Quirky Attraction: Parson’s Mountain Gold Mines in Sumter National Forest (South Carolina)

parsons gold mines

Parson’s Mountain Gold Mines in Sumter National Forest
Location: Parson’s Mountain Recreation Area, near Abbeville, South Carolina
When to visit: Daytime hours
Cost: Free
Time needed: 10 minutes (the hike to get there may take around 30 minutes)
Website: https://www.sctrails.net/trails/trail/parson-s-mountain-tower-and-lake (unofficial)

Once, while relaxing at a quiet South Carolina campground for a couple days, I unexpectedly came across abandoned Civil War-era gold mines during a day hike. What a quirky thing to stumble upon!

Here’s the scoop about my visit to the abandoned gold mines in South Carolina, and how you can see them by taking a short hike from a public campground.

About The Parson’s Mountain Gold Mines

They’re called the Parson’s Mountain Gold Mines and they date back to the mid-1800s during South Carolina’s Gold Rush days.

The mine shafts are now surrounded by fencing, but you can look way down into them and imagine the days when people tried to hit the jackpot by excavating these precious materials.

parsons mountain gold mines
Here’s one of the abandoned Parson’s Mountain gold mines, surrounded by fencing.

The mines are found on the Lookout Tower Trail in the Parson’s Mountain Recreation Area. This area features 23 campsites and a lake, which was man-made.

This is probably the most off-the-beaten-path quirky attraction I’ve written about so far, because it requires at least a 20- to 30-minute hike up the hill to see them.

The trail runs past a nice lake before heading up toward the top of the hill, which is one of the highest points in South Carolina.

parsons mountain lake

I’ve seen abandoned mine shafts from a distance before, but never this close. It was a fascinating sight and made me want to crawl down inside them… but I probably would have never made it back out.

Visiting Parson’s Mountain Recreation Area

This recreation area is open from May 1 to November 15. If you arrive outside those dates, you will not have access to the area due to its scheduled closure for the winter season.

As of 2024, the campground is still $7/night, the same as when I visited years ago. It’s one of the cheapest campgrounds in the entire area.

The max number of nights a person may camp is 14. Campsites are first-come, first-serve. The place was not busy at all when I visited in mid-May. During the summer, it will get more crowded.

The 23-site campground is near a 28-acre lake, which is man-made. There are bathrooms with flush toilets, so you won’t have to rough it too much.

Take the Lookout Tower Trail. It’s a nice, moderate workout, plus you get to see the mines and stand at the highest point in the surrounding area. In total, the Lookout Tower Trail is four miles roundtrip, with 469 feet of elevation gain.

It was here that I tried reading Jack Kerouac’s On the Road… and realized that the book is incredibly overrated. Bring something else to read when you come!

Other South Carolina spots worth checking out include Congaree National Park, a hidden gem (it’s one of the least-visited parks in the USA!); Kings Mountain National Military Park (part of a Revolutionary War road trip!); and the cities of Charleston and Columbia, which make for great add-ons at the end of a road trip from Orlando, Florida to Savannah, Georgia.

Would you hike the Lookout Tower Trail to see the Parson’s Gold Mines?