South Carolina’s Old 96 District Is an Unexpected Wonder for Nature Lovers

The weather is cooling off, and many nature lovers are of two minds. On one hand, the beautiful orange leaves also mark the end of the seasonal rush, meaning less crowded trails, calmer lakes, and more quality time with the earth. On the other hand, chilly weather can feel uncomfortable. Fortunately for South Carolina, the temperate weather and minimal snow means that their natural wonders are enjoyable year round! When it comes to finding the most beautiful, temperate, undiscovered hiking trails, few places compete with the Old 96 District.

Old 96 District covers 5 South Carolina counties, nestled against the Georgia border. Between these counties (Abbeville, Edgefield, Greenwood, Laurens, and McCormick,) are plenty of natural wonders that hit that sweet spot for many. 3 lakes, 6 state parks, and over 250 miles of hiking trails mean there is plenty to do. Whether you are a fan of fishing, challenging hikes, or just enjoy meandering through the scenery, there is something to do for every kind of nature lover. Here are our tips for some of the highlights.

The Casual Hikers

Some of us are new, some of us just like to enjoy ourselves without pushing too hard! Both are completely fine. Old 96 District has plenty of walking trails, gentle strolls, and trails ranging from easy to medium. Some of our favorites include the Ten Governors trail in Edgefield, SC. Starting with a boardwalk over Slade Lake, the Ten Governors trail invites visitors to wander past historic homes and monuments to each of the 10 SC governors that hail from Edgefield County. It’s a mile one way, or two miles round trip. Afterwards, grab an ice cream cone from the Edgefield General Store!

Ten Governors trail

The Endurance Hikers and Bikers

Like we mentioned before, over 250 miles of hiking trails means there’s room for plenty of variety. Shorter, beginner-friendly trails are plentiful, but the Lakeview Tail in Hickory Knob State Park rewards those in it for the long haul. On Old 96 District Tourism’s Top Ten Best Trails List, the Lakeview Trail runs about 6.7 miles with panoramic views of Lake Thurmond. For even longer excursions, the Forks Area Trail System (FATS for short) connects several looping trails together for routes up to 34 miles long.

FATS Skinny Loop

The Boaters

Some outdoorsy people prefer the open water and a clear sky- and who can blame them? Old 96 District has many places to fish and boat, whether your preference is a larger boat or a humble kayak. Together, these three lakes hold over 100,000 acres of water. Besides the State Parks with lakeside access, plenty of marinas also give boaters ample access to the water.

Calhoun Falls Marina

The Explorers

Sometimes we find the most interesting visits are the ones where there is stuff to find and stuff to meander through. Old 96 District is home to two different Revolutionary War battlefields, each with their own unique story. Explore the still-standing Star Fort at Ninety Six National Historic Site (the only one left of its kind!) where the siege of Ninety Six took place, the first Southern land battle of the war. At the Battle of Musgrove Mill State Historic Site, scenic trails run alongside the battleground. Learn the play-by-play of this battle… and its twist ending!

Musgrove Mill British Camp Trail

The “Glampers”

Some of us like to camp while keeping our amenities close-by. If you love the idea of a weekend getaway in nature but prefer the comfort of a mattress and hotel room, Hickory Knob State Resort Park might have you covered. Hickory Knob is the only South Carolina State Park that is also a resort, meaning you can tailor your experience to exactly your level of comfort. Choose a campsite, a group cabin, or inviting hotel rooms. Take a dip in the lake, or take a dip in the swimming pool. There is also skeet-shooting, an 18-hole golf course, and more on site.

That said, Old 96 District’s five other State Parks have a lot to offer including some breathtaking views and trails. While you’re in the area, consider enjoying some of the other State Parks and getting the full experience, maybe even getting a head start on your Ultimate Outsider status.

These, of course, are only some of the ways to enjoy everything Old 96 District has to offer. Take a more in-depth look at the trails or find the campsite with the best view. With so many ways to enjoy the area, we encourage people to do what they do best: get out there and explore!

All photos courtesy Old 96 District

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