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Saturday is National Take a Hike Day, so it’s time to get outdoors for some fresh air, scenery, and exercise. There are miles and miles of trails to choose from throughout South Carolina. Whether you’re looking for forests, beaches or mountains, our lovely state offers a little bit of everything. Here are just a few spots to get up and out, away from the mainstream.
1. Chatooga River Trail, Sumter
Chattooga River Trail is a hiking trail in Oconee County, South Carolina within Sumter National Forest and Ellicott Rock Wilderness. The entire trail is 6.4 miles with a total elevation gain of 814 feet.
Wander around casually or plan a two day backpack trip among the rushing river and waterfalls, endless coves and ravines and banks covered in wildflowers. The mountains and cliffs on the Georgia side of the river form a scenic backdrop.
2. Congaree National Park, Hopkins
The only National Park in South Carolina, Congaree National Park is home to the oldest bottomland hardwood forest in the U.S., with over 25 miles of hiking trails If you need a little extra help, there are ranger guided tours on Saturdays all year round. All trails start at the visitors center and are well-marked. Follow along the valley and mountain stream and you’ll find a 100-ft. waterfall.
3. Audubon’s Francis Biedler Forest, Harleyville
This 18,000-acre forested wetland is perfect if you’re seeking a change of scenery from mountains to a bird and wildlife sanctuary. In addition to thousand-year-old trees, a range of wildlife, and the quiet flow of blackwater, Beidler is the world’s largest virgin cypress-tupelo swamp forest. Whether you’re experienced or new to hiking, there are miles and miles to check out or you can stick close to the boardwalk. All facilities here are wheelchair accessible.
4. Bull Island, Awendaw
Only accessible by boat, this one may take a little planning. The island trail is a little different with maritime forests, vistas os salt marsh along Awendaw Creek, and a scenic overlook and boardwalk at Walnut Grove.
Bull Island is permanently sheltered from development after getting hit by the storm surge from Hurricane Hugo and recovering at its own pace. Bull Island is a major component of the Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge that is home to alligators, birds and a 1.5 mile Boneyard Beach where Red Cedars and Live Oaks have become skeletons of their former selves. Take a day’s hike through forest and wetlands and along beaches on a barrier island.
5. Foothills Trail/Lower Whitewater Falls, Oconee County
This is a 75-mile trail that travels across the Blue Ridge Escarpment. Be on the lookout for wildlife such as black bears, white-tailed deer, bobcats and bald eagles as well as some rare wildflowers! Great for a day hike or overnight trips, there are several beautiful waterfalls, a labyrinth of old timber roads and a lushly forested terrain!
The trail takes you to the summit of South Carolina’s highest mountain and down into the Laurel Valley and Jocassee Gorges area, with a section of the trail following the S.C./N.C. state line. You may also stumble upon the largest Fraser magnolia in the state. It stands at 86 feet tall, 6 feet around with giant tulip poplars, hemlocks, and chestnut oaks surrounding.
6. Jones Gap State Park/Pinnacle Pass/Gap Loop/Rainbow Falls, Marietta
Pro Tip: this one is extremely popular, but well worth it, so get there early! The trails here cover over 11,000 acres. With more than 30 miles of trails at Jones Gap State Park, there are a lot of choices for whatever adventure you are looking for– long, short, amarteur, or challenging.
This hike covers a pleasant, moderately strenuous trail that traverses boulders, passes several streams, and follows alongside the Saluda River. There is also an interactive ecology center!
7. Lee Falls, Walhalla
It will only take you half a day to hike one of South Carolina’s more beautiful and seldom-visited waterfalls, which fall 50 feet from a mighty granite cliff! Tamassee Creek drops 100 feet in four tiers to form Lee Falls. The mountain cove into which the falls are tucked and lack of sunlight seeping through only add to the ambiance!
Paris Mountain Sulpher Springs Trail, Greenville
A rugged mountain hike, this trail will take you up and down rocky slopes, through forests, and back again for a 3.5 mile loop.
Paris Mountain is an immense rock that endured while the mountains around it weathered away. Two reservoirs add beauty to the park, providing recreation and scenic vistas. This area has been protected since the 1890s and due to the steepness of the terrain, much of the park has never been logged.
8. Poinsett State Park, Wedgefield
Looking for something a little more family and pet friendly? The “Mountains of the Midlands,” are full of fun trails and amazing views. This hike will have you connecting with nature and companions from beginning to end. The best part about all those beautiful sights surrounding you? They’re free!
9. Raven Cliff Falls Trail, Greenville County
This 8.8 mile trail rates a 7 out of 10 on the difficulty scale and is not for the faint of heart, but the sites you will see make it a must! With a beautiful waterfall and a charming walk over a suspension bridge, you’ll want to take a day for this great quick getaway hike!
You’ll also find the Sassafras Mountain Trail here. If you’re looking for almost 10 miles of amazing vistas, this is the spot for you!
10. Sesquincentennial State Park, Columbia
Another Family-friendly and pet-friendly park with a load of amenities, here you’ll find 1,400 acres of breathtaking nature in the heart of Columbia. There is an admission fee, but this park offers so much and makes for the perfect getaway from the hustle and bustle of city life or a quick day trip if you aren’t already in the state capital.
11. Table Rock State Park, Pickens
Depending on your physical ability, this hike is strenuous or moderate. This hike is 6.8 miles and a section cuts through a field of boulders. The view at the top is one amazing, jaw-dropping sight and well worth every step!
This iconic trail is one of the most popular in the state, offering two great overlooks with views of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The granite dome of Table Rock, the pristine mountain lake, and the surrounding trails —all draw visitors from far and near.
12. Wannamaker North Trail, North Charleston
This 13-mile trail is designed for mountain bicyclists of all experience levels, but also open to hikers, walkers and runners. Trails wind by beautiful live oaks and beech trees, while offering thrilling natural and man-made trail elements. The terrain also contains tight curves and elevation changes.