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A guide to the best day hikes in South Carolina

South Carolina has some great day hike destinations. There are many sections of the Palmetto Trail that will ultimately reach from coastline to mountains that are suitable for a day hike. Conestee Lake recreation area near Greenville has hiking trails and will eventually be linked with the Swamp Rabbit Tram Trail that runs from Greenville to Travelers Rest. The old rail bed is a great day hike or is also suitable for mountain biking.

Upstate South Carolina has some excellent mountain trails. One excellent choice is the “Rim of the Gap” trail in the Jones Gap State Park. It is a strenuous hike covering 8 miles of scenic trail that often runs along a high cliff face. The Middle Saluda River is visible below as well as the towering cliffs on the opposite side of the valley. The trails crosses two waterfalls and the hiker has to hold onto cables during the crossing to avoid a precipitous fall. This trail is closed during extreme weather due to icing conditions on the trail that can become quite hazardous.

The Jones Gap Trails is less hazardous, but is moderately strenous. Scenic vistas abound and in the fall, the foliage colors are spectacular. Part of this trail follows the Middle Saluda River course and then it begins to climb toward Caesar’s head, where a ranger station and observation point is located. From Caesar’s Head, a spectacular view of Greenville and the surrounding mountains and valleys is breathtaking.

The Cold Branch Trail offers an alternative return route back down the valley to the ranger station in Jones Gap Park.

The recently completed Rainbow Falls Trail in Jones Gap State Park is a 1.6 mile hike, but you have to hike about a mile on the Jones Gap Trail to access it. It is a gorgeous hike. The trail route was carefully selected to pass near the beautiful rock faces and in several places the landscapers built stone steps that fit very aesthetically into the natural setting. The falls drop at least 100 vertical feet and it is a delightful place to visit. The round trip is a little more than five miles.

At the Duke Power Bad Creek impoundment on Highway 130 north of Salem, SC, a trail runs from the parking area to the Whitewater River and if you are adventurous, you can continue on to the Whitewater Falls observation deck. This is a stunning waterfall. Be sure to take a camera to record the memory for future enjoyment.

For those looking for a short hike to a beautiful destination and a good picnic spot, Twin Falls is a short hike, but the split falls is a long drop and the moss-covered rock face is beautiful. There is an observation deck, but when the weather is warm, you can sit on the rocks at the base of the falls and the mist will cool you as the breeze blows softly.

There is also a short hike at Chestnut Hills park located near the intersection of Highway 11 and 276. It is a casual hike and is not very strenuous. There is a lake there that is stocked for fishing as well.

For those looking for a short stroll, Furman University campus has a nice trail around the lake behind the buildings. This trail has links to the Swamp Rabbit Tram Trail and therefore you can tailor your hike to the length that you desire by accessing the Swamp Rabbit Trail.

Several of the trails in the upstate link with the Foothills Trail system which offers many miles of scenic hiking. Segments of this trail provide great day hikes, or you can spend several days hiking from end to end.

As you can see there are some wonderful choices around the Greenville, SC, area. Other areas throughout the state offer many opportunities for day hikes, but few can equal the beauty of the upstate trails.

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