South Carolina has an incredibly diverse range of terrain and wildlife. As well as no shortage of amazing views. So it’s no secret that one of the premiere activities anytime of the year is hiking trails.
From the mountains of the Upstate, to the marshes and coastal wetlands of the Low Country. From beginners to seasoned hiking veterans. South Carolina has something to offer everyone.
Here are some of our favorite South Carolina hiking trails in no particular order. We hope you enjoy them as much as we do.
First on our list is Table Rock Trail. Located near Pickens, South Carolina. The trail is 6.7 miles long, and is considered heavily trafficked. Table Rock Trail features a waterfall and is rated as difficult. Pets are allowed but must be kept on a leash. Table rock Trail is accessible all year round.
We recommend starting Table Rock Trail early in the morning and taking your time if you are a beginner. Trekking poles will help for the trip back down, which is considered the hardest part of the hike. Be sure to follow the red markings and you are good to go. We recommend bringing an adequate amount of water for yourself and any furry friends you may bring.
Keep in mind that this is a heavily trafficked trail, so it can get crowded. Table Rock Trails only drawback would be that it can get congested.
Next on our list is Rainbow Falls Trail. Rainbow Falls Trail is a 4.3 mile heavily trafficked out and back trail located near Cleveland, South Carolina that features a waterfall and is rated as moderate.
The trail is primarily used for hiking, nature trips, and bird watching and is best used from September until May. Dogs are also able to use this trail but must be kept on leash.
If you want to visit Jones Gap before 2 p.m. on Fridays, Saturdays or Sundays, you need to pay $5 and reserve one of the 30 parking spots available the day before your visit. This parking fee is in addition to the visiting fee. Reserved parking spaces will be held until 2 p.m. Parking spot reservations may be made here: https://reserve.southcarolinaparks.com/mountain-bridge.
Starts off easy when you enter the trailhead, but will quickly get steep as you walk up a lot of stairs. We recommend bringing A LOT of water, especially during the summer. The view of the falls are BEAUTIFUL!
Boardwalk Loop Trail is a 2 mile heavily trafficked loop trail located near Hopkins, South Carolina that features a lake and is good for all skill levels. The trail is primarily used for hiking, camping, nature trips, and bird watching and is accessible year-round. Dogs are also able to use this trail but must be kept on leash.
This park is known to flood, so trails may be closed seasonally. Please check the park’s website for more information: https://www.nps.gov/cong/planyourvisit/trail-information.htm.
Raised nearly 6 feet above the forest floor, the elevated boardwalk winds through a diverse old-growth forest. Use the self-guided brochure and listen for woodpeckers hammering away in the tall trees above. The boardwalk passes by Weston Lake, an old channel of the Congaree River.
Opossum Creek Falls Trail is a 5.4 mile moderately trafficked out and back trail located near Long Creek, South Carolina that features a waterfall and is rated as moderate. The trail offers a number of activity options and is accessible year-round. Dogs are also able to use this trail but must be kept on leash.
NOTE: The trailhead is before the parking area and between two boulders. It is labeled.
Beautiful trail following a creek much of the way with a few downed trees to get around but very doable. The trail up to the falls from the Chattooga river was cleared of vegetation not difficult except for one creek crossing as so many websites claim. Hardest part is the steady climb on the way back.
Raven Cliff Falls and Dismal Trail Loop is a 8.8 mile heavily trafficked loop trail located near Cleveland, South Carolina that features a waterfall and is rated as difficult. The trail is primarily used for hiking and nature trips and is accessible year-round. Dogs are also able to use this trail but must be kept on leash.
Although dogs are allowed on this trail, some users have reported that the trail has ladders and steep rock faces, making it difficult for dogs.
Combining the Raven Cliff Falls trail, the Gum Gap trail, the Naturaland Trust trail, and the Dismal trail for a great adventure! This is a great workout with a tremendous payoff.
Hike trail #11(FHT/Raven Cliff Falls,easy) to trail #13 (Gum Gap,easy). Follow Gum Gap to trail #14 (Natureland Trust, strenuous) over the suspension bridge and down the the side towards Matthews Creek at the bottom. Along the way there is a great break spot on a ledge and the Cathedral formation. This section is very steep going down. Cross Matthews Creek on the cables and start the vicious switchbacks on Trail #12 (the Dismal Trail) back to trail #11 and eventually the parking lot.
This hike is outstanding. Be prepared, either direction this is a hard hike with a well earned payoff.
Falls Creek Waterfall Trail is a 2.1 mile heavily trafficked out and back trail located near Slater-Marietta, South Carolina that features a waterfall and is rated as difficult. The trail is primarily used for hiking, running, and bird watching and is accessible year-round. Dogs are also able to use this trail but must be kept on leash.
This a great little workout, a bit much for the toddlers but okay for the pre-teen crowd. The hike starts uphill and stays that way for a good while. There are some flat stretches mixed in and a couple of stream crossings. Being this short the hike reaches the falls before you’re too tired to enjoy the falls and they are beautiful.
You can cross at the base of the falls and hike up the trail on the other side for a great picnic spot. The cables at the base of the waterfall have been removed as of November 2020.
There is limited parking so arrive early! The trail is do-able with dogs on a leash, but may be difficult for some dogs.
At 6,643 feet, Clingmans Dome is the highest point in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It is the highest point in Tennessee, and the third highest mountain east of the Mississippi.
Only Mt. Mitchell (6,684 feet) and Mt. Craig (6,647), both located in Mt. Mitchell State Park in western North Carolina, rise higher.
The observation tower on the summit of Clingmans Dome offers spectacular 360° views of the Smokies and beyond for visitors willing to climb the steep half-mile walk to the tower at the top.
On a clear day, one can see nearly 100 miles. Unfortunately, air pollution drops the average visibility to 20 miles.
Due to the elevation of Clingmans Dome. Temperatures average 10-20 degrees cooler than surrounding lower areas. Precipitation, as well as fog can be expected on your trip. The cool, wet conditions on Clingmans Dome’s summit make it a coniferous rainforest.
Clingmans Dome is accessed via Clingmans Dome Road in the Great Smokey Mountains National Park. Clingmans Dome Road is open annually from April 1 through November 30. From the entrance of Clingmans Dome Road, you can expect a 7 mile drive. The road ends in a large parking area from which a 0.5 mile trail leads to the summit. The trail is paved but steep, and leads to an observation tower on top.
Pets and bicycles are not permitted on the paved trail to the observation tower, or on any other trails in the area. A bike rack is located near the beginning of the paved trail to park bikes while walking to the top. You will need to bring a lock with you to secure your bike.
Besides the trail to the summit, there are several trails that start on Clingmans Dome Road and parking area. The Appalachian Trail (AT) crosses Clingmans Dome, marking the highest point along its journey from Georgia to Maine. The Forney Ridge Trail leads to Andrews Bald, a high-elevation grassy bald.
A Clingmans Dome Sunset is something everyone should experience at least once in their lifetime. Amateur and professional photographers form a line at the Clingmans Dome area approximately 45 minutes prior to sunset.
This is one of the most amazing and breathtaking natural events you will ever witness as the sky displays spectacular scenery of clouds, mist, and the sun as it throw off many shades of red and orange before it moves straight across the sky and slides perfectly into a white circle.
One of the best things about trekking to Clingmans Dome is that it’s free! There is no entrance fee to Great Smoky Mountains National Park. So for a no-cost activity you can gain so many subsidiary activities from it; such as the exercise during the hike in, photo opportunities, great views from the observation tower and enjoyment of the peacefulness of nature that surrounds you in this gorgeous area.