From the mountains to the sea—that’s the quickest way to sum up what’s so great about hiking in South Carolina. It’s not just the beauty of this state’s diverse landscape that brings so much opportunity for outdoor adventure and hiking. It’s the fact that every month of the year is a good month for hiking in South Carolina.
In mid-January you might not want to hike along the beautiful rocky creeks that feed stunning waterfalls in the upstate mountains. But hey, just strap on a pair of good boots and head down to the coast and explore hikes along the Atlantic that traverse through ocean-side dune complexes, or walk the trails through arching old-growth oaks cloaked by hanging moss. If you’re really adventurous you might want to test your tolerance for the more boggy topography and hike one of the longer trails, like the Swamp Fox trail that meanders across many of the swamps that dot the state’s coastal plain.
There isn’t a single month of the year in South Carolina that doesn’t offer a great trail to hike. The landscape is just too diverse.
And that’s also what makes it so hard to come up with what I think are the best five hikes in the whole state.
Hiking South Carolina, my FalconGuides book, includes more than 60 hikes in South Carolina, highlighting trails nearest to the population centers of the state, putting a special focus on select trails around Charleston, Spartanburg, Columbia, Greenville, Myrtle Beach, Hilton Head, and Florence. Visitors to the state will find trails in the most popular resort areas such as Kiawah Island, Hilton Head, Edisto Beach, Beaufort, Lake Marion, and the vast network of trails around the stunning mountains surrounding Table Rock and Caesars Head State Park. That’s a lot of ground to choose from.
But when I look back on all the trails I hiked while writing this book, I can honestly say that there are at least five that really surface to the top—the cream of the crop—the trails that win the Top Five Trails in South Carolina Award. But then again, like The Dude would say, “That’s just your opinion, man.” These best-of-type-lists are arbitrary—it’s all relative and these are just the trails that I like best. I encourage you to get out and explore as many of the trails in this book as you possibly can. Go find your own favorites.
But with that said, here we go. The winners (just in my opinion, man) are:
Fall is a great time to get your kids to explore the outdoors. With the weather cooler but not too cold, it's the perfect time to take your kids on hikes and nature walks, exploring your local woods or even the empty beaches. To make it more fun for the little ones, have them pick up fun knick knacks along the way--pretty seashells, quirky twigs, smooth stones--and use these objects to make fun nature-inspired crafts, like this one:
No matter where you go in greater Springfield, area trails can enhance your outdoor experience and leave you appreciating the natural splendors of Central Illinois. The possibilities will surprise even the most jaded hiker.
For example, Griswold Conservation Area, near Blue Mound, presents a vista of fields, farms, forests and towns stretching to the horizon. In town, several converted railroad grades have been turned into trails and make for quick destinations. Large state wildlife preserves are trail-laced hiking havens.
Explore Lincoln history at New Salem, as well as rocky woods. Other state parks, such as Weldon Springs State Recreation Area also offer a mix of human and natural history on the Lakeside Nature Trail and the Schoolhouse Trail,. The Hickory Lane Trail is a wooded escape at Sangchris Lakes State Park. The nearby city of Decatur has a hike at historic Fairview Park under huge trees.
Rock Creek Conservation Area is a local gem. The Lookout Trail explores a preserved homestead, along with genuine Illinois prairie. The River Trail is a personal favorite of mine. It roams prairies, passes by huge old growth trees, then travels along dark and mysterious bottoms of the Sangamon River. It even has some history too, passing an old spring bottling plant and mill site. Down south, the Lincoln Prairie Trail is a shining example of a rail trail that makes the most of its setting.
So, make a little time in your busy schedule, lace up your boots and try one of my top five hikes in greater Springfield:
The beauty of the Long Point Trail is that it combines the ease of a walk in the park with a view as if you just climbed a mountain. The view of the New River Gorge Bridge is worth the 3.2-mile out-and-back hike through the forest. Download the hike below and start your adventure today.
What happens when you link a National Scenic Trail and an Estuary of National Significance? You create a gateway to hiking adventure.
Chittenden Park, a Guilford town park situated on the shore of the Long Island Sound, is the official terminus or “gateway” to the New England Trail (NET). If you visit, you’ll notice that the shoreline at Chittenden offers a totally different atmosphere from what visitors experience at other, more-developed beaches on the sound. And this makes the park a special place to begin or end a journey on the NET.