In the 1960s the push began to protect the rugged beauty of the Appalachian Foothills, while at the same time make them more accessible. Informal discussions by interested people in the Upstate—including Clemson University’s Recreation & Park Administration Department and the U.S. Forest Service—initiated the development of the Foothills Trail. The United States Forest Service built the first component of the trail linking Table Rock State Park to Oconee State Park in Sumter National Forest. In 1968, construction began on a section of trail that followed ridge lines and descended into river bottoms, yet only about one-fifth of the present trail in Sumter National Forest follows the original layout.
By the early 1970s, the Foothills Trail effort was gaining significant momentum. A firm geographic concept of the trail layout was formed with collaboration from the U.S. Forest Service; the South Carolina Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism; the Pendleton Historic and Recreational Commission; Duke Power Company’s Real Estate Department; and Clemson University’s Recreation and Park Administration Department. The 77-mile trail linking Oconee and Table Rock State Parks was in place by 1981.
As interest in the establishment of the Foothills Trail increased, a formal unifying entity was needed. The Foothills Trail Conference was established on May 23, 1974 as a non-profit organization to promote and support the development of the Foothills Trail. The Conference has promoted and supported the trail by developing a guide book and map, trail maintenance, and contributing to publications about the trail. It has also published a newsletter and more recently developed a face book page and maintained a website