A Hiker's Guide to Charleston, South Carolina

Move from deep forest to rocky cliffs ©the waving cat / Flickr
Move from deep forest to rocky cliffs ©the waving cat / Flickr | © the waving cat / Flickr
Samantha Connors

Charleston is a notoriously flat part of the state, but that doesn’t mean that avid hikers should shy away from the many gorgeous walking trails in the area. With a unique marine landscape, Charleston features dozens of outdoor places to explore from hidden beach paths to intricate woodland routes through the Francis Marion National Forest. To discover the most unique and beautiful places to explore, follow our hiker’s guide to Charleston, South Carolina.

Edisto Nature Trail

To find the real hiking trails, you’ll have to head outside of the city a bit. Edisto is located just under an hour from downtown Charleston and is known for its pristine beach and intriguing woodland trails. The Edisto Nature Trail begins where the Ashepoo, Combahee and South Edisto Rivers converge, an area called the ACE Basin, and winds through wildflower meadows, historic rice fields and an old phosphate mining site.

Edisto Beach State Park l

Awendaw Passage

With a planned distance of 425 miles, the Palmetto Trail spans across North and South Carolina, runs through the Francis Marion National Forest and encompasses many trail systems along the way. One of the shorter and easier paths, the Awendaw Passage takes you on a seven-mile round-trip voyage through marine forests and saltmarsh landscapes. On the route, you’ll encounter other trails and areas you can explore, including the Walnut Grove scenic overlook.

Swamp Fox Passage

One of the longest sections of the Palmetto Trail, the Swamp Fox Passage extends for a whopping 47 miles. The trail itself is considered easy, though it would be difficult to hike in its entirety in just one day. Trek through part of the trail to discover four different ecosystems, including eerily beautiful swamps, or you can opt to bring a mountain bike along to ride the entire passage.

An abandoned church in the Francis Marion National Forest l

Caw Caw County Park

Get a peek at the Lowcountry’s wildlife when you visit the Caw Caw Interpretive Center in Ravenel, South Carolina. Forty-five minutes west of downtown Charleston, Ravenel is home to more than six miles of trails as well as interesting exhibits, displays and programs. Wander through the marshlands atop elevated boardwalks while identifying native animals like the otters, waterfowl and dozens of bird species.

Audubon Swamp Gardens

If you’re looking to stay a bit closer to the city during your outdoor expedition, try hiking through the Audubon Swamp Gardens at Magnolia Plantation and Gardens. You will have to pay a small fee to enter this unique area, but you could easily spend the day wandering the trails and marveling at the unusual ecosystem that thrives here.

Flowers growing in the swamp at the Audubon Swamp Garden l

Pitt Street Bridge in Mount Pleasant

Though not considered much of a hike, the path along the Pitt Street Bridge in Mount Pleasant is a beautiful place to spend an afternoon in Charleston. An iconic Charleston spot, the Pitt Street Bridge once connected Sullivan’s Island to Mount Pleasant via trolley but now serves as a beautiful waterfront destination. Walk along the former bridge for a sunset stroll or show up early in the morning to spend the day fishing off the pier.

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