1. It can be really hot in the summer. Really, really, really hot.
Okay, this probably seems obvious, but kids can be even more sensitive to the heat and humidity than their parents might be, and they can become dehydrated more quickly. Be aware that the heat peaks in the afternoons. Early morning hours will be a good bet for cooler hikes, and try to finish up before both kids and adults get too hot to enjoy themselves. Bring lots of water to keep the little ones (and you) well hydrated, and take lots of water breaks during your walk. My mom claims that the sun is hotter in South Carolina, and I think she might be onto something. Seek out shady spots to rest.
2. It can get really cold in the fall and winter.
This might not be so obvious. If you're coming to visit us between November and March, it will probably be sunny and comfortable during the day, but I've never lived in a place with greater temperature fluctuations in one day. You can see your breath in the morning and be sweating in a T-shirt and shorts that afternoon. There's also a chance that it can stay cold all day. Bring layers for everyone, so that you and your little ones can be comfortable outside no matter what the temperature decides to do or how quickly it decides to change.
3. Mosquitoes could be their own natural attraction here.
My kids' favorite thing at spectacular Congaree National Park in Hopkins is not the biggest loblolly pine tree in America, a monster whose trunk we could not encircle even when all four of us joined hands to make a chain around it. And it isn't the enormous alligator snapping turtle that lurks by the dock. No, it's the Mosquito Meter at the visitors center, which doesn't stop at “severe,” or even “ruthless.” It goes all the way to “war zone,” the mosquito equivalent of 11. They find this hilarious. Not so hilarious are the actual mosquitoes themselves. Bring lots of bug spray, and use it liberally. I like to think that it's just all the sweet tea we drink that makes our blood so enticing to biting insects, but the last thing you want on vacation is for you or your child to be the main course for a mosquito horde.
4. Give yourself much more time than you would if you were kid-free.
It's not just that children walk more slowly than adults, which is true no matter where you go. Kids go slowly when hiking here in South Carolina because there is so much to see along each trail. Whether they're looking for little creatures and shells in the marshes along a coastal trail or clambering among the cascades and boulders along trails in the Upstate, children will find amazing things with every step. Perhaps we South Carolinians like to walk slowly because there's just so much beauty around us to soak in.
5. You don't have to go far to see some truly spectacular sights.
I've learned that one of the secrets to happy hiking with little ones is to make sure there's some great payoff that you're all walking toward. It makes the hike an adventure to a great unknown, and it’s super motivation if energy starts sagging. In some places, though, that payoff doesn't happen until you've climbed 2,000 feet and several miles to the top of a mountain. (That's a recipe for hysterical preschoolers. Not, of course, that I ever attempted anything so foolish. No, never.) But no need to worry in South Carolina. On dozens and dozens of trails, you don't have to go very far at all before you come to a towering waterfall, a magical live oak or crashing waves. You can keep your hike under two or three miles and still be treated to some of the most beautiful sights in the world.