Mountains, midlands, creeks, coastlines, and every type of terrain in between, Mother Nature has served South Carolina a heaping helping of beautiful vistas. But you’ll never get the full experience flying by it at 60 miles per hour. Landscapes like these are best encountered on foot. Here’s where you’ll find the 15 best hiking trails in South Carolina.
Greenville’s famed Swamp Rabbit Trail winds its way along the Reedy River through downtown, city parks, and an old railway line, finally reaching its terminal in Traveler’s Rest, South Carolina. It’s 21 miles of sightseeing in the city without the middle-of-nowhere atmosphere, so pack a lunch and enjoy not sitting in rush hour traffic.
Beginner hikers might want to seek more level ground. Rainbow Falls Trail in Jones Gap State Park has some pretty steep terrain and is 3.9 miles in length, but the gorgeous waterfalls at the end make it worth the climb.
Another great trail partially inside Jones Gap State Park, it’s been touted as one of the toughest hikes in South Carolina. Steep inclines abound, but plenty of scenic waterfalls and streams keep you motivated to finish. Careful though, there are lots of connecting trails intermixed with this one, so keep a close eye on your map.
Thankfully this one’s also a loop, which means any difficult obstacles you encounter, you’ll only have to survive them once. Part of Caesar’s Head State Park’s plethora of hiking trails, this one doesn’t offer as much eye candy as other trails, but does provide plenty of challenges for a non-running workout.
You’ve got your pick of three short and sweet trails here. The Boardwalk and Kerrigan Nature Trail take you over a saltwater marsh, where you’ll see birds and sea life (and maybe an alligator). The Sandpiper trail takes you along a boardwalk to a salt water pond, where observation towers give you the perfect perch to bird watch.
Part of Table Rock State Park’s 12-mile network of hiking trails, this one takes you straight to the top of the table-esque rocks that gives it its namesake. It’s not an easy trek (actually, it’s extremely the opposite) but the view from the top is a well-earned reward.
If you don’t have the time (or energy) to traverse the entire 425 miles of the Palmetto Trail, you can hit up this seven-mile passage of the trail at Awendaw Park. Snaking alongside¬ Awendaw Creek, you’ll travel around a salt marsh and through the forest before ending at the intercostal waterway.
Part of Paris Mountain State Park, the Brissy Ridge Trail offers the perfect balance of saunter and strain to your walk in the woods. A few steep, bumpy inclines will get your legs screaming, but there are plenty of level stretches to help you recuperate. Deer and snakes have been known to frequent the area, so stay camera ready.
It’s a hike so easy, you can literally call it a walk in the woods. A short distance from the trailhead opens up to a double waterfall. While it’s called Twin Falls, the waterfalls aren’t identical: One of the falls drops straight down, while the other makes a slight detour over some rocks. This trail is the perfect introduction to hiking for small children, plus they’ll be ultra-impressed by what awaits them at the end.
Like most of South Carolina’s trails, this one also terminates with a waterfall. This is a great trail for hikers of all skill levels, including the family dog.
Take a tour of Oconee Station’s historic buildings, then hit the trail toward the 60-foot waterfall that has become a favorite of the locals. Wildflowers decorate the area in the spring, along with beaver ponds, an alder swamp, and rare plant life.
If you’re in fairly decent shape, then Midlands Mountain Trail shouldn’t be too difficult. It links with other trails and can become confusing, but stick to the trail map and you’ll do fine. Bikes and dogs are welcome here.
It’s comparatively short to the other trails in the area, but it makes up for its length with its higher-than-average difficulty rating. It’s an uphill battle right from the start, but beautiful waterfalls wait to meet you before you get too exhausted from your climb. Dogs are welcome here, but given the intensity of the trail it might be best to let Fido sit this one out.
Plenty of quick, easy trails abound at the swamp. Complete with elevated boardwalks, sloughs, and bodies of water, you’ll find more than enough flora and fauna to fill your camera’s memory card.
Running, walking, mountain biking, you name it: Harbison Loop Trail is the perfect locale for those who love the great outdoors. While there aren’t any amazing landmarks to write home about, there are plenty of easy and slightly difficult trails to keep you active.