The Pretty Place: Unveiling the Fred W. Symmes Chapel in the Mountains

Nestled in Cleveland, South Carolina, the Fred W. Symmes Chapel, lovingly referred to as “Pretty Place” and “Chapel in the Mountains,” is an enchanting haven of serenity and beauty. Owned and maintained by the YMCA Camp Greenville (Camp Greenville), the Chapel in the mountains is open to the public to bask in its beauty when it’s not reserved for private events. Just last year, it drew in over 200,000 visitors from around the work, who marvel at its breathtaking views and find solace in its serene surroundings or even propose marriage.

The Chapel was built in 1941 and has undergone continuous additions and improvements, with significant upgrades in 2012 and 2018. Generously gifted to Camp Greenville by Fred W. Symmes, the Chapel serves as the spiritual heart of the camp. Visitors can explore the chapel during daylight hours, except during camp worship services or special events. With its picturesque setting, the chapel is popular for weddings and is often booked on Saturdays and Sundays. Camp Greenville maintains an online schedule of the chapel’s availability for visitors to check before planning their visit.

The Chapel, available for rent, can be used for weddings and events. Rental fees help to upkeep the area and fund scholarships for children to attend camp.

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The location: YMCA Camp Greenville

Established in 1912, Camp Greenville is a private property covering 1400 acres. The Chapel is open to the public and is a few miles from the campgrounds, offering a serene space for reflection and prayer. Open throughout the year, Camp Greenville provides various services, including hosting camps, environmental education programs, weddings, and conferences.

Nestled in the mountains, Camp Greenville is the fifth-largest YMCA camp in the area. Its picturesque mountaintop location, Chapel, and engaging programs have made it a sought-after summer and family camp destination. Two waterfalls, Rainbow Falls and Shower Bath Falls, grace the camp’s grounds, along with two spring-fed lakes, winding trails, diverse wildlife, and an array of flora and fauna.

Visiting the Fred W. Symmes Chapel

The Chapel “in the mountains” is literal, as it sits on the edge of a cliff on Standing Stone Mountain, overlooking the breathtaking vistas of the mountains and the expansive valley. Every seat in the open-air chapel offers panoramic views, making it an exceptional venue for memorable occasions. From this vantage point, visitors can marvel at the sprawling landscapes of upstate South Carolina and the majestic Blue Ridge Mountains. Perched at 3200 feet above sea level, the Chapel borders the vast Dupont State Forest and the North Carolina state line. Nearby Cedar Mountain and Caesars Head State Park are excellent addition spots.

Inscribed on the Chapel’s massive beam facing the mountains beneath the enormous cross are words from Psalm 121. The verse reads: “I lift up my eyes to the hills, from whence comes my help. My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.”

This spot is famously popular for a memorable proposal—I even witnessed one during my visit! While the views are breathtaking, visiting on a weekday is recommended for crowd-free photos. During the week (Monday through Thursday), I found only a few visitors at a time.

The Chapel holds worship services on Sundays and seats about 300 people. Surrounded by peaceful scenery, it serves as a sanctuary for prayer and reflection. Visitors can seek solace, pray, or meditate in this tranquil space. Please respect the serenity of the venue by refraining from loud conversations, group gatherings, and cell phone use. When visiting, please contribute to maintaining the tranquility of the chapel in the mountains.  

Considerations for Visiting the Pretty Place

Due to Camp Greenville’s remoteness, bring with you all the necessary supplies. It’s advisable to keep your gas tank full and pack snacks and drinks, as there are limited options for purchasing these items nearby. The nearest public facilities, including restrooms, gas stations, and eateries, are about 30 minutes away. The drive to the Chapel involves navigating a winding road that follows the mountain’s ridgeline, so consider the weather before visiting.

To ensure the Chapel is open when you visit, check the online visitation schedule in advance. It may close for events during daylight hours. Traveling a long and winding route to find the Chapel isn’t open is a disappointment you want to avoid.

Visiting the Pretty Place: Tips to Keep in Mind
  • Chapel Schedule: Before your visit, check the online chapel schedule. It stays up-to-date two weeks in advance and is subject to change, even daily.
  • Chapel Hours: The chapel is open from dawn to dusk, but the hours vary seasonally. In late spring, it’s typically open from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. Arrive early for sunrise, as parking may be unavailable.
  • Restrictions: Alcohol, pets, and smoking are prohibited on the property.
  • Wheelchair Accessibility: The chapel is wheelchair accessible from the parking lot. However, the very front of the chapel can only be reached by stairs.
  • Trails: The trails surrounding the chapel are open to the public. Signs to indicate this.
  • Restrooms: There are no restrooms on-site except for portable toilets.
  • Crowds: The chapel is busiest at sunrise and on weekends and evenings. If you prefer fewer people, consider visiting on a weekday.
  • Motion Sickness: The road to the chapel is winding, with limited pull-off areas. If you’re prone to motion sickness, take precautions.
  • Cell Phone Coverage: Cell phone coverage may be spotty or unavailable.
  • Weather Conditions: Clouds and fog are common in the mountains. They may obscure the Chapel’s view of the mountains if they’re dense.
  • Photo Etiquette: When capturing photos, be mindful of others by not monopolizing popular photo spots – give others a chance to take their shots as well.

Address: 100 YMCA Camp Road, Cleveland, SC 29635 (GPS Coordinates: 35.133563,-82.574764)

Enjoy visiting the Chapel in the mountains! 

Watch the video of the Pretty Place/Chapel in the Mountains

Nearby places I suggest visiting:

  • Jones Gap State Park is located along the Middle Saluda River, a deep mountain cove of woodlands and trout fishing.
  • Caesars Head State Park has a fantastic overlook (accessible) and dreamy hiking trails! It connects to Jones Gap State Park.
  • Mountain House at Caesars Head is a cute coffee shop in the mountains! It serves food and has an aesthetic “selfie wall.” It is located next to Caesars Head State Park.

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