Our Favorite Places to go hiking in South Carolina

Best Places to go hiking in South Carolina

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.

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Table Rock Trail

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.

Rainbow Falls Trail

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

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

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 Trail

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

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.

Our Favorite Appalachian Trail Towns

The Doyle Hotel
The Appalachian Trail crosses many roads, providing many opportunities to hitchhike into town for food and supplies.  Many trail towns are accustomed to hikers passing through, and thus many have hotels and hiker-oriented accommodations. Here are some of our favorite towns to stop in and take a break.


Best Appalachian Trail Towns
Hot Springs NC on the French Broad River


North of Georgia’s Springer Mountain, the AT crosses through the first of its official trail towns at Hot Springs, North Carolina, a small mountain town nestled in a valley beside the scenic French Broad River.Hot Springs is a town in Madison CountyNorth Carolina, United States. The population was 560 at the 2010 census. It is part of the Asheville Metropolitan Statistical Area. The town oozes small-town charm and scenic beauty, and outdoor outfitters, sandwich shops, and campgrounds pepper its sleepy streets. Routing down the town’s main thoroughfare, the Appalachian Trail’s iconic, white rectangular blazes follow Bridge Street, crossing the French Broad River before climbing a nearby summit at Lovers Leap.
Hot Springs welcomes over 2,000 through-hikers annually, mostly between March and May as the thru-hikers head north to Maine. Thru-hikers typically stay in town for a couple of days to rest, re-provision, do laundry, eat a good meal and enjoy a cold beverage. During the Fall, town sees smaller groups of hearty southbound thru-hikers nearing their goal of Springer Mountain, Georgia. 
Many of the businesses in town cater to hikers during the spring of the year as the influx of hikers head north to Maine. These same businesses provide services to section hikers and day-hikers throughout the year. Hot Springs, NC has great outfitters shops, shuttle services, hostels, relatively inexpensive lodging, and a number of casual dining options with cold beer and wine.


Best Appalachian Trail Towns
Damascus Virginia Downtown Area


Damascus is a town in Washington CountyVirginia, United States. The population was 814 at the 2010 census. It is part of the KingsportBristol (TN)Bristol (VA) Metropolitan Statistical Area, which is a component of the Johnson City–Kingsport–Bristol, TN-VA Combined Statistical Area (commonly known as the “Tri-Cities” region).
Damascus is the home of the annual Trail Days festival, and is known as Trail Town USA due to the convergence of four scenic trails in the town, including the Appalachian TrailU.S. Bicycle Route 76The Iron Mountain Trail, and the Virginia Creeper Trail. Damascus also is on the route of the Daniel Boone Heritage Trail and the Crooked Road Music Heritage Trail. The Trail Days festival is held around the middle of May each year and draws in excess of 20,000 tourists, making it the largest single gathering of Appalachian Trail hikers anywhere.
Damascus is known best as Trail Town USA, where seven nationally known trails intersect. Damascus offers a multitude of trails, over a thousand rental bicycles, creeks for kayaking or exploring, and the Virginia Creeper Trail, considered to be one of the nation’s best bike trails. It is still possible to walk around Damascus and speak with people sitting on their porches, or to stay in one of the bed and breakfasts and do your own porch sitting. Damascus offers a variety of lodgingseveral eating establishments, and a range of activities suitable for the extremely active or those who just want to relax.


Best Appalachian Trail Towns
Duncannon, Pennsylvania


Duncannon is located in Perry County, Pennsylvania. This small American town sits right off routes 11/15 and is easily accessible by routes 322/22. Duncannon has approximately 1,508 residents (according to the U.S. 2000 Census) and is located right along the banks of the Susquehanna River. If you are hiking the Appalachian Trail, you will pass through the center of town.
Many visitors hike through the Duncannon, PA for the Appalachian Trail, which runs through the town on its way between Georgia and Maine. And, while there’s definitely some great hiking to do in the area, there’s plenty to keep non-hikers busy as well.
Duncannon might not hit the tourist radar very often, but if it does, there’s a good chance you’re heading for the Doyle Hotel. The building that houses the Doyle was built in the early 1800s to replace an 18th-century wooden hotel that had burned down. Over the years, it changed hands many times, including being owned by Adolphus Busch of Anheuser-Busch fame, but was eventually bought in 1944 by Jim Doyle, who gave the hotel its current name.
While hikers do spend the night, the real reason to visit is the amazing food, which is offered for great prices and in very generous portions, and the super friendly owners. The Doyle might look like a bit of a dump from the outside, and even the inside, but this is definitely a gem in the area. While there, make sure to check out the trail information and postcards from hikers that have passed through.


Best Appalachian Trail Towns
Salisbury, Connecticut


The town of Salisbury, Connecticut is located two hours north of New York City and one hour west of Hartford, CT.
The Town of Salisbury is nestled in the bucolic wonder of the northwest corner of Connecticut. Salisbury and its villages of Lakeville, Taconic, Lime Rock and Amesville are convenient to the Appalachian Trail.
Even with the myriad of activities available in the town and surrounding areas, Salisbury has managed to maintain its rural feel as is immediately apparent when traveling its scenic roads among beautiful vistas of New England homes, rolling hills, pristine lakes, and babbling brooks.
Visitors are welcome to stay at a choice of attractive inns and B&Bs, attend one of many beautiful churches, wander down the streets to visit shops, galleries and eateries and take advantage of swimming at the town beach or boating on Lake Wononscopomuc or Twin Lakes.
One may also indulge in a vast history, including that of the 1800s iron ore industry, by enjoying several historic sites. From international vintage car races to ski jumping competitions, the area offers an array of activities for all seasons.


Best Appalachian Trail Towns
Monson, Maine


Monson was for many years a slate-mining town, and an important part of Monson history is a related Scandinavian immigration to Monson in the late 1800s. A Finnish Hall is located just south of town on Route 15. An old Swedish Lutheran Church (today the AIIA Institute) is currently listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The famed Appalachian Trail crosses Maine Route 15 just a few miles north of town at what is known as The Ledges. Monson is the last town that northbound hikers encounter before embarking on the One-Hundred Mile Wilderness, or the first town southbound hikers encounter after completing it.
The 100-Mile Wilderness is a remote stretch of trail situated between Monson and Mt. Katahdin in Baxter State Park. Hundreds of AT hikers enjoy a refreshing visit in Monson each hiking season to stock up on supplies, get a shower, enjoy a home-cooked meal, nurse a blister, and pick up their mail at the Monson Post Office.
A number of facilities offer hikers a friendly and hospitable place to spend the night. See the Town Businesses section of this web page for a listing with more detail on lodging options.


Clingmans Dome, The Highest Point In The Great Smokey Mountains National Park

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.


Clingmans Dome Paved Trail


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.


Clingmans Appalachian Trail


 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.


Clingmans Dome Sunset


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.