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!

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 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 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 2020, the campground is still $7/night, the same as when I visited years ago.

The max number of nights a person may camp is 14. Campsites are first-come, first-serve. The place was not buy 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.

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!

8 thoughts on “Quirky Attraction: Parson’s Mountain Gold Mines in Sumter National Forest (South Carolina)”

  1. Actually, Parson’s mountain is not the highest point in South Carolina. Maybe in McCormick Co but def not the entire state. Sassafras Mountain is SC’s highest point, at 3,554ft but there are many other mountains upstate that are in the same ball park. Many ppl are unaware of Upstate South Carolinas majestic mountain peaks. Parson’s Mountain is more like an 800ft hill. Still a nice place though. I took my kids there to watch the total solar eclipse there, it was amazing. It’s a cool, low key kinda place for sure, with good trails, campground & a little lake. Thanks for sharing the story & pictures.

  2. They actually have a gold mine in operation currently a mile away from the mountain. It’s more like a strip mine. Been in operation since around 2009 and now it’s 2015

  3. Good thing you didn’t crawl down, because otherwise who would write the post? 🙂 How fun that you found this off the beaten path place – the unexpected discoveries are sometimes the best 🙂

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