SOUTH CAROLINA: Chattooga Trail to Ellicott’s Rock

I always remember Ellicott’s Rock because it is the rock I went in search of with my now husband the day after I asked him to marry me. I suspect most women expect to be presented with a different kind of rock in this sort of situation. He still helped me look for it though!

There are two rocks in this location. One is Ellicott’s Rock, which marks Andrew Ellicott’s best survey/guess as to the border between GA and NC back in 1811 when he was trying to determine the boundary between the two states. It is marked with an N-G. Nearby (though no one seems to know exactly where) is Commissioner’s Rock, which marks the boundary where NC and SC meet. It is marked with the inscription “Lat 35 AD 1813 NC + S.C”. Neither are easy to find, nor can they be found when the water is up as the river covers the faint inscriptions. My grandmother, the last member of the family to successfully locate the rocks back in the 80s/prehistory, says the inscriptions are faint and may be near the underside/water line on the rocks themselves and the rocks are IN the river. Needless to say, I have not definitively found these myself yet, and will have to keep trying!

Is it goat approved? I will probably hike the Chattooga Trail with a goat at some point, but not today. There is little goat acceptable forage along the river except for hemlocks (which are near threatened and will probably be endangered in the future – so no eating) and there are tons of highly poisonous mountain laurel and rhododendron bushes around. You would need to bring chaffe hay to feed the goat. Or it will eat the poisonous stuff and croak…

How you get there:  You want to go to the Chattooga Trail Trailhead off Forest Rd. 646 located at34°58’29.3″N 83°06’53.1″W.

Time for the hike:  6.2 mile out and back  from the parking area/trail head to the rocks and back. The hike is mostly along the river and flat or nearly flat ground. I would rate this as family friendly and easy, but you will need balance to cross the water crossing and in wet weather water proof shoes would be a good idea.

***The rocks are not easy to find  and will require bushwhacking to see as the small sign that used to mark their location is gone.***

Best season to do this hike: Straight up winter. No bugs from the muddy sections of the trail, fewer people, and better breezes.

Trails to Take

If you start off at the trail head park on the side of the road, (or go up the road towards Hwy 107 and park at the big parking area) and then hike down the trail. The route is easy, follows the river, and rarely requires any uphill or down hill hiking. There is one significant stream crossing that may be a problem if you have bad balance or do not have water proof shoes about a mile in, just before the turn off to Spoonauger Falls. There used to be a bridge here, but there isn’t anymore.

Fly fisherman on the Chattooga River

The trail continues along the river, beginning to pass rustic campsites (note camping is not allowed anywhere near the trail head or along the river near the road) and eventually terminating in a large open area where the trout fishermen generally camp during the January to February fishing season. Walk straight through this confusing mess, following the Chattooga River and you will see a bridge crossing a significant tributary joining the Chatooga. Cross the bridge, and on the far side signage will indicate you need to go left and hike 1.8 mi to Ellicot’s Rock.

Continue to hike along the river until you reach the location (Google Maps has it marked – 35°00’03.3″N 83°06’30.5″W), then look along the river bank for the rocks as the small sign that used to be there is gone. If you reach the switch backs and start climbing the mountain side you have gone too far. If you pass a large boulder mid stream with a small sapling growing from the top you aren’t there yet. The area to search has several sandy islands in the river.


Trail Map


  1. The river used to be surrounded by a gorgeous hemlock forest of several hundred year old trees, (no really, it was like a magical elf level fairy land forest). Thanks to the wooly adelgid these are now gone, but their children are still struggling to make a comeback. So be kind to the baby hemlocks, and avoid rubbing up against them and carrying the wooly adelgids on your clothes to new forests for them to kill!
  2. The rocks in question (both Ellicott’s Rock and Commissioner’s Rock) are not visible when the water is up! If you need to see them, you need to come during a dry spell.
  3. You cannot camp near the trail head or along the road or along the river near either of the above. Plan accordingly.
  4. The rocks are hard to find and the inscriptions are faint. You may need water proof shoes and be willing to get muddy to find them.

In sum: 

The interesting bit about all this is because Georgia failed to give Ellicott good survey equipment and failed to contest the mis-survey of the state boundary today Georgia fights with Tennessee over water rights for water in the Tennessee River that it would have had – if it had gotten the survey done correctly!

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