Hiking Trails

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UPCOUNTRY - Anderson, Cherokee, Greenville, Oconee, Pickens, Spartanburg MIDLANDS - Abbeville, Aiken, Chester, Chesterfield, Edgefield, Fairfield, Greenwood, Kershaw, Lancaster, Laurens, Lexington, McCormick, Newberry, Richland, Saluda, Union, York LOWCOUNTRY - Allendale, Bamberg, Barnwell, Berkeley, Beaufort, Calhoun, Charleston, Clarendon, Colleton, Darlington, Dillon, Dorchester, Florence, Georgetown, Hampton, Horry, Jasper, Lee, Marion, Marlboro, Orangeburg, Sumter, Williamsburg

South Carolina packs some amazingly diverse terrain into a relatively small region. The Palmetto State forms a triangular area from a sliver of the Appalachian Mountains to the sandy, sub-tropical coastal plain. In between lies a band of sandhills, leftover from a time eons ago when the ocean reached some 100 miles further inland than it does today.

Geologists, geographers, and hikers  find enjoyable common ground in our mountains-to-the-sea topography, yet all too often, outdoor lovers seem to bypass South Carolina in favor of popular National Parks in North Carolina or Florida. Aficionados of coastal exploration or waterfall discovery often overlook the Palmetto State where most tourists visit the beaches, play golf, go shopping, and enjoy the fine restaurants along the coast. Of course, an upside of this is that sometimes it makes for secluded hiking in spectacular wetlands, such as the ACE Basin, or colorful mountain gorges in Oconee, Greenville, or Pickens counties. 

In this guide you will find everything from short, level nature trails to long, multi-day backpacking treks, where you can explore the hidden nooks and crannies of South Carolina’s wild places. Surprisingly, some of the best trails are just minutes from major population centers such as Charleston or Greenville. An example is the Anne Springs Close Greenway, which provides a fantastic woodland buffer between the bustling metropolis of Charlotte, NC and the growing city of Rock Hill, SC. Historic hiking trails wend their way through downtown Columbia as well as through the remote backcountry of the Chattooga Wild and Scenic River Corridor.

Wherever you choose to explore, remember to follow some simple guidelines:

  • Adequate footwear can help keep you and your feet comfortable. In the Lowcountry, be prepared for long stretches of sitting water. Wear waterproof boots and synthetic socks. In the Upstate, rugged, rocky trails require hiking boots or shoes with firm soles.  

  • Rain gear includes more than an umbrella. Hiking outfitters sell a variety of jackets, ponchos, and pants to keep you dry when the weather turns wet and modern synthetics have all but replaced cotton as the outdoor clothing of choice.  

  • It doesn’t have to be cold for hypothermia to occur. Proper dress will go a long way toward preventing the sudden loss of body heat, especially after sudden rainstorms. Symptoms of hypothermia include shivering and disorientation; so pay attention to members of your party.  

  • Drink only filtered or treated water. Drinking unpurified water can lead to severe intestinal disorders. Expect that most surface water in South Carolina carries the protozoa Giardia.

  • Humidity and hot summer days offer their own hazards including heat exhaustion and sunburn. Mosquitoes and other flying insects can be a terrible nuisance in the summertime, which makes insect repellant a handy preventative tool. In the Lowcountry, insect repellant is a must (preferably some with  “deet”), since mosquitoes, ticks, and other biting insects thrive year-round in warm and humid conditions.  

  • Poisonous snakes in South Carolina include the eastern diamondback rattlesnake, the cottonmouth, and the copperhead, which you may eventually encounter if you spend enough time outside. Avoiding them is usually simple enough: Just give the snake a wide berth. Remember that there are at least four-dozen species of snakes in South Carolina, only a handful of which are poisonous.  

  • Stay on designated trails. Any time you tread in an area that was previously untouched, you alter the terrain for subsequent generations and cause future erosion.  

  • Hunting is allowed in some hiking areas during certain times of the year. Call the trail manager for hunting dates and be sure to wear orange if you decide to hike.

  • Leave no trace. Please pack out everything you pack in. This shouldn’t even need to be said, but trash is a common problem in popular outdoor destinations. Thanks to you who pack out your own trash along with a piece of waste left by another, less-considerate hiker.

Respect wildlife, plants, and trees. There are many places in South Carolina you may have the opportunity to spot a black bear or rare species of bird. Some 1,600 known plant species make their home in South Carolina; mountain wildflowers bloom throughout the year and hardwoods turn brilliant colors each autumn. Respect all these elements of the environment. Never cut live trees for firewood. Instead use a portable stove when cooking in the backcountry.  

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 South Carolina State Trails Program
South Carolina Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism
1205 Pendleton Street :: Columbia, SC 29201 :: 803-734-0173 
Updated: August 22, 2008
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