A peak experience on Sassafras Mountain

Though it’s the highest peak in South Carolina, Sassafras Mountain has gotten short shrift. There’s no easy way to access the peak, and once you get there the view is hardly as thrilling as that from nearby Caesar’s Head.

But things are looking up for Sassafras, thanks to a broad effort to improve access and enhance its scenic qualities. Soon it will be worth another look.

The Greenville News this week described the long campaign to bring Sassafras into the public domain so it can be recognized and enjoyed as one of South Carolina’s crowning natural glories.

At this point, it’s less than spectacular at the apex, with “a thick forest blocking any majestic view and a fenced in, metal contraption owned by the power company.”

But a 60-foot observation deck is being designed by architects at Clemson University to provide spectacular mountain vistas across four states.

The peak of the mountain — 3,553 feet above sea level — is actually shared with North Carolina. Last month, the Conservation Fund donated 4.8 acres on the North Carolina side of the mountain to South Carolina’s Department of Natural Resources. South Carolina now has full ownership of the mountaintop.

Meanwhile, Pickens County has committed to making improvements to the narrow road up the mountain. And Duke Power is looking at options to remove its communications tower from the peak — that so called “metal contraption.”

The improvements are designed to provide sufficient access for heightened enjoyment of a natural treasure, not as a commercial tourist destination. Thank goodness.

South Carolina doesn’t possess the wealth of mountain grandeur of neighboring North Carolina. The concerted campaign to show off Sassafras to greater advantage is well worth the effort and expense.

As Jennifer Willis, chair of Pickens County Council, told the News:

“This is the highest point in South Carolina. We ought to be shouting about it, not whispering in the back of the room saying, ‘If you can find it, you’d love it.’ ”