The best characteristic that all of Aiken’s trails, waterways, and parks share is their close proximity to the town itself. There are very few cities where you can swim, paddle, bike and trail run all within 30 minutes of downtown, yet Aiken provides just that for outdoor enthusiasts. Here are 12 can’t-miss adventures and events to knock off your bucket list when visiting Aiken:
1. Ride the Loop at Boyd Pond Park
Boyd Pond is packed with singletrack. In fact, they stuffed so much of it into this 210-acre park that the trail doubles back on itself multiple times, offering a long ride in a small area. Riding here includes minor but frequent elevation gains, and the overall sandy trail thrives in wet conditions, meaning when other trails are too muddy, Boyd pond steps in with its hard-packed sand and perfect riding conditions. This trail is fun for everyone, with both beginners and experienced riders enjoying this awesome, fast-paced track with lots of room to play.
2. Visit an Equestrian Training Center
Aiken is not a one-horse town. On the contrary, this community cherishes its reputation as thoroughbred capital of South Carolina, and there are plenty of events throughout the year that celebrate Aiken’s equestrian roots. Aiken has more than 20 stables, tracks, and equestrian centers, which means that there's always something fun going on. For a complete line-up of all things equestrian in Aiken, check out the Equestrian Calendar of Aiken.
3. Trail Run through Hitchcock Woods
The more than 2,100 acres and 70 miles of beautiful South Carolina trails are sure to impress when you visit Hitchcock Woods. This urban forest has been wonderfully preserved and exists just miles away from the center of Aiken. If you’re looking for a place close to the historic district where you can ride, run, hike, or just relax in nature, this is the spot for you. This forest is flat for the most part with wide sandy trails and plenty of open areas, streams, and hardwoods to keep you busy for a while.
4. Birding at Silver Bluff Audubon Center & Sanctuary
If you want to experience all of the different landscapes, wildlife, and vegetation available to you while in Aiken, put Silver Bluff Audbon Center & Sanctuary at the top of your list. Silver Bluff boasts more than 3,250 acres of preserved woodlands and wetlands, all showcased within the Tanager trail, a 2-mile lollipop trail that is beautifully maintained. It features a boardwalk that reaches across one of the area’s many ponds and more than 200 species of birds, including the elusive bald eagle and wood stork. Even if you’ve never been birding before, we highly recommend experiencing the raw beauty and prevailing wildlife at Silver Bluff.
5. Go Fishing at Brick Pond Park
Brick Pond Park offers quite a lot in the way of biking and hiking trails, and the North Augusta Greeneway runs through the park as well. Bring your fishing pole with you to the park, and after you’ve had your fill of the trails, sit back and cast a line into Brick Pond. There is a wooden bridge that crosses the pond and offers a great spot to set up your rig, as well as overhead cover. Non-motorized boats are also welcomed, so if you can get your hands on a paddleboard or canoe, you’ll have much more access to les-frequented parts of the pond.
The Aiken Horse Park celebrates Steeplechase every year in the fall and spring. If you plan your trip to Aiken around anything, make sure not to miss this event. Steeplechase is as much a party as it is a celebration of Aiken’s equestrian culture. This year the fall event will be held on October 29, get your tickets and information at here.
7. Eat, Drink and be Merry at Oktoberfest
Plenty of towns celebrate their own version of Oktoberfest, but Aiken’s southern swing on this German-style event is nothing short of extraordinary. Every year Oktoberfest is held in downtown Aiken and features live music, amazing food, college football, and, of course, lots and lots of German-style beer. Oktoberfest is a beautiful marriage of German-inspired food and craft beer, and a good old-fashioned down-home block party. Don’t forget to wear your lederhosen.
8. Langley Park Disc Golf Course
A championship-level disc golf course is not something you’d expect to find in the midlands of South Carolina, yet the Langley Pond Disc Golf Course is there in all of its glory. The course is a short 20 minute drive east of Aiken, and features a woodsy 18 holes that challenge near-by professional disc golf courses. Brush up on that fade and hit the trails for an epic afternoon at Langley Pond.
9. Go Horseback Riding
In Aiken, you can watch horse racing, hike equestrian trails, or do one better and ride your own horse. Almost all of Aiken’s local equestrian facilities offer some form of horseback riding. Explore Hitchcock Woods by horseback with Seashore Stables or Rebel Ranch Horse Tours.
10. Hunt Crackerneck Wildlife Management Area
The Crackerneck WMA is located just outside of Aiken and is home to more than 10,000 acres of the state’s best public hunting land. The WMA is open year-round, and as long as the game you’re after is in season and you are properly licensed, you are free to harvest your limit of trophies. South Carolina, and especially Aiken, celebrates a tradition of hunting as old as the state itself, and Crackerneck is one of the most cherished wildlife management areas in South Carolina.
11. Stay in Aiken’s Historic District
Aiken is a truly historic place. The town’s historic district proudly displays that fact in its architecture and monuments, and the walkable layout of downtown allows visitors to check out local shops and restaurants at ease, especially if you’re staying downtown. The Carriage House Inn and The Willcox are two of Aiken’s best hotels, and both are close to Aiken’s best outdoor destinations. If you’re visiting Aiken, why not treat yourself to the best of what’s both outside and inside?
12. Paddle to Savannah, GA
For you experienced flatwater paddlers out there, just 30 minutes east of Aiken lies access to the Savannah River, a more-or-less straight shot to Savannah, Georgia, stretching approximately 210 miles. If you take the time to plan your trip, research the area and prepare, this journey is entirely possible. Of course, if you don't have that much vacation time, you can find plenty of short trips along the route. Savannah Rapids Kayak Rental and the Savannah River Outfitters can both help you with boat and planning the trip.
Originally written for Aiken, SC.