Looking for a trail for backpacking in SC. I have not backpacked since moving here and, while there are many trails for day hiking, most are trails where backpacking is not permitted.
I am aware, by internet info only, of the Foothills National Recreation Trail and it looks ideal for me, but the nearest trailhead is 5 hours away. The AT is 5.5 hours away. There is the Palmetto Trail but the parts close to me are coastal and low lying ground and I want some elevation. I live in southeastern SC, which is all marsh and swamp and it has its charms, but the sheer volume of insects, and the alligators make it undesirable to me as a place to spend the night.
One district of the Sumner NF is only 2.5 hours away and I have a topo map on order from the USGS store but my calls and emails to the ranger office have not been productive, due I believe to the CV19 situation. I know backpacking is permitted there but do not know the elevation and doubt there are maintained trails. I am a bit too old for bushwacking but there may be trails that would be OK.
1. I know the AT and Foothills will be great but want to drive less than that. Anyone know any other trails that might be closer to the Bluffton/Hilton Head area? Does not need to be SC, as GA is right next door.
2. Anyone who has knowledge of both that can compare the Palmetto Trail to the Foothills Trail?
3. Anyone with knowledge of the southen district of the Sumner NF?
4. Any suggestions or comments of any kind are welcome and appreciated.
I'd like to help you, but the only part of SC I've visited for hiking has been in the NW corner of the state. I've driven 10+ hours many times to the NC mountains from my home in Chicagoland, and for me that's time well spent. If you're willing to drive half that distance I could provide info on the places I've been, but lowland swampy hiking has never been my thing.
Best of luck in your hiking adventures to come. I hope to get out a lot more when I retire in a few years. Nearly 20 years ago my hiking buddy and I (in our early 40's at the time) were inspired by a pair of hikers we met on the way up to the summit of Cold Mountain in NC's Shining Rock Wilderness. They were aged 70 & 71, and Cold Mountain was the final peak in their quest to summit every 6000' mountain in the Eastern United States. A year earlier they had completed the Appalachian Trail.
My buddy and I vowed we would return to the summit of Cold Mountain when we're that age, 8 or 9 years from now.
Keep on trekkin!
By the way, I highly recommend the Shining Rock Wilderness. When accessed from the Blue Ridge Parkway you're already over 5000' feet and don't have to hump it uphill all day to reach the crest.
Thanks Driftwoody. You point out something that is pretty great. I am not terribly far from lots of great trails in NC, Ga and even in SC. I have just been focused on locating the closest to me. I think I have that solved though. I had ordered info from the Foothills Trail and thought it would be a while before I got it but they were real quick and as of today's mail I have a wonderfully detailed map, a trail guide just full of information and a quick reference pocket guide. It has a trailhead a bit over 4 hours from me and from the looks of it I believe it will be well worth the drive.
The fun begins now as I enjoy the planning part as well as the hiking.
I know the AT and Foothills will be great but want to drive less than that
Although there isn't a lot of elevation, you might consider Cumberland Island which is only a bit more than 2 hours drive to St Marys. I'm guessing the ferry to the island isn't operating now but I could be wrong.
The Foothills Trail is not only excellent, but they have been putting a lot of work into it in the past few years, such as a viewing platform at Sassafrass Mountain and an established campsite at the Lighthouse etc.
Hey sjs, glad to help. First, I can’t recommend the Foothill Trail highly enough. While crossing a few roads, which allows some day hiking access and resupply, it is really a pristine hiking experience, with great trails the whole way. While longer in length, both the MST and Palmetto Trails have significant sections of road walking.
On that note, I love the spirit of the Palmetto Trail, but it just isn’t that mature. Too many unfinished sections. I’d recommend the FHT Or the mountain sections of the MST far above the Palmetto Trail.
Aside from these “long trails” there are many other areas that have fantastic backpacking. Shining Rock Wilderness, Middle Prong Wilderness, Linville Gorge, and the Smoky Mountains are my personal favorites.
Last but not least, there are countless day hike options in the Upstate SC/WNC. Consider taking a car camping trip and doing multiple day hikes. Pisgah Ranger District and the Smokies are both great options with reservable campsites and numerous day hike options.
Thanks null, I had not heard of Cumberland Island, I'll have to look into that.
Thanks Jerry E. I am reading up on the Foothills Trail now and going over the maps and trail guide. It will be my first trip, though only for a few days. I had wondered if I should spend time comparing it to the Palmetto but you have confirmed my initial impressions and I will focus on the Foothills for the present. I am encouraged by looking at the weather for the Table Rock terminus and see it is about 80 as a high with 60 as a low. That will be a great relief from the much higher heat and humidity that I have had here for several weeks.
The website confused me because it stated hikers must register and park at one of two state parks, which are located on the two terminus points of the trail. I incorrectly took that to mean that one must park there and only there.
I also misconstrued the info on Sassafras Mountain when it stated the parking lot is only open from sunrise to sunset. In fact, parking is allowed on all of the identified access points, such as Sassafras Mt. As a plus, the lot being closed means a certain level of security is afforded to your vehicle while you are out on the trail.
I have absolutely no experience yet with this trail but I am immensely impressed with how well organized and helpful the Foothills Trail Conservancy is.
P.S. I had also asked about water. There appear to be ample opportunities along the trail to obtain water from natural sources but I also learned there are several locations where boy scouts maintain water cisterns.