Here it is- the list of the best hikes in South Carolina to conquer. The list is a mix of mountains, beach, and swap to give you a feel for all that the state has to offer. Pack your hiking boots and let’s get going!
We are admittedly a bit spoiled when it comes to our history of epic hikes. Last year, we even got to do what remains our favorite hike of ALL time in Grand Teton National Park. So you can imagine South Carolina seems like it would be a bummer for a couple of avid hikers. We thought so, too! In fact, I spent my first year here convinced there were no great mountains or great views in SC. Lucky for me, I was very wrong. We’ve now been on a handful of hikes that have left us scratching our heads and thinking “This is really South Carolina?”
I am now a firm believer that there is something for every hiker in South Carolina. We have strenuous mountain hikes that leave your heart pounding and easier walks near the coast full of wildlife and plants galore. I am personally partial to the mountain views, but living in SC has given me a soft spot for boardwalk hikes and swamps. We do live only 30 minutes from Congaree National Park, one of the oldest overgrowth forests in the US with several champion trees! You don’t get great peak views from there but seeing a whole different ecosystem in a swamp is something to be marveled.
No matter if you’re looking for an easy stroll through the woods or a straight up hill hike, Ive got you covered. Here are the absolute BEST (in my humble opinion) hikes in South Carolina.
Table of Contents
1. Raven Cliff Falls to Dismal Trail Loop
This trail just came across our radar not too long ago. A friend told me about it and mentioned how it wasn’t dog friendly because it was strenuous and included ladders. Immediately, I wanted to do this hike!
Michael and I set off early on Easter weekend to do this hike. It’s about a 2.5 hour drive from Columbia. Let me tell you, friends: it is absolutely worth it! While you don’t necessarily come out to a “view” point, this trail does take you up and down a couple ladders, across a suspension bridge, and we even had lunch right next to South Carolina’s tallest waterfall. I’ll call that a win! You will start out on a pretty heavily trafficked trail to the lookout for the falls, but once you start Dismal Loop you’ll come across few other people!
Raven Cliff Falls to Dismal Trail ,Cleveland, South Carolina within Caesar’s Head State Park
- Distance: 8.8 miles
- Difficulty: Moderate to hard
- Dog friendly?: The trail itself is dog friendly, but unless you can carry you dog up and down a couple ladders and they are good with steep embankments, I’d leave your furry friend at home.
- Demographics: You will descend and ascend about 2000′ of elevation on this hike. The hike along Raven Cliffs Falls trail is pretty easy, with very few inclines. Once you view the waterfall and see the sign for Dismal Trail, prepare your quads. Dismal Trail is about 1.5 miles and alllllllllllll downhill. And it’s a steep downhill. Then you’ll come to Naturaland Trust Trail, which is a little more gentle sloping up and down. This is one of my favorite sections of the trail! You’ll cross the creek over a bridge, pass a rocky face, and see the waterfall pretttty upclose and personal. After you pass the suspension bridge, you come to Gum Gap Trail. The map said it was 3.3 miles, but have no fear. It’s only about a mile and a half back to Raven Cliff Trails from this point. It’s wide and all flat, so it’s smooth sailing from here on out!
- Prepare: Bring hiking boots, plenty of water, and food. There is a somewhat frightening sign once you begin Dismal Trail. It warns you that the hike is very strenuous and you have about 4-6 hours of hiking from that point. While it’s all true, if you are a regular hiker you’ll have no problem. I would recommend snacks, though. We stopped at the waterfall to have lunch and that was the energy boost we needed to finish!
2. Table Rock Trail
Table Rock Trail, Table Rock State Park, Pickens, SC
This trail is the first hike we did in South Carolina that realllly took us by surprise. Who knew SC had views like that?! Not us. This is one of the more famous trails in the state and a list of the best hikes in South Carolina wouldn’t be complete without it. We did this trail in October 2020 and true to SC weather, it was pretty hot. We packed a lunch to have at the top and plenty of water.
The trail is pretty packed and a bit narrow at spots so mind your social distancing techniques. Be mindful of stepping off the trail to let others pass, if need be.
- Distance: 6.7 miles
- Difficulty: Moderate
- Dog friendly? Yes! Our dog was able to do this hike with a few rest breaks towards the top. There is one portion where he needed a bit of a booty boost to cross a rock scramble. Other than that, he was able to traverse the terrain without issue. Due to the heat, he got pretty hot at times and actually laid down on the trail at one point, haha! Once we got back to shade and to a downhill portion he did fine though. Just bring plenty of water and allow your pup to rest as needed.
- Demographics: There are a few creeks and mini “waterfalls” along the way. The trail is also maintained with plenty of steps. Towards the top, it does get pretty steep. Eventually, you’ll come out to a huuuuuuge rock face with plenty of space. This is Governor’s Rock, it’s where we (and most others!) have lunch. But just FYI–it’s about another quarter mile or so to get to actual Table Rock. Table Rock is pretty small compared to Governor’s Rock, and I personally thought the views were better at the latter. Up to you if you want to continue on!
- Prepare: There is a $6 entry fee to the park and you’ll also have to register your vehicle before heading out on your hike. As always, bring plenty of water and snacks! Most of the trail is shaded, but the rock itself is in the sun so pack sunscreen!
3. Sulpher Springs Trail to North Lake Trail to Brissy Ridge Trail Loop
Sulpher Springs Trail to North Lake Trail to Brissy Ridge Trail Loop, Paris Mountain State Park, Greenville, SC
Admittedly, we haven’t done this particular hike yet but if we went to Paris Mountain again I think this is what we would choose to do the second time around. AllTrails marks this as moderate but the inclines are pretty gentle so I’d consider it on the easier side if you are a frequent hiker. You’ll get to pass by a lake as well!
- Distance: 5.3 miles
- Difficulty: Easy to moderate
- Dog friendly?: Yes! Must be kept on a leash.
- Demographics: A lot of entries on AllTrails recommends heading out clockwise on this loop to avoid rocky terrain. Be diligent about following signs and trails markings, as there’s a connector that will take you to the resevoir that’s easy to miss. A few people noted the trail could be narrow in places and is exposed at times. You’ll also pass a dam, but stay off! Park rangers will ask you to get down if they see you trying to climb on it. An overall nice hike for scenery.
- Prepare: Come early! The hike is popular, so the parking lot fills up quickly. There is overflow parking a little ways up the hill if the main parking lot is full. With some exposed sections, make sure you pack the sunscreen.
4. Boardwalk Loop Trail
Boardwalk Loop Trail, Congaree National Park, Hopkins, SC
This trail is SO easy and SO interesting. Add that to the fact it’s in a national park and that makes this hike a no brainer if you’re in the Columbia, SC area. Congaree National Park is the country’s oldest overgrowth forest and is equipped to survive some serious flooding. You’ll see unique flora and some wildlife (maybe even an alligator) as you walk along the boardwalk past a lake, tree knees, and an old moonshine still.
- Distance: 2.0 miles
- Difficulty: Easy
- Demographics: Stay along the low boardwalk for a leisurely walk through the park. It’s pretty flat for the most part. There are several points where you can leave the boardwalk and go to other trails within the park. Be sure to stay on the boardwalk and be especially careful if there’s recently been a lot of rain. Heavy rains leave most of the park in several inches of water.
- Prepare: Grab a brochure from the visitor’s center! There are numbered plaques throughout the trail that will give you unique insight into what you’re viewing. The park has several champion trees and other plants that become much more interesting when you actually know what you’re looking at! The trail is mostly shaded but South Carolina is famously hot, especially in the summer. The humidity is brutal and the mosquitoes are even worse. Pack sunscreen and bug spray!
5. Botany Bay Beach Walk
Botany Bay Beach Walk, Edisto Beach State Park, Edisto Island
This gorgeous beach walk will take you to the coast of South Carolina to enjoy the best of the coast’s scenery and wildlife. You’ll walk through wetlands, a salt marsh, and then end up in some ethereal beach forest. What’s better than combining the best of both worlds: beach and hiking?
- Difficulty: Easy
- Dog friendly?: Nope.
- Demographics: You’ll begin on an easy flat trail through coastal wet land before making your way to a salt marsh. Soon enough, you’ll come to a sandy trail leading you to a section of trees that grow out of the white sand. These trees growing out of sand definitely make this one of the best hikes in South Carolina. There are an abundance of seashells everywhere on the sand and covering the trees. The ocean is also right there for you to enjoy if you choose to wade in the waves or just walk along the shore.
- Prepare: Don’t take the seashells! It is forbidden and you can be fined. Just enjoy nature’s beauty! 🙂 And you’re at the beach, so I’d wear Birkenstock sandals or something I can easily kick off in the sand. And don’t forget a sun hat and sunscreen!
Have you completed any of the best hikes in South Carolina? Which was your favorite?! If not, which one are you most excited to explore?