With a playground of 24,000 acres, the Santee Coastal Reserve is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts in the south. Not only is the reserve rife with trails, it is also home to almost 300 bird species throughout the year. A mix of freshwater and saltwater coastal systems, the Santee Coastal reserve is a wildlife mecca that you can spend half the day in, walking under beautiful oaks and cypresses and taking in the sounds of the southern woodlands.
For the runners, you’re going to have a blast out here. You can find trails over 3 miles long (hooray!) and miles upon miles of things to keep you distracted from that burn in the lungs. The alligators will keep you light on your feet and the wild pigs will make sure you’re alert.
As for trails, you have 3 options. The Woodland Loop is a 1.1 mile loop that has you running on mainly hunting and firebreak roads through the old growth and pine forests of the south. This is a short jaunt that has no facilities available, so come prepared with water and bug spray.
The Marshland Loop is approximately a 1.9 mile loop that winds you through the Washo Reserve. A former rice plantation, this section of Santee Coastal Reserve is beautiful and abundant with wildlife. If you’re feeling frisky, check out the 800 foot boardwalk that takes you up and over the water to spot some alligators and run above the wetland flora of the area.
The last trail is the Bike/Hike Loop. To access this trail, you will have to run on the Marshland Loop for almost a mile before you see the trailhead. Once on it, you have 7.2 miles of flat and easy running over mostly sandy roads and grass covered dykes. Easy running on the knees. keep an eye out for all kinds of animals from Carolina Wrens (the state bird) to the common wood duck. It’s also worth it here to pull out the headphones now and then. You might just hear a wild pig squeal or a gator thrashing around and enjoying his latest snack. To head back to your car, take the Bike/Hike Loop back to the Marshland Loop where it will end at the parking lot.
What Makes it Great
If you’re a birder, this one’s for you. Birds such as brown pelicans, mottled ducks, yellow and pine warblers, Bald Eagles, and ospreys swarm to the Santee Coastal Reserve and flourish. Since you’re running, make sure to bring the iPhone to snap a quick pic of the wildlife.
What Runner Will Love It
From grass, to sand, to boardwalk, these trails are flat and easy without many impediments (save an alligator or two) to slow your roll. The Santee Coastal Reserve if full of things to look at and discover on your run, so it will definitely be an enjoyable one where you will wonder where the time went. In warmer months, don’t forget the bug spray. And since the trails are longer, make sure you take some water along.
Parking, Trailhead and Hours
Parking is located on Santee Gun Club Road, in McClellanville, South Carolina. There are two parking lots. The first parking lot you’ll come to is where the Woodland Loop is located. The second parking lot houses the trailhead to the Marshland Loop. To find the Bike/Hike Loop, you need to hop on the Marshland Loop for about .7 miles before you hit the start of the Bike/Hike Loop.