Skip to main content

Greenville cycling: Sassafras Mountain

What you need to know before climbing Sassafras: 

Distance: The actual climb from Rocky Bottom is 4.68 miles. The last time I climbed it, it took me 36 minutes and 32 seconds (7.6 mph average and 66 average cadence). However, if starting the climb from Hwy 11/178 (which is where we were coming from on our ride), you need to factor in the climbing that occurs before the actual Sassafras climb. So technically, it's a 11.8 mile climb with a little descend before Rocky Bottom.

Elevation gain: Start at 1766 feet and finish at 3396 feet (total gain = 2580 feet).

Grade: According to my Garmin, the average grade is ~7% but there are several sections that are ~20%. There are a few quick downhills to recover but otherwise, it's a long grind to the top with several 8-14% sections. There's a nasty pitchy segment near the beginning of the climb and another one in the last 1.5 miles.

Road condition: The road itself is fairly good (considering that we have pretty bad road conditions in South Carolina). There are a few segments that are not smooth (cracks/bumps) but otherwise, the road condition is fine for the pitchy segments.

Scenery: You probably won't spend much time looking at the nature that surrounds you (trees) as you will be putting all of your energy into making sure you don't stop pedaling - and fall over. But since you are tucked into the forest, you can attempt to soak in the nature that surrounds you to take your mind off the suffering.

Recommended bike/gearing: Road bike. Semi-compact crank. 52-34 chainset and11-30 (or 28) cassette.

Descend: The descend has a few switch backs but otherwise, you can pick up a lot of speed with the long downhills. While you won't want to climb this sucker twice, you will want to descend it again after you get a feel of it the first time around. If you like speed, this is a fun descend.

Climb with a view? The view at the top is worth it. You climb all the way to the highest point in South Carolina. There's an observation tower at the top (behind the gate at the parking lot) with a panoramic view of the mountains. You can even stand in North Carolina and South Carolina at the same time.

Traffic: Depending on when you go, the road could get busy with cars (ex. weekend, late morning). However, there is plenty of room for cars to pass you and the road is pretty wide open with lots of room for cars to see what's coming as they pass.

Difficulty: I'd rank this as our most difficult climb. There is another option to get to the top. You can climb the backside of Sassafras from East Fork Road to Glady Fork Road. This "climb" is very gentle until you reach Carolina Point. The total climb is 5.63 miles (total elevation gain 1144 feet) but the last 1.47 miles (after you make a left turn toward Sassafras) is where you will hit the last pitchy segment before the top.

Honest feedback: Once you climb it, you'll never want to do it again (until your friends convince you to do it again and then you think "it seemed like a good idea at the time!"

Pictures below taken on 5/30
Ventum NS1 Road bike
Riding time: 4:54
Total miles: 83.0
Elevation gain: ~7300 feet
Run off the bike: 48 min/5.8 miles/~900 feet