Stumphouse Tunnel

Stay Cool like aged Cheese Map
From Stumphouse Tunnel
Well, it’s hot. The extreme heat (just like the extreme cold) has a tendency to diminish our desire to head outside for a good time. The Urban Baboon is no exception. Most people head to the water. But what if, like my most frequent travelling companion, you simply don’t know how to swim? It seems odd, but the refreshing cool liquid brings fear to some. Well, I know a neat little place just over two hours from Atlanta that can provide a refreshing alternative. I know it’s in South Carolina, but it’s a great place to visit. This little secret is known as Stumphouse Tunnel Park outside Walhalla, SC.

Prior to the Civil War, the State of South Carolina tried to Build a Tunnel through the Oconee County mountains, so that trains could go from Charleston, SC to Cincinnati, OH. That meant clearing a path through Stumphouse Mountain, with a tunnel stretching longer than 1 mile. After spending more than $1 million on the project, the State of South Carolina stopped the project, leaving a 4,363 foot train sized cave in the mountain’s side, some 1500 feet short of the needed goal. The beauty of the tunnel is that inside it stays a fairly constant temperature of about 50 degrees. The conditions are so naturally mild that the University of Clemson used to age Bleu Cheese in there, but have since moved to better controllable simulated environments closer to campus.

It is the centerpiece of the park, but there’s also a pretty magnificent waterfall there call Issaqueena Falls, purported named for an Indian woman who hurled herself from its rocks. And there’s a Nice Hiking Trail along the mountain running along the proposed historical railroad line, going a bit over two miles one way. The path rises and falls along the side of the mountain. A ¼ mile up, there is what is known as the Middle Tunnel, which can be entered on foot, but beware of wildlife. 1¾ mile further, there’s the remains of Saddle Tunnel, which is mostly covered in water. Then you doubleback. The park is also very near Yellow Branch Falls, maybe ½ mile down the road.

The entry to the park is free, so the only drawback is that it is open only from 10am to 5pm. Admittedly, because of this time constraint, we never made it to the third tunnel. And as we drove out at 4:55 pm, we noticed two cars entering the park. Maybe the locals know something I don’t. Maybe they were just there to pickup up people. I don’t know.

So if you are looking for a place to go for the day, down want to travel to far, and are looking to beat the heat, South Carolina’s Stumphouse Tunnel Park might just be the ticket. You get a little overheated, just spend 20 minutes in the tunnel and cool off. It is important to note that none of these tunnels are lit, so a flashlight, although normally useful, is mandatory on this expedition.

Trail Essentials
Approximate Time: 1-2 hours
Approximate Distance: 2.5 miles
Features: Mountain View, Tunnels, Ruins, Waterfall

Overall Rating: B+

Scenic Quality: A+
Athleticism: B
Solitude: B-
Value: A
Parking: Free
Hours of Operation: 10am – 5pm
Facilities: Uncertain (I don't remember any, but let me know, I will update)
Maps: Map, at bottom right of page
County: Oconee County, SC

1 comment:

  1. I miss SC, NC, and GA. New Orleans has its wondrous benefits, too...but I miss the Carolinas.



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