If you live in Charleston and love hiking mountains, you’re out of luck. You’re going to have a drive a ways. We don’t have any big mountains or National Parks anywhere near us, but we do have the Francis Marion National Forest. “What’s the difference?” you say? I’ll let the National Park Service tell you all the juicy details about that one, but one thing is for certain- while the trails may be flat, Francis Marion has lots of hiking to offer.
One particularly accessible trail in Francis Marion is the Swamp Fox Trail. This particular trail can be up to 47 miles one way as it cuts across much of the forest lying between US Highways 17 and 52. There is a trailhead on each side and some camping along the way. We like to take the trailhead on 17, which is about 45 minutes from downtown Charleston.
The trail is very clearly defined and you don’t even need to look at the trail blazes. About a half mile into the trail from that entrance is a fork where you can take the Swamp Fox Passage, which is the main part of the 47 mile hike, or fork off to the right for the Awendaw Passage, which just happens to go another direction.
The trails are really nice, with lots of pine trees and needles down around you. A lot of the trail is along a small creek and it’s very peaceful. There are a few places where you might have to walk through some water or grab some downed limbs to make a bridge, but all in all, the trail is really nice.
We really want to hike in and spend the night at one of the campsites in the coming months when the weather is really nice. It would make for a great two day trip to hike six miles in to the first campsite on one day and then out the next. It’s great for taking your dog or kids because everything is visible through the trees and flat. There are a lot more trails in Francis Marion (some we’ve done and some we haven’t) and we’re going to make it a priority to start going to more as it’s the best hiking option in the Charleston area.
What trails have you done at Francis Marion?
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