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Hiking in the fall Hover image

Oct. 1, 2020

Emily Clark Hover image

Fall in South Carolina is the perfect time to get outside and go for a hike. From the Lowcountry to the Upstate, there are plenty of trails for an easy or strenuous walk exploring the natural beauty of the state. 

Emily Clark, who lives in Travelers Rest, started hiking about four years ago and spends much of her free time hiking across the state. She helps manage a group on Facebook of almost 5,000 members for women who hike

“Hiking allows me to refresh and reset. Life has been everything but normal recently, but when I’m out hiking, I tend to forget about the stressors of life and can just ‘be’ with nature,” she says. 

Why take up hiking? 

Hiking not only connects you with nature, but it is also a great workout and has other health benefits. The great thing about hiking is that you can find a trail that fits your fitness level, whether you want to climb thousands of vertical feet in a few miles or meander slowly through the forest. 

Recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention* has found that more Americans are reporting increases in stress and other behavioral health conditions because of the pandemic. Getting outside has been shown to decrease stress levels. Scientists believe that calming nature sounds or the silence of a trail lowers blood pressure and other stress hormones. 

Around here you won’t have to look far to find a place for a good nature walk. There is a state park in almost every county in the state, meaning you don’t have to go far to find a place to hike. 

“South Carolina is the perfect hiking destination because the state has so much to offer,” Clark says. “From coastal state parks, to mountain vistas and waterfalls, to cypress forests in the Midlands, the diversity of our state is one of a kind. There really is something for everyone.”

Emily Clark started hiking four years ago and helps manage a group for women hikers in South Carolina. 

Table Rock view Hover image



Where to go 

There are plenty of hiking spots across the state. You can find a good list of trails on All Trails. If you are looking for something a little challenging, check out the toughest hikes in the state. 

Clark likes the Foothills Trail, which runs 77 miles in Upstate South Carolina and western North Carolina. The trail offers hikes of various lengths and difficulty for all hikers.

In the Midlands, Congaree National Park has hiking trails for exploring South Carolina’s only national park. Congaree has the largest intact expanse of old growth bottomland hardwood forest remaining in the southeastern United States. There are options at Congaree for short hikes on the Boardwalk Trail or more extensive hikes into the backcountry. 

In the Lowcountry, there are plenty of trails of varying difficulty on Hunting Island that allow you to explore the barrier island ecosystem. 

How to get started 

Start small if you are just getting started with hiking by going on easier or shorter trails. You can also get started by going for walks around your neighborhood or at nearby community parks. 

“Once my dog, Moose, was big enough to hit the trails, we started small by hiking short trails and have worked our way up to overnight hikes and multiday backpacking trips,” Clark says. 

Keep a list of hikes you’d like to work toward. For example, you may hope to hike Table Rock, one of the most difficult hikes in South Carolina. 

Hiking can also be a way to meet new people. Online groups, like the one Clark runs, can be a great way to learn more about hiking while developing relationships. 

“I used to do a lot of solo hiking. Once I joined Girls Who Hike SC, I was able to connect with other ladies that enjoyed the same outdoor activities,” she says. “I never knew there was such a growing community of female outdoor adventurers. This group has allowed me to build lifelong friendships with some amazing women.” 

What to bring 

Make sure you bring water with you. Bring food if you plan on a longer hike. Other essentials to bring: appropriate clothing, safety items, a map or compass and a first aid kit.

Be prepared before hitting the trails by looking up the trailhead and routes. Make sure you pay attention to the posted signs, as some trails may be closed. Follow appropriate guidelines for COVID-19 trail etiquette

Be sure to take everything with you when you leave. Make sure you put your trash or recycling in appropriate containers. 

Whatever part of the state you explore, get outside to enjoy the fall weather and appreciate everything South Carolina has to offer. 

*The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is an independent organization that provides health information you may find helpful.

This article contains links to third party sites. Those organizations are solely responsible for the contents and privacy policies of their sites.

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