9 Reasons Lake Jocassee Should Top Your List Of Destinations In 2024

While Lake Jocassee may be well-known among locals of upstate South Carolina, those outside of the area have likely never heard of it.

Regardless, Lake Jocassee is one of the most beautiful, unspoiled lakes you’ll find in the southeast, and some would argue the country.

While plenty of locals take advantage of all this hidden gem of a lake has to offer, no matter where you live, you should consider paying this special place a visit.

This guide will detail the nine reasons you’ve got to add it to your bucket list of destinations, along with some local tips and secrets to consider when visiting.

About Lake Jocassee

Nestled in the mountainous Jocassee Gorges between the towns of Salem and Sunset, the pristine 7,500-acre Lake Jocassee was created in 1973 through a partnership between the state and Duke Energy. 

Four streams and waterfalls feed this steep-walled 300-foot-deep reservoir, making it cooler than the nearby lakes Hartwell and Keowee.

Credit: upstateoutdooradventurer / Instagram

Once home to the Cherokee Nation, Jocassee fittingly means “Place of the Lost One” in their language. 

The temperate rainforest climate, influenced by the Eastern Continental Divide, allows diverse wildlife like black bears, deer, bobcats, wild turkeys, hawks, river otter and bald eagles to inhabit the area.

Rare and threatened wildflowers, mosses and orchids also thrive in this biodiverse basin along with the elusive Oconee Bell flowers. 

Though man-made, Lake Jocassee remains an unspoiled natural wonder and hidden gem within the Carolina mountains.

9 Reasons To Visit Lake Jocassee

The View From Jumping Off Rock

This scenic overlook offers panoramic views of Lake Jocassee and the surrounding mountains from an elevation of 2,000 feet. 

Touted as the “hallmark” vantage point in the area, it is a popular spot to watch the sunset. 

To reach the overlook, take the bumpy, twisty 9.5-mile Horse Pasture Road, where you’ll pass smaller waterfalls and captivating views along the way. 

The rugged terrain requires an SUV, Jeep or truck. 

But once there, you’ll have an extraordinary, unobstructed panorama of Lake Jocassee and the surrounding mountains of the Jocassee Gorge Wilderness Area.

It doesn’t get any better than this for epic photos, sunsets, and scenery.

Did Someone Say Waterfalls?

Lake Jocassee offers a number of beautiful waterfalls that line its shores.

There’s the iconic 80-foot Laurel Fork Falls, nestled in a secluded cove, primarily accessible by boat for an added sense of adventure. 

Credit: sam.kell3y / Instagram

As you approach, see the waterfall’s distinct tiers, each with its own charm. 

The tranquil lower section spills gracefully into the lake while the middle features a tempting swimming hole with a small pool at its rocky base. 

Secure your boat to explore the upper falls along the Foothills Trail.

There’s also the breathtaking Lower Whitewater Falls, viewable after a moderate 2-mile hike. 

See it plunge 200 feet into Lake Jocassee’s northwest corner. 

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There are also Wright Creek Falls and Mill Creek Falls, both popular stops on the lake to take in these unique falls.

But that’s not all, as plenty more unnamed waterfalls line the shores of Jocassee to be explored.

Rent (Or Bring) A Boat, Kayak Or Paddle Board

You can rent boats, jet skis, kayaks, paddleboards and other watercraft at a number of outfitters around the lake.

Being out on the water is by far the best way to see the lake, and you can even bring your own boat or watercraft.

For those who do, there’s a boat ramp that can be used to put trailered boats in and take them back out.

There’s also an option for those who would prefer to have someone else drive them around the lake, as you can sign up for guided waterfall tours.

Credit: holly_mcintosh / Instagram

Whether you love nature, taking photos, or want an awesome adventure on the water, being out on the water one way or another is guaranteed to leave lasting memories

Excellent Scuba Diving

Lake Jocassee drops to around 300 feet in depth, drawing divers from across the country. 

When scuba diving here, you’ll have the chance to explore the hidden ruins below the surface, like a real-life Atlantis. 

Credit: foothillsscuba / Instagram

When they dammed the valley to make the lake decades ago, whole towns disappeared underwater – frozen in time. 

Now their remains create an adventure for scuba visitors. 

As divers plunge into the cool depths, they find eerie remnants: old cemeteries, school gyms, and street signs from a forgotten time and place can still be discovered here.

Beach It

That’s right, there’s a nice sandy beach surrounded by rocks that you can enjoy with the fam, all the while with an excellent view of the mountains as your backdrop.

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Regardless, it offers room to put out some beach chairs and an umbrella for a beach-like day in the sand.  You can even rent these close by.

And while this is the main beach and does get crowded during peak season, it’s not the only beach.

Credit: blueridgemountaingirl / Instagram

There are a number of little-known-about sandy beaches around Lake Jocassee that you can make your own for the day, if you know where to find them and have a way to get there.

Rope Swings

This is a local secret, but there’s at least one rope swing located around Lake Jocassee that is an absolute blast to swing out over the water and let go of.

You’ll need a boat to get there, but they’re a blast for both adults and kids.

Credit: cattaway4117 / Instagram

Just be careful.  These rope swings are not installed by anyone officially associated with Lake Jocassee or Devils Fork State Park, so use them at your own risk.

Cliff Jumping

Okay, so it’s not as extreme as it sounds as it’s really more-so rock jumping than cliff jumping.

Credit: Devils Fork State Park

But there are multiple rocky cliffs around the shores of Lake Jocassee where you can stop your boat, swim over, climb up the rocks, and jump off into the deep, clear waters below.

It’s a blast, and during summer days you’ll see plenty of boats stopped at numerous cliff jumping spots around the lake for a thrill.

View Jocassee’s Highly Threatened Oconee Bell Flowers

The rare Oconee Bell plant, called Shortia galacifolia, is found almost exclusively in South Carolina’s Jocassee Gorges area. 

In early spring, before its shiny leaves emerge, it produces solitary pink or white bell-shaped flowers on bare stalks that are beautiful to look at.

Credit: greenleafcynthia / Instagram

Classified as one of the world’s most threatened species, over 90% of the global Shortia population resides in the Upstate region. 

It tends to inhabit the moist banks of streams and the shores of Lake Jocassee. 

Though elusive, the unusual blooms continue attracting photographers and botanists hoping to spot the illusive perennial within its short blooming window.

Camping With A View

Nestled along the southern shores of Lake Jocassee in South Carolina, Devils Fork State Park provides the only public access point to the lake across its 622 acres. 

Credit: presswilson_ / Instagram

With 59 campsites for RVs and tents plus 20 lakeside villas, the park offers scenic views of the lake and surrounding mountains.

Campers can go fishing, do some birdwatching, or hike the 1-mile Oconee Bell Nature Trail loop to see the rare, delicate pink and white bell-shaped flowers of the endangered Oconee Bells wildflower when they’re in bloom.

Final Note

Lake Jocassee is one of the best hidden gem lakes you’ll find in South Carolina, and really all of the country.

Between its natural beauty and the entertainment it offers, it’s hard to beat as a destination to avoid the masses.