Known for its Palmetto trees, Spanish moss lined walkways, and sandy beaches, South Carolina’s hiking trails are definitely a well-kept secret! If mossy lined trails leading to breathtaking waterfalls, views of dense green rolling mountains, or clear blue lake views are your ideal destinations, South Carolina’s trails are definitely worth the hike! Even better yet, you’ll have a hard time finding a trail that is not dog friendly!
Best Multi- Day Hikes/Backpacking:
Palmetto Trail: a 425 mile trail that encompasses all that is great about South Carolina. This trail begins at the ocean, and ends in the mountains. It passes through the most diverse terrain in the state, and could be covered in its own blog post! The most notable sections are: Jocassee Gorges Passage (covered below), and The Oconee Passage, which connects to breathtaking waterfalls and our next trail, The Foothills Trail!
Foothills Trail: a 77 mile trail that covers the foothills and mountains of South Carolina. There are MANY waterfalls and incredible views on this hike. Backpackers should plan 5-10 days on this trail, but is easily done in sections for those who just want to day hike! It’s worth mentioning that this is a GREAT starter multi-day backpacking trip for pups- because of the amount of water access! This hike also includes the highest mountain in South Carolina- Sassafras Mountain!
Jones Gap/ Mountain Bridge Wilderness/ Caesar’s Head State
Falls Creek Falls & Rainbow Falls: Within miles of each other, these are two of my favorite waterfalls in SC! Falls Creek Falls is located in the Mountain Bridge Wilderness and is the least traveled of the three. It’s not an easy hike, but it’s a great place to take pups for a swim!
Rainbow Falls is a MUST see. 5 miles through the woods with quite a bit of elevation gain, this trail is rated difficult, but it’s not like anything you’ve ever seen! Rainbow Falls drops over 100 feet from steep granite walls, and reflects a big, bold, beautiful rainbow! This is also a favorite spring/summer hike as there is plenty of water & shade for the pups along the 5 mile hike!
Yellow Branch Falls: 3 miles through the dense forest, this is a fairly moderate, but shorter hike! This is best viewed after heavier rains, and has a lot of small pools for the pups (humans too!) to play in. Yellow Branch is one of the most picturesque waterfalls around- so don’t forget your camera!
Best Kept Secret:
Moonshine Falls: Hands down a favorite (secret) waterfall in the southeast. Moonshine Falls gets its name from- you guessed it- the site of a moonshine still! There are still 55 gallon drums left over from the operation which makes for really cool photos! This beauty is not only SUPER dog friendly, but very lightly traveled! This 40’ waterfall has a plunge section you can walk and hang out behind! At 6 miles, and with various river cable crossings, this isn’t hike for everyone or every pup! The trailhead of Moonshine Falls is in a private summer camp and retreat, so don’t forget to call ahead and get permission (and a gate code!) to hike!
Jocassee Gorges/Lake Jocassee: Named in the top 50 of the “World’s Last Great Places” by National Geographic, you won’t ever experience another lake like this! This clean, clear reservoir is also home to many waterfalls on its shores that are accessible by boat! Devil’s Fork State Park is the perfect spot camp and explore Lake Jocassee and its many hiking trails! Check out the island by kayaking or stand up paddle boarding with your pup!
Have you been hiking in South Carolina? What are your favorite trails?
Lauren Gwinn is a writer and photographer and runs Palmetto Moon Pointers, a blog about hiking, backpacking, and travel with dogs. You’ll find her in the mountains, or on the back of her horse, always with her two Vizslas, Sutton & Banks, and border collie/Heeler mix, Deuce, by her side! Follow her adventures @palmettomoonpointers on Instagram and visit her blog: http://palmettomoonpointers.com