Hiking and Biking in South Carolina’s Coastal State Parks
Hiking and Biking in South Carolina’s Coastal State Parks
By:Lynn and Cele Seldon
Keywords: outdoor activities & recreation, biking, hiking, parks, Upstate
Hiking and biking in South Carolina’s Upstate state parks is rightfully popular, but many hikers and bikers are discovering that the Palmetto State also has plenty of scenic options along the coast. Offering miles of flat sand, asphalt and pine needle-covered trails, along with spectacular Lowcountry scenery, the coastal state parks of Myrtle Beach, Huntington Beach and Edisto Beach are ideal for hiking and biking. Plus, you can even finish your exploration with a dip in the Atlantic Ocean!
The first state park to open in South Carolina (back in 1936) and one of 16 state parks to be built by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), Myrtle Beach State Park covers 312 acres in the heart of the Palmetto State’s Grand Strand region.
There are two scenic walking trails through the park. The first is the Sculptured Oak Trail, which meanders through the park’s maritime forest and is one of the last stands of maritime forest on the coast of South Carolina and a Heritage Trust Site. It is filled with live oaks, wax myrtles, hollies, poplars, Southern magnolias and sea oats along the expansive dunes. The short half-mile dirt and sand trail departs from the parking area of the Nature and Activity Centers and leads to a pond overlook before heading to the beach.
Along the way, there is a branch-off to the Yaupon Trail, which is an 0.4-mile alternative trail. The Yaupon Trail also ends at the beach, which is then accessible by boardwalk. This trail can be combined with the Sculptured Oak Trail for a longer walk. There is also a Maritime Forest Scavenger Hunt that meanders along both trails, which helps to identify the many varieties of flora and fauna and provides a glimpse into the habitat that once covered even more of the South Carolina coastline. Although neither trail is accessible by wheelchair, there is a 0.5-mile wheelchair-friendly boardwalk/sidewalk from the fishing pier that runs parallel along the beach. And they even have beach wheelchairs available at the park that allow full access to the beach.
Huntington Beach State Park lies just 13 miles south of Myrtle Beach and it feature 2,500 acres of lush oceanfront land, 3 miles of pristine beaches, 300-plus species of birds and Atalaya—a National Historic Landmark that was the winter home of renowned 20th-century sculptor Anna Hyatt Huntington and her husband, philanthropist Archer Huntington.
Hiking options here include the 0.1-mile Marsh Boardwalk, extending into a lush saltwater marsh, as well as the Kerrigan Nature Trail and the Sandpiper Nature Trail. From the parking lot, the Kerrigan Nature Trail is a 0.3-mile boardwalk trail that heads out to a freshwater lagoon. From an observation area, you can view a variety of shore birds and wading birds, sandhill cranes, rosette spoonbills and swallow-tailed kites, as well as the occasional alligator.
The Sandpiper Nature Trail is an easy 2-mile out and back trail that runs parallel along one of South Carolina’s best preserved beaches. You start off on a boardwalk over spartina grass and the infamous Lowcountry pluff mud and then wander through a forest of oaks, red cedars and creeping vines. You’ll finish up at a saltwater pond known for its plentiful birding from observation towers before heading back along the same path. For a longer hike or more bird-watching opportunities, continue along the beach for another 1.2 miles to the Murrells Inlet Jetty.
The CCC-built Edisto Beach State Park, 50 miles south of Charleston, features an environmental education center that highlights the natural history of Edisto Island and the surrounding ACE basin, South Carolina’s longest system of wheelchair-accessible hiking and biking trails, and a 1.5-mile-long beach. There are six hike/bike trails within the park and one bike trail that leads from the park to the oceanfront town of Edisto and the beach area of the park.
The 0.3-mile Campground Trail heads out from the campground to meet up with the 0.7-mile Scott Creek Trail, which meanders through the maritime forest and views of the marsh from three different boardwalks. The Scott Creek Trail also connects to the gem of the park, the 1.7-mile Spanish Mount Trail, which runs the length of the park and features one of the earliest Native American shell mound sites in South Carolina.
The Spanish Mount Trail also connects with the 0.4-mile Big Bay Trail that leads to the boat ramp and the Education Center. From there, there is also a 0.2-mile trail that leads to the Bache Monument, a significant marker in the accurate navigational mapping of the Atlantic Ocean coastline in the 1800s.
All of the trails have been hardened with natural materials to provide a smooth surface, with the exception of the 0.5-mile Forest Loop Trail (featuring a natural soft surface) and the asphalt of the 0.4-mile Edisto Bike Trail. All but these two trails are wheelchair-accessible and they also offer beach wheelchairs for full access to the beach.
More Coastal Hiking and Biking Options
Although there are lots of options within the coastal state parks, South Carolina’s coastline has several other hiking and biking opportunities. The flat, paved 10-mile Waccamaw Neck Bikeway parallels US 17 from Murrells Inlet past Huntington Beach State Park and on to Pawleys Island. It is currently a combination of completed trails and roadway sections.
Starting out in the charming seafood-focused village of Murrells Inlet, the Bikeway follows along the road (thankfully there are plenty of “Share the Road” signs) for 2 miles and then becomes the Waccamaw Neck Bikeway trail the remaining 2 miles to Huntington Beach State Park and its historic home, Atalaya—as well as beautiful Brookgreen Gardens across the street. Three miles further is the residential seaside community of Litchfield by the Sea, with the Bikeway ending (or starting) at Pawleys Island.
The Palmetto Trail, when completed, will be South Carolina’s longest pedestrian and bike trail at 500-plus miles and one of 16 cross-state trails in the United States. Today, the trail consists of 350 miles that stretch from the Blue Ridge Mountains to the Intracoastal Waterway. Three of the 26 passages are in the coastal region of the state and include: the 26.9-mile Lake Moultrie Passage, the 47.2-mile Fox Passage and the 7.1-mile Awendaw Passage. All three are hiking- and biking-accessible, and offer a variety of surfaces and coastal scenery.
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