For seclusion from the city and a beautiful hike, check out the Awendaw Passage of the Palmetto Trail. Just 7 miles long and along the salt marsh, you can do this as a day hike and camp nearby at Buck Hall.
The Awendaw passage of the Palmetto Trail offers a hint of seclusion, just past the hustle and bustle of downtown Charleston. Lined with Palmetto Pines and dotted with old Live Oaks, the Passage is a quiet dirt trail that is an ideal location for a laid back hike into the Francis Marion National Forest. The trail offers 7 miles of flat and easy hiking that will wind into the woods, eventually running right next to the marsh itself. Although you can go further on the Palmetto Trail, eventually finding yourself on the Swamp Fox Passage which is another 47 miles long, this Awendaw Passage is the perfect length for a nice day hike.
Located in the Francis Marion National Forest, the trail is well maintained and well marked with white blazes on the trees. The trailhead is located at Buck Hall National Recreation Area, just a few miles up US 17 North. There is a $5 parking fee at Buck Hall, as well as bathroom facilities available to the public. For those who want to experience some camping after or before a day of hiking, there are 20 camp spots available at Buck Hall Recreation Area, for both RV and tent campers. Cruise into Buck Hall and and park in the second parking lot near the water. The trailhead starts in this section of the recreation area, towards the back left corner of the lot.
At the trailhead, you will be on boardwalk for about a mile. Eventually it will be smooth sailing on a dirt path that leads you further away from the commotion of the roadways. At about mile 3 you will come to a small section of boardwalk that overlooks the marsh. This is Walnut Grove, and is an ideal time to snap a picture. Pretty much from here to the end of the Awendaw section will be along side the saltmarsh. Take advantage and soak up all the beauty that the Lowcountry has to offer, but make sure you’re keeping an eye on the roots waiting to snag your shoe. Overall, this is a simple out and back section of trail that lets you get out in the wild without driving too far from town.
What Makes it Great
Francis Marion National Forest is named after the Revolutionary War General, Francis Marion, the “Swamp Fox.” The 290 miles of path on the Palmetto Trail that currently exist will eventually equal over 420 miles altogether. The start of this trail is right in the backyard of Charleston, which makes it an ideal place to get a rare bit of solitude for such a large and developed city. It is also the perfect place to explore a the natural sights of a southern forest.
What You'll Brag About
As in any city, the wildlife can be sparse. On the Awendaw Passage, you get the chance to encounter everything from owls to fiddler crabs, as you hike not only in the forest, but also along the marsh. You’ll have this trail all to yourself most of the time. Take advantage of the solitude!
Who is Going to Love It
Trail runners and day hikers definitely frequent this trail for a quick outing into the woods, but it's also a really great, convenient place to camp. There are a few tent spots available. As usual for any crowded place, all dogs must be leashed. Overall, this is a great section of trail for a light and easy jaunt in the woods, or a short and easy overnighter.
Trailhead, Parking, and Hours
The trailhead is located at Buck Hall Recreation Area, off of US #17 North. After turning right into Buck Hall Rec. Area, follow the road down until you dead-end into the parking lot. The campground will be on your right, and the trail head will be on your left. Parking here is $5, RV camping is $20/night and tent camping is $15/night. Hours are from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m., and the campground is open year round. Further information on camping at Buck Hall Recreation Area can be found here.