It’s no secret the Columbia is famously hot – we earned our tagline fair and square! As we enter fall with temperatures finally dipping below 90 degrees and the humidity lessening slightly, this is the best time of year to get your family outside. The Midlands is home to a surprising number of family friendly hiking trails. This fun, inexpensive, and educational hobby is a great way to wear your kids out after school or on the weekend.
Some of y’all out there may think this hiking thing is not for you; I beg to differ. The trails my family has explored have been far from arduous. No special equipment is needed, and they are fun for all ages, I promise! Even if you aren’t in the best of shape, and I’m definitely not, you can tackle these trails with gusto!
Before You Go
1. Gear to Use
It maybe dorky, but I’m a huge fanny pack fan. I got a great one at Walmart that includes two water bottles and has large zipper pockets that can easily hold small snacks, keys, and my phone. It cost me around $10, and has served me well on many a hike and even the occasional 5K. If you plan on being out for more than 2-3 hours, you may want a backpack instead, especially if you are hiking with a little one in diapers, though I can say I can easily fit one disposable diaper and a zip top bag with a few wipes in a fanny pack.
2. What Not to Forget
Even with cooling temperatures, there will be bugs. South Carolina is home to a lot of them. Pack some bug spray or spray it on the kids as soon as they are out of the car.
3. Wear This
I recommend always wearing long, durable pants, like jeans. Partly due to the whole bug thing, and also because the paths on various trails tend to be narrow, or you may have a little explorer that is determined to get through the brambles.
4. Bathroom Basics
If at all possible, use the bathroom and change diapers before you go. Even if there is a bathroom or port-a-potty at the trail head, chances are pretty good that someone may need to pee in the woods down the road. Which brings me to the next point: teach your kid use the bathroom in the woods. For obvious reasons, you may want to add some wet wipes to the fanny pack or backpack, just in case.
5. When Taking the Littles
If you have a non-walking baby, slow moving toddler, or easily tired preschooler, you may want to invest in a baby/toddler carrier. While some of these trails are stroller friendly, many are not. If you plan on doing much hiking at all, trust me, this is one purchase that is worth every penny.
Where To Go
In no particular order, here are my top 10 places to hike:
1. Harbison Forest
There are an abundance of trails within Harbison Forest. We like the Stewardship Trail. There’s a great view of the Broad River and the length and difficulty suits a variety of experience levels. There is $5 fee to enter the park on a one-time basis but annual passes are available.
2. Congaree Swamp and Nature Preserve
Fall and spring are the best time to visit this enchanting part of the Midlands. Mostly stroller friendly, with a wonderful visitor center, water bottle filling station, and real bathrooms, this is something you will want to visit more than once. For more details, check out my review here.
3. Saluda Shoals
In the heart of Lexington, Saluda Shoals shines. It has everything from a splash pad, to nature trails, bike paths and rentals, and more. There is an entrance fee or you can purchase an annual pass. It’s situated conveniently between Lexington and Irmo and has stroller-friendly walking trails throughout.
4. Peachtree Rock and Heritage Preserve
Especially now that I’ve moved out to Red Bank, Peachtree Rock is a place my family visits and hikes frequently. There are rocks to climb for bigger kids, the area’s only natural waterfall, and it’s free! It’s no secret that we love it here, and if you have any questions, you can read more about it, here.
5. The Palmetto Trail
The Palmetto Trail actually extends across the entire state, but of course we have access to parts of it throughout the Midlands. There is over 350 miles of trails and pathways connecting one end of the state to another. If you haven’t yet discovered our part of the Palmetto Trail, there is no better time than the present!
6. 14 Mile Creek
Don’t let the name scare you! 14 Mile Creek is a short, stroller friendly path following the creek with a shallow wading spot at the end. If you’re ever on North Lake Drive in Lexington, you’ve probably passed it and didn’t even realize it.
7. Clemson Sandhills Research Center
Sandhills is not just a place to shop! Across Clemson Road from the mega shopping center is Clemson Sandhill. This sprawling research center is home to the Children’s Garden (there is a sandbox, gardens, play houses and more), the Lake House, and even walking trails, which I am sad to say I didn’t realize existed until I was researching this post, and I’ve taken my children to the Children’s Garden more times than I can count.
8. Timmerman Trail
This trail is part of the Cayce Riverwalk System, is ADA compatible (and therefore stroller friendly), and worth the trip. My kids loved going over the short bridge and found lots of fun bits of nature to explore along the way.
9. The Riverwalk
All told, the Riverwalk runs a bit north of the Gervais Street Bridge and extends along the river for miles. This paved path is a favorite spot for runners, walkers, and families. This area is prone to flooding so parts of the path are under construction from time to time.
10. Sesquicentennial State Park
Sesqui, as locals often refer to it, is home to a variety of trails and campsites and has a lot to offer. I’ve camped there, hiked there, canoed on the lake, and my children love playing under the large oak trees as much as they love the playground and splash pad.