The 8 Best Hiking Trails in South Carolina

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South Carolina boasts the majestic Blue Ridge Mountains in the north and picturesque beaches along its eastern border. It is adorned with remarkable springs, creeks, and forests, including the captivating bottomland forest nestled within Congaree National Park. As a result, South Carolina offers abundant hiking opportunities for enthusiasts seeking scenic trails.

Having had the privilege of residing in South Carolina for several months under a travel contract, I had the delightful opportunity to extensively explore and hike its diverse landscapes.

If you’re in search of noteworthy trails to discover, fear not, as I have got you covered. This guide aims to unveil the best hiking trails in South Carolina. 

Furthermore, if you plan to embark on numerous hikes, consider acquiring a South Carolina All Park Passport, granting access to 47 state parks while also saving you money.

The view from the top of Table Rock

Table Rock Trail 

  • Length: 7 miles 
  • Elevation Gain: 2316ft 
  • Route Type: Out & Back 
  • Dogs Allowed: Yes, on a leash 

Among the numerous trails in South Carolina, we deem this particular one as our top recommendation and probably the most popular of the best hiking trails in South Carolina. Situated within Table Rock State Park, this trail leads hikers to the awe-inspiring summit of Table Rock, a magnificent mountain.

Enveloped by sections of the Blue Ridge Mountains, the trail offers a breathtaking panoramic vista. It should be noted that this trail presents a considerable challenge, with certain sections necessitating rock scaling and seemingly endless stair climbing. 

However, the spectacular view awaiting at the culmination of the hike unquestionably justifies the effort expended.

Rainbow Falls 

  • Length: 4.5 miles 
  • Elevation Gain: 1181ft 
  • Route Type: Out & Back 
  • Dogs Allowed: Yes, on a leash 

Located within the serene Jones Gap State Park, this trail offers a delightful hiking experience. Initially, the trail presents a pleasantly level terrain, seemingly effortless to traverse. However, around the midpoint, the trail undergoes a rapid transformation as numerous stairs ascend, resulting in a predominantly uphill hike. 

Nevertheless, reaching the trail’s summit unveils a mesmerizing display of breathtaking waterfalls. Additionally, certain sections along the trail provide ideal spots for a picturesque picnic amidst nature’s beauty.

Standing next to Mountain Lake Dam near Sulphur Springs

Sulphur Springs 

  • Length: 4.5 miles 
  • Elevation Gain: 695ft 
  • Route Type: Loop 
  • Dogs Allowed: Yes, on a leash 

To make the most of your experience, it is advisable to commence this trail in the early morning hours, as Paris Mountain State Park tends to become quite bustling throughout the day. The trail initiates with a gentle and pleasant terrain, gradually progressing into a steady and fluctuating incline.

As you traverse the trail, you’ll find it incredibly soothing, for it runs alongside a charming creek. As you near the conclusion of the hike, a well-deserved reward awaits you—an enchanting mountain lake coupled with rejuvenating sulfur springs.

Yellow Branch Falls 

  • Length: 3 mile
  • Elevation Gain: 465ft 
  • Route Type: Out and back 
  • Dogs Allowed: Yes on leash some areas may allow for dogs to be off leash

We found this trail somewhat difficult. It does have some steep inclines and down hills but other than that not too bad. The trail offers good shade for most of it nestled in the trees. 

Also, you can hear the sound of the creek for a good portion which we always enjoy on a hike. It does get somewhat busier later in the day. I would recommend doing the hike in the morning. At the end you are treated with a spectacular waterfall.

Boardwalk Loop 

  • Length: 2.3 miles 
  • Elevation Gain: 13ft
  • Route Type: Loop 
  • Dogs Allowed: Yes, on a leash 

This trail stands out as one of the most easily accessible options featured here. Its exceptional feature lies in guiding you through the enchanting South Carolina bottomland forest. Abundant wildlife surrounds the trail, offering sightings of turtles, woodpeckers, and diverse bird species during our hike.

If fortune smiles upon you, you may even catch a glimpse of an alligator. It is advisable to be mindful of the season when embarking on this hike, as Congaree National Park is prone to flooding during winter and spring, resulting in occasional closures of certain parts of the trail due to submersion in water. Additionally, during the summer, remember to pack insect repellent or purchase some at the visitor center.

Riley Moore Falls crashing down

Riley Moore Falls 

  • Length: 2 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 357ft 
  • Route Type: out and back 
  • Dogs Allowed: Yes, on a leash 

This trail is quite popular within the Sumter National Forest. It offers a relatively manageable experience, beginning with a gradual descent and ending with a steady incline on the return. Overall, the trail is straightforward to navigate, and the distance is not overly challenging. 

The road leading to the trailhead may be a bit rough, but we simply parked at the lot and walked to the trailhead. It tends to get quite busy during the day, so as with many trails, I would suggest aiming for an earlier start if feasible.

Huntington Beach State Park Trail & Marsh Boardwalk 

  • Length: .3 mile 
  • Elevation Gain: 6ft
  • Route Type: loop 
  • Dogs Allowed: Yes, on a leash

Huntington Beach State Park is such a cool beach park. If you’re by Myrtle Beach, make sure to swing by this park as well it’s worth it. This trail is basically two in one recommendation. First up, the Huntington Beach State Park Trail had so much wildlife when we went. The trail takes you next to the beach the whole time so it’s fairly flat, we saw many birds and even got to see a barn owl.  

The second trail is the Huntington Marsh boardwalk, which is a bit shorter, just about half a mile long. It is super accessible and very unique to the area. This one is a great one if you have kids. Also, be sure to check out the nature center right next to the boardwalk for a little fun family activity. 

Making our way up Fosters Mill Trail

Foster Mill Loop Trail 

  • Length: 5.5 mile loop 
  • Elevation Gain: 423ft 
  • Route Type: Loop 
  • Dogs Allowed: Yes, on a leash 

Croft state park was one of our favorite parks. We did multiple trails out here, this was by far our favorite though. I recommend going counter clockwise and saving Lake Craig for the last part of the trail as a reward. If you want to add a little more to the hike there is an option to take a trail that will take you to Lake Johnson.

The trail to Lake Johnson does keep going on for miles so if you just want to see the lake I would go and turn back till you get back to Foster Mill trail. Overall, the hike has some strenuous parts due to steady inclines but fairly easy to navigate.

Tips for Hiking in South Carolina 

Leave No Trace: Don’t forget to follow the principles of leaving no trace. Remember to pack out what you pack in this way so we can keep these places beautiful for the next generations. 

Hike at Off Times: The most important tip I can give you is to start early. Hiking early in the morning or later in the day has many advantages especially in the summer when temperatures are warmer and muggier.

Brush up on Basic First Aid: Be sure to re-stock any supplies you have used in your first aid kit. Also, be sure to revisit things in your first aid kit that you may need and also items that you haven’t used and don’t think you’ll need. The best first aid kit is one that is tailored to your needs. 

Know Trail Etiquette: Don’t forget to brush up on hiking etiquette. In general, always try to give hikers going uphill the right of way, stay on the trail, and just be a decent person to others. You’d be surprised by how many people fail to do this. It is probably one of the most important things as it makes everyone’s experiences better. 

Bring a Map: With the rise of many hiking phone apps, it can be highly tempting to forego a paper map. Do not do it though! Always bring a paper map. Although, for the most part technology is pretty reliable, there are times when batteries fail, or just plain bad luck happens. It is always better to have a backpack plan when these things happen. Also, be sure you know how to read a topographic map. What good is a map if you can’t even read it?

Bring Water: Don’t forget to bring water! I recommend drinking about 1L of water roughly ever 4 miles or so. Recommendations of water have some flexibility because it ultimately matters on your body, temperature, and exertion.  

Gear You Need for Hiking in South Carolina

Depending on what season you go will vary what you bring when I pack. But in general, I would start with the following. 

Hiking Daypack: I recommend bringing a hiking backpack with you for many reasons. A hiking backpack will allow you to bring enough water. It will allow you to use your hands for photos and carry supplies. 

10 Essentials: I generally start with the 10 essentials and build from there. These essentials cover the basics for first aid, sunscreen, Headlamps and more. It’s a system created in case of emergencies.

Hiking Layers: When getting ready for any hiking trip the best way to dress is to layer up. Layering up is the best way to manage temperature and bad weather if you should run into it.

Socks for hiking: Opt for a breathable pair of socks. I recommend a merino wool blend because they last long and keep your feet from becoming a “swamp”. There are a lot of awesome socks for hikers out there. 

Hiking boots, shoes, or hiking sandals: Depending on the time of year and personal preference different types of footwear will work for your hikes. I generally prefer hiking boots or shoes. 

Best Time to Visit South Carolina 

The best seasons for hiking the best trails in South Carolina are spring (March to May) and fall (September to November). During these seasons, the weather is generally mild, with pleasant temperatures and lower humidity levels, creating comfortable conditions for outdoor activities like hiking. Here’s why these seasons are particularly favorable:

Spring (March to May): Spring in South Carolina offers pleasant temperatures ranging from the 60s to 80s Fahrenheit, which is ideal for hiking. The landscapes come alive with blooming wildflowers and vibrant greenery. Trails are often less crowded compared to the peak summer months, allowing you to enjoy the tranquility of nature. However, be aware that springtime can bring occasional rainfall, so be prepared with proper gear and check weather forecasts before heading out.

Fall (September to November): Fall is another great time for hiking in South Carolina, with mild temperatures ranging from the 60s to 70s Fahrenheit. The foliage starts to change colors, creating stunning vistas along hiking trails. The cooler weather makes for comfortable hiking conditions, and the autumn colors add an extra element of beauty to your outdoor experience. Similar to spring, trails are generally less crowded during the fall months.

FAQ

Does South Carolina have good hiking? Oh yeah absolutely! Especially the upstate area of South Carolina. It lies next to the Blue Ridge Mountains and Smoky Mountains. 

What is the longest hiking trail in South Carolina? The longest hiking trail in South Carolina is the Foothills Trail Through Hike, which is about 77 miles near Mountain Rest, South Carolina. The trail is usually moderately trafficked.

What is the most famous hiking trail? I would say arguably that Table Rock trail is probably one of the most popular trails in South Carolina. 

Final Thoughts 

South Carolina offers a variety of scenic and rewarding hiking trails throughout the state. Whether you’re seeking panoramic mountain vistas, lush forests, or coastal landscapes, there is something for everyone. The best time to explore these trails is during the spring and fall when the weather is mild, and the scenery is at its finest.

When hiking in South Carolina, always ensure you are well-prepared with appropriate gear, sufficient water, and knowledge of trail conditions. It’s also essential to follow Leave No Trace principles, respecting the natural environment and leaving trails as you find them.

Whether you’re a seasoned hiker or a nature enthusiast looking to explore the outdoors, South Carolina’s diverse hiking trails offer a wealth of opportunities for adventure, relaxation, and connection with nature. So, save this list of best hiking trails in South Carolina, lace up your boots, breathe in the fresh air, and embark on a memorable hiking journey through the beautiful landscapes of South Carolina.

Editor’s note: This post was initially published on July 9, 2022, and has been completely updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.

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