
1000+ ft/mi
~ 20+ %
412 ft
125 ft
For out-and-back hikes, elevation loss is the same as the gain.
Terrain Map Click to control map
length6.3 miles
difficulty7.5 Easy-Medium
duration2 - 4 hours
features Dog Friendly  Waterfall 
trail typeThere And Back Again
elevation gain1180 ft.
park/forestSumter National Forest
ranger districtAndrew Pickens Ranger District
112 Andrew Pickens Circle
Mountain Rest, SC 29664
parking feeNone
trailhead coordinates 34.922393, -83.07754 (Degree Decimal, DegDec)
N 34°55.34, W 83°4.65 (Degree Minutes, MinDec)
N 34°55'21'', N 34°55'21'' (Degree Minutes Seconds, DMS)
Trailhead Directions
34.922393, -83.07754 (Degree Decimal, DegDec)
N 34°55.34, W 83°4.65 most GPS units use this one
N 34°55'21'', N 34°55'21'' (Degree Minutes Seconds, DMS)
Google Map It
The southern trailhead is on the north side of Winding Stairs road. On the other side of Townes Creek across the road is Tamassee Campground. For the northern trailhead, a small parking area is located .1 miles south of the Cherry Hill Recreation Area along SC-107, which includes a larger gravel parking lot.
If taking any side trails to waterfalls, use caution going down steep slopes.
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Reviews / Comments
Average Review Rating
3 (1)
hikethesouth-6 years ago
Good Not Great
No hike is a bad hike, but there are better things in the area. This hike does have a consistent incline of about 400ft a mile so if you are looking to build up your trail legs, this might fit the bill.
Easy-Medium | Hiked Spring 2013
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