By Alli Hill
South Carolina’s unique location offers the best of mountains and coastal scenery, making it ideal for a memorable hike with the family. The outdoor lifestyle of the Palmetto State is bustling, largely due to its well-managed parks systems, abundant wildlife, and natural vistas. The next time you’re looking for the perfect family-friendly activity, consider exploring one of these five awesome hiking trails in South Carolina.
This 90-acre park is more than just a playground, although for some families that’s reason enough to visit. Start your journey on a walk or bike ride on the paved trails through the woods. As you travel closer to the Reedy River, you might see remnants of foundations from structures that served as mills nearly 200 years ago. In about 10 to 15 minutes, you’ll arrive at the river, which will lead you directly to the elegant Cedar Falls. It’s an easy, short hike for kids, especially since the path is smooth and well-marked. The whole family can enjoy fishing the river or simply indulging in a waterside lunch.
Touted as one of Oconee County’s best kept secrets, Chau Ram County Park features easy hiking alongside beautiful river views. A small entry fee of just $2 per car can keep the whole family entertained for hours. Upon arrival, you’ll notice the beautiful cascades of the 40-foot waterfall surrounded by natural rock formations. The park features trails that etch Ramsey Creek and the Chauga River, including a suspension bridge that leads to trails on the opposite side of the river. It’s not unusual to find tadpole pools along the shores of the creek, as well as fish, turtles, snakes, and other wildlife in the area.
Free admission and fun for all ages, Oconee Station State Historic Site is the home of a former military compound and trading post from over 200 years ago. But just beyond the stone blockhouse begins a 1.5-mile trail that takes visitors to the illustrious Station Cove Falls. Along the way, you can’t help but notice the abundance of wildflowers year-round. You can also catch glimpses of beaver ponds, an alder swamp, and endangered flora around the falls area. It’s an easy hike with a beautiful reward at the end, making it a perfect activity for families of all sizes and ages.
If you want to turn a day of fun into a day of fun and learning, head to the Lake Conestee Nature Park and begin your journey on one of two Learning Loop trails. Each Learning Loop contains 10 learning station checkpoints that offer insight and education about the area. You can learn about the Reedy River, three miles of which runs through the nature park, the once-thriving Forrester Farm, and information about the wildlife in the area. With over 400 total acres comprising the park, you can expect to see a variety of denizens, including snakes, deer, raccoon, river otters, beavers, and over 200 species of birds.
You have your choice of three different trails here, only one of which is over a mile. The Sandpiper Pond Nature Trail weaves past one of the best-preserved beaches in the state. The two-mile trail takes you along a boardwalk, over a saltwater pond teeming with life, and ending at an observation tower that gives you a good view of the area’s birdlife. Or, you could take the shorter .3-mile Kerrigan Nature Trail that leads you to a freshwater lagoon. This is one of your best bets at seeing alligators in the wild, along with other animal life. The Boardwalk trail is the shortest of the three, spanning just .1 miles. You’ll cross over a saltwater marsh that plays home to migratory birds, loggerhead turtles, and alligators. Entry for adults is $5, and children are $3. Children five and under are free.