10 Best Hikes in South Carolina
South Carolina is a hiker’s dream. From its mountains in the northwestern part of the state to its lowlands on the coast, it’s easy to find a hike for everyone to enjoy. Of course, with so many options to choose from, it might be hard to know which trails are the best hikes in South Carolina.
Fortunately, thanks to this list, you’ll be able to explore some of the most stunning scenery the state has to offer. No matter where you are in the state, you’ll be to enjoy some of the best hiking available when you check out these top 10 hikes in South Carolina.
1. Sassafras Mountain
Although Sassafras Mountain sits on the South Carolina and North Carolina border, it’s considered the highest point in South Carolina. The mountain is part of the Blue Ridge Mountains and offers lovely views of the surrounding area.
These views are made even better by the observation deck that recently opened on top of the summit. Fortunately, it’s also an easy hike to reach the summit.
The only way to reach Sassafras Mountain is to actually approach it from the North Carolina side. Take F. Van Clayton Highway until you reach the parking lot summit. From the parking lot, it’s an easy 300-foot hike to the observation deck.
Additionally, since the path doesn’t have any stairs, it’s handicapped accessible. However, you’ll want to keep in mind that it is rather steep.
2. Table Rock State Park
While Sassafras Mountain is technically the highest point in South Carolina, you can find the tallest mountain that’s completely contained within the state when you visit Pinnacle Mountain in Table Rock State Park. This 3,083-acre park sits at the edge of the Blue Ridge Mountains and offers an extensive trail system that will take you by streams, waterfalls, and scenic mountaintop views.
The park has a variety of trails for all skill levels. If you’re looking for something easy, check out the 1.9-mile Lakeside Loop Trail. This purple blazed trail offers nice views of the mountain, scenic views of the water, and a little bit of history. It’s also a fantastic family-friendly alternative to the steep mountain trails.
If you’re looking for something more challenging, the 4.2-mile one way Pinnacle Mountain Trail will take you to the top of Pinnacle Mountain. Another popular trail in the park is the 3.6-mile one way Table Rock Trail.
Although this is a very strenuous trail that ascends 2,000 feet to the granite-domed summit of Table Rock Mountain, it’s here that you’ll find some of the most spectacular views in the park.
3. Edisto Beach State Park
Located on the South Carolina coast about 50 miles south of Charleston, Edisto Beach State Park has a nice variety of handicapped accessible hiking and biking trails that wind through the maritime forest and provide an interesting glimpse at the area’s Native American history.
The 0.5-mile Forest Loop Trail offers an easy hike through a quiet maritime forest where tall live oak trees and palmetto trees drip with Spanish moss. The 0.7-mile Scott Creek Trail gives you the opportunity to explore several ecosystems in the park as it takes you through the maritime forest and provides views of the marsh from three boardwalks.
If you’re interested in learning a little history, check out the 1.7-mile Spanish Mount Trail, which takes you to one of the earliest Native American shell mound sites in the state.
Related: The Best Hiking Trails in Florida
4. Congaree National Park
The massive 26,276-acre Congaree National Park is the only national park in South Carolina. It’s located just 18 miles southeast of Columbia and preserves the largest tract of old growth bottomland hardwood forest left in the country.
If you’re interested in doing some hiking here, you’ll find a variety of trails suitable for all hikers. Since most of the park lies within a floodplain, the terrain is usually flat and has very little elevation change. While this means you’ll find plenty of easy trails, there are also numerous long trails that offer a more challenging hike.
If you want to start off with something easy, consider the 2.6-mile round trip Boardwalk Loop Trail. This boardwalk trail starts at the Harry Hampton Visitor Center and includes an elevated section that takes you into the old-growth bottomland hardwood forest.
When you’re ready to work those legs, the 4.8-mile round trip Weston Lake Loop Trail offer excellent views of Cedar Creek. You might also spot wading birds and otters in the water when you’re on this trail. You can also consider the 10.1-mile round trip River Trail, which takes you to the Congaree River.
5. Jumping Off Rock Overlook
“National Geographic” magazine once included Jocassee Gorges on its list of 50 of the World’s Last Great Places because of its abundance of rare plants and its highest concentration of waterfalls in the eastern U.S. If you want to enjoy some of the best views in this region, Jumping Off Rock Overlook is the place to go.
Although it’s not the easiest spot to get to, it’s certainly worth the effort. Words and pictures simply can’t do the view justice.
Your adventure will begin on Horse Pasture Road, a primitive gravel road that travels up to the steep 2,000-foot high overlook. Even though the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources has done a lot of work to improve this road, it’s still bumpy, twisty, and slow-going. Although four-wheel-drive isn’t necessary, keep in mind that some smaller vehicles might not be suitable for the trip.
Along the way to Jumping Off Rock, you’ll notice several red-gated roads. While these roads aren’t open to vehicles, they are available for hiking and are definitely worth exploring.
One popular stop is the North Carolina Overlook, which has stunning views all on its own. Shortly beyond that, you’ll see a small pull-off area for Jumping Off Rock. From here, take the easy 0.1-mile trail to enjoy breathtaking views of Lake Jocassee surrounded by forested mountains.
6. Caesars Head State Park
Situated in the Mountain Bridge Wilderness Area, Caesars Head State Park gets its name from the large granite outcropping on top of the Blue Ridge Escarpment. Here you’ll find a number of hiking trails that range from easy to strenuous.
One of the most popular trails in the park is the 9-mile round trip Raven Cliff Falls trail, which takes you over a suspension bridge that crosses the creek and to a scenic overlook where you can view the 420-foot waterfall.
Plus, Raven Cliff Falls isn’t the only waterfall in the park. You can also hike to several other scenic waterfalls and an incredible overlook where you can see as far as Greenville on a clear day.
7. Moonshine Falls Trail
If you’re interested in even more spectacular waterfall hikes in South Carolina, check out Moonshine Falls Trail. Moonshine Falls is a stunning 40-foot waterfall that plunges over the edge of an overhang, which means you can actually walk behind it.
The 3-mile one way hike to Moonshine Falls is a little tricky, but its beauty is certainly worth the effort. First, you have to cross Matthews Creek to get there. If the water level is low, you might be able to walk across the creek. If not, you’ll have to use the cable crossing.
Also, part of the trail goes through property owned by Asbury Hills Camp and Retreat Center. The retreat is kind enough to let the public hike on the property except when camp is in session. Please make sure you contact the retreat before you hike to get permission!
Not only is Moonshine Falls impressive, but you’ll also see relics of authentic moonshine stills that were leftover from when an operation was run there. Plus, if you want to keep the hike going, you can continue about 0.25 miles down the trail to Confusion Falls.
Although Confusion Falls isn’t very tall, it’s still unique because it’s formed when two creeks come together and spill into one pool.
8. Oconee State Park
Located in the Blue Ridge Mountain region of the state, the 1,165-acre Oconee State Park has some of the best hikes of South Carolina because you’ll find options for all abilities here.
Love waterfalls? Consider the 2.4-mile Hidden Falls Trail. This moderately difficult trail winds along the hillsides of the Blue Ridge. During your hike, you’ll enjoy the charming babble of the Tamassee Creek as it tumbles by you.
When you reach the end of the trail, you’ll see Hidden Falls as it drops 60 feet over a series of granite ledges. You’ll also find several rock benches where you can relax as you enjoy the view.
Looking for something easy for the family to do? The 1.2-mile Lake Trail Loop offers a simple hike near the lake’s swimming area.
Or set out on the 2.1-mile out and back Tamassee Knob Trail for a strenuous hike that delivers magnificent views in every direction. Once you reach the Knob, you’ll be treated to the breathtaking view of the rolling hills of the Carolina Blue Ridge Mountains.
9. Bull Island
Located just outside of Charleston and 3 miles off the mainland, Bull Island is the perfect place to go when you need an escape. This 5,000-acre barrier island has been left mostly untouched, which gives you a chance to see the area as it once was.
Getting to Bull Island takes a bit of work since the only way to and from the island is by ferry. Once you’re there, head to the Dave Clough Wildlife Viewing Platform to look for birds and alligators. Then be sure to go to the 16-foot observation tower for a panoramic view of the island with the picturesque Atlantic Ocean as the backdrop.
Another popular destination on the island is Boneyard Beach. On this 3-mile stretch of beach you’ll find hundreds of downed trees that have been bleached by saltwater and the sun so that they resemble a graveyard full of bones.
If you do decide to visit Bull Island, remember that it is remote. You definitely want to make sure you bring enough food, water, sunscreen, and bug spray to get you through the day.
10. Palmetto Trail
Several states have their own cross-state hiking trail that showcases some of the most scenic natural beauty you can find in each region. In South Carolina, it’s the Palmetto Trail. When the trail is complete, it will stretch around 500 miles through forests, across mountain ridges, and through swamps.
While it’s obviously impossible to complete a trail this long in one day, you can explore different sections to enjoy some of the best scenery in each region.
The trail is separated into three segments: Upstate, Sandhills, and Coastal. Within those segments, you’ll find numerous passages in varying lengths and difficulties.
Pick out a passage close to you to explore the rich history and geography of the Palmetto State!
Best Hikes in South Carolina
South Carolina is such an amazing state to explore. When you’re ready to hit the trail and discover the unique beauty of this state, you know you can’t go wrong on these best hikes in South Carolina.
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