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 the perfect spot to lace up your trail running shoes, and find some solitude with almost no roots and and rocks to disturb your footfall. The Awendaw passage offers 7 miles of flat and (if you prefer) fast running that will wind into the woods, eventually running right next to the marsh itself. Although you can go further on the Palmetto Trail into the Swamp Fox Passage which is another 47 miles long, the Awendaw Passage is the perfect length for a quiet out-and-back run.
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, off of SC Highway N17. There is a five dollar parking fee at Buck Hall, as well as bathroom facilities available to the public. 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. At the trailhead, you’ll be on boardwalk for a mile or so until you hit the dirt and feel like you’re in the middle of the woods.
For the most part, the trail is shaded and it’s (mainly) singletrack for days. A few areas are slightly overgrown, and you might have to bushwhack around a bend, but it is worth it for the secluded feel of the trail. As for roots and tiny bushes littering the trail, you will have to be alert, as a root might jump up and snag your shoe. This is one of the great things about this trail though. Most of the trails around Charleston are almost too perfect, and the Awendaw passage finally makes you feel like you are actually out in the woods, and there isn’t heavy foot traffic. Really, she’s a beaut.
Why 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 the natural sights of a Lowcountry forest.
What You Will 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 run not only in the forest, but also along the marsh. There is nothing like seeing the wide expanse of the southern marsh, as you will around mile 3 of the passage, at Walnut Grove. Here there is a bit of boardwalk that looks out into the distance, where all you see is marsh grass and the estuaries that surround it.
Who Will Enjoy It
Everyone from campers to trail runners. There are a few camping spots available. Be forewarned for those of you who are equestrian lovers, the Awendaw Passage does not allow horses, while the Swamp Fox Passage does. 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.
Trailhead, Parking, and Hours
Trailhead is located at Buck Hall Recreation Area, off of SC Highway 17, Northbound. Parking is available at Buck Hall, however there is a $5 parking fee that is good for the entire day while the recreation area is open.
Buck Hall Recreation Area is open from dawn to dusk.