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According to Discover South Carolina, Salem is known as “the gateway to the Blue Ridge Mountains, Lake Jocassee, and Lake Keowee.” This title is quite fitting given its location near the Jocassee Gorges and upper Lake Keowee region. Salem on its own is a very small Upstate town. So small in fact, that if you blink while driving down East Main Street, you’re likely to miss the handful of streets that comprise its “downtown.” But while Salem lacks many in-town conveniences, it more than makes up for it through outdoor opportunities. To us, Salem is more of a gateway to freedom in the great outdoors. A gateway to true Appalachian spirit, and to many who choose this area as home, a perfect place to hear the water and wildlife’s sweet serenades.

Salem has an estimated current population of a few hundred people, but it’s important to note that the area around the town boasts multiple upscale communities, many of which may not directly fall within consensus lines of this town’s limits. It is small though, but like many small towns around Lake Keowee and the greater Upstate area, it is booming with growth. Salem, perhaps more than most Keowee towns, is building a name for itself within luxury retirement and home communities.

Salem may very well be the best area around Lake Keowee for those wanting to enjoy all the Upstate has to offer. A shorter drive to the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains where you can spend a day hiking among waterfalls and sheer minutes to Lake Keowee and Lake Jocassee for boating and fishing, Salem is an outdoor paradise.  

Here are our favorite outdoor spots & activities in the area:

Lake Keowee
Salem runs along the north-eastern banks of Lake Keowee, one of the most prestigious lakes in South Carolina. Known for impeccable luxury communities and mountain views, the Lake is over 26 miles long.  A man-made lake, built by Duke Power, it has over 300 miles of shoreline! From most sections of the lake views of the distant Blue Ridge Mountains are visible, adding to its breathtaking beauty. Lake Keowee is also home to multiple luxury golf communities such as multiple Cliffs communities, Keowee Key, and Reserve at Lake Keowee. Numerous marinas and boat ramps are near the Salem side of the lake, making a day boating on the lake easy for anyone to enjoy.

Lake Jocassee & The Jocassee Gorges
Another lake close to Salem is Lake Jocassee. This lake is a smaller reservoir north of Lake Keowee, created in 1973 also by Duke Power. Jocassee has pristine shorelines with limited homes, keeping the lake more of a destination for fishermen. Visitors can access the lake through Devils Fork State Park. According to Discover South Carolina, the lake and its surrounding 50,000 acres feature some of the “highest concentrations of waterfalls in the eastern part of the United States.” Because the lake was man-made, you can still see some of the remnants of the homes under the water today. Fans of expansive views can hike to Jumping Off Rock and take in the whole of the lake and surrounding rolling hills.

The top dining spots in Salem are found within luxury communities – Keowee Key and Cliffs at Keowee Falls. Outside of the communities, we recommend heading south to Seneca for a taste of southern comfort food or Clemson for more fine dining options. Here are top dining options in or around Salem, SC:

  • The Club at Keowee Key is located inside the Keowee Key community. The Club offers lunch and dinner daily with a variety of dining options from casual dining at the Bistro or Sports Bar, to fine dining at The Club. 
  • Cliffs at Keowee Falls also has similar options to The Club at Keowee Key. Within this Cliffs community, there are multiple dining options. For those wanting something simple, you can stop by the Cliffs bistro and pick up a quick meal and for those craving upscale southern cuisine, the formal Clubhouse dining certainly delivers. 
  • If you want something more traditional southern with a relaxed atmosphere, you can’t get more southern than Black’s Smokehouse. Located in Seneca, Black’s is highly rated online for their slow-cooked ribs, pulled pork sandwiches, bbq chicken, and all the traditional sides – mac and cheese and coleslaw. They’re only open Fridays and Saturdays and tend to sell out so make sure to plan this meal ahead of time and order before arriving.

Like Dining in Salem is more limited to the nearby luxury communities, shopping is similar. Locals can visit small shops within the communities, but most will travel to other nearby cities, like Clemson, for more clothing & decor selections. Here are a few of our favorites in neighboring areas:

  • The Elkmont Trading Company in Clemson offers clothing, Clemson merch, and most notably, outdoor clothing and equipment. You can pick up a new outfit or gear for a hiking trip through the numerous trails throughout Cliffs at Keowee Falls.
  • Patrick Square Town Centre is in the heart of Clemson and offers a plethora of dining and shopping options. Visit the wine bar or brewery and stop by The Corner Butcher to pick up fresh produce and meats. Wind down with a massage or fitness class.
  • Southern Fried Brands is another shop in the Clemson area, which focuses on popular southern styles and clothing. 

Home Market Statistics in Salem

As of 2020, the current median home value in Salem, SC was $398,000. Since 2000, Neighborhood Scout estimates that home values have risen 86%. In fact, Salem has one of the highest average home values in the state of South Carolina. We anticipate continued growth in the area due to the popularity of Lake Keowee and luxury home communities built near Salem in recent years.

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