The interpretive trail at Ninety Six National Historic Site takes visitors on a one-mile tour of the Star Fort and the site of the 18th century village it protected.
But if you're willing to wander off the paved path into the forest, you can get a better feel for the land once traveled by settlers, traders and Cherokee Indians. There are two trails off the main route that offer visitors a chance to explore the surrounding wilderness.
The Gouedy Trail is a 1.5-mile loop that takes you past the site of a trading post established in the 1750s by Robert Gouedy. The first permanent settler in the area, he offered a wide assortment of goods, including cloth, beads, needles, tools, gunpowder and rum for sale or trade to settlers and Indians in the area.
The trail starts along the route of the historic grass-covered Charleston Road. Originally used by traders carrying trinkets and other goods to the Cherokee Indians, it went on to become one of the primary avenues of travel for settlers heading into the South Carolina backcountry.
A short ways up the old wagon road, a trail sign will direct you right to the Gouedy loop. After crossing a field and entering the woods, you'll come to a meadow believed to be the site of Gouedy's first trading post. An interpretive sign tells you the history of the trading post and the fort that was built around it to protect settlers from Indian attacks.
Not far from the meadow is the gravesite of James Gouedy, Robert's son. There's also a marker at a Colonial era cemetery that includes 50 graves - many of them marked with simple fieldstones.
The second trail - the Cherokee Path - follows part of a route that served as the most direct course between Charleston and the Cherokee towns in the Upstate. It became a major thoroughfare for trappers and traders traveling between the coast and the frontier.
At the end of the 1.5-mile trail is the 27-acre Star Fort Pond, a favorite fishing hole for bream, largemouth bass, channel catfish and crappie. If you're visiting Ninety Six this time of year, leave behind your rod and reel. The lake is open for fishing Wednesday, Friday and Saturday only from April 1 to November 1.
You can pick up a self-guided tour map of both trails at the Ninety Six Visitor Center.