Take a hike: 10 favorite SC trails

Hiking the boardwalk at Congaree National Park in Lower Richland.
Hiking the boardwalk at Congaree National Park in Lower Richland. FILE PHOTOGRAPH/THE STATE

From challenging mountain hikes, to easy strolls along a blackwater creek to a longer treks through the sandy pine forests, South Carolina has something for everyone to enjoy on National Trails Day, which is Saturday.

Here are 10 fun trail treks in the state:

Congaree National Park’s boardwalk is ideal for a family outing, even in its current incomplete state. You can’t do the full 2.4-mile loop because a portion of the high boardwalk damaged in early 2014 remains unrepaired. But you can go out and back on the undamaged portion of the boardwalk, immersing yourself in a thick forest of massive trees, thick vines and loads of wildlife. Like on almost any trail in South Carolina, remember to pack bug repellant during the summer.

The new Timmerman Trail in Cayce is a paved path following the blackwater Congaree Creek. It works for youngsters on bikes, dogs on leashes or babies in strollers, yet you feel almost as immersed in nature as at Congaree National Park. The full trail system is 3.5 miles, but you can shorten it some by sticking to the main loop. Park just along SCANA Parkway off 12th Street extension or at the Cayce Tennis and Fitness Center.

The namesake sandstone formation was toppled by vandals last year, but Peachtree Rock Heritage Preserve in Lexington County remains one of the most interesting places to hike in the state. Dozens of sandstone outcroppings, and a small but fun waterfall, dot what once was oceanfront property. Once hikers descend into the park, there’s a half-mile loop and a 1.5-mile loop. The dirt trails feature enough elevation changes to make the hike a workout.

The cross-state Palmetto Trail has dozens of great segments for one-day hikes. The 7.2-mile Wateree Passage in Sumter County offers a couple of choices. There’s a short hike in Poinsett State Park, or a longer hike along the Wateree River ridge and then down through the floodplain on recovered railroad trestles.

Want to mix a hike with a dip in the ocean? Try Hunting Island State Park in Beaufort County. The park has about 8 miles of hiking and biking trails through maritime forests and marshes. You even can climb the 167 steps to the top of the lighthouse.

The hike to the top of Table Rock in Pickens County is a classic. It’s a rugged 3.6-mile climb up 2,000 feet, and the trip back down can put more strain on your joints and muscles. But the view from the top of the mountain is worth every step.

For a relatively easy trip to a waterfall, head to Station Cove Falls next to Oconee Station State Historic Site in Oconee County. The hike to the 60-foot waterfall is only half a mile, but it is steep. The mountain wildflowers and other vegetation are as amazing as the falls.

For a more difficult waterfall trek, try Raven Cliff Falls in Caesars Head State Park in Greenville County. The loop trail to the suspension bridge running over the falls is 7 miles, and some sections will test your balance and strength. If you simply want the long-distance view of the falls, you can go to the overlook, which is only a 4.4-mile hike.

June is the ideal time to check out the 1.5-mile Canal Trail at Landsford Canal State Park in Chester County. It’s a flat, easy hike along the Catawba River. The challenge this time of year is finding parking because people flock here to see the blooming rocky shoals spider lilies that blanket the river. You’ll wish you had a kayak.

Head to the northwest edge of the state and check out the 15.5-mile Chattooga Trail along the Chattooga River. You can’t go wrong with any section, but one classic S.C. hike is the 3.5-mile walk from Burrells Ford Road to Ellicott Rock, the spot where South Carolina, North Carolina and Georgia come together. You’ll see waterfalls and vegetation along the way.