Life in an island isn't just about sunny beaches and the surfside. Hilton Head offers so many wonderful trails for beginner hikers and enthusiasts alike. Here are five trails you are sure to enjoy!
Sea Pine Forest Preserve
Sea Pine Forest Preserve, Hilton Head Island, SC 29928
Just like the rest of the lowcountry, Sea Pines Forest Preserve is rich with history dating back thousands of years ago, with the earliest settlers being nomads who were believed to inhabit the island in the year 2000 BC. Evidence of these settlers can be seen at the Sea Pines Indian Shell Ring, located within the preserve. The Fraser family established the preserve, and dedicated over 500 acres to wildlife and outdoor recreation. Today it is one of the best places to hike, run, ride horses and bikes, and catch a glimpse of some outstanding lowcountry wildlife. There are two main trails: the blue arrow trail, approximately 1 mile long, and the Orange Arrow Trail, approximately 2 miles long.
Pinckney Island National Wildlife Refuge, Hilton Head Island, SC 29928
Pinckney Island National Wildlife Refuge is a an oasis between Hilton Head Island and Bluffton. With over 14 miles of hiking and bicycling trails, it is great for a quick outing or a full-blown day trip. The beautiful scenery and panoramic views of the Intracoastal Waterway and tidal creeks offer photo opportunities almost every step of the way. The broad trails are flat and fast, but there are benches dotting the path for those wishing to soak in the environment, and informative plaques for those wanting to learn more about the refuge. When you go, expect to see walkers, bike riders, runners and birders (binoculars and cameras in hand) all out enjoying the refuge. If you want a medium-length trip with pretty marsh views as well as some shade, head toward Shell Point (4.6 miles) and circle back around Osprey Pond. If you can make the long trek to White Point (7.8 miles round-trip), a small, secluded beach awaits you at the end of the trail.
Jarvis Creek Park
100 Jarvis Park Rd, Hilton Head Island, SC 29926
Jarvis Creek Park is 53 acre expanse of land with one main loop at approximately 1.1 miles long. This is the perfect spot to head out on your lunch break if you want to get a workout in, but you could just as easily spend all day here with friends or family. The 1.1 mile loop is a paved trail that leads you through open fields, shady live oaks, and over boardwalks through the marsh. It’s actually pretty impressive how many different landscapes you experience on such a short trail. After running the main trail, or in between laps, there is exercise equipment available to stretch on, or continue your workout outdoors. This is also a great place to hang out on the boardwalk or dock to catch a lot of different wildlife in action, or go fishing in the pond stocked with bass and bluegill.
Audubon Newhall Preserve
Audubon Newhall Preserve, 88 Palmetto Bay Rd, Hilton Head Island, SC 29928
The Audubon Newhall Preserve is a 50 acre nature preserve off of Palmetto Bay Road maintained by the Hilton Head Audubon Society. Despite being on the south end of the island (Hilton Head’s most bustling area) this quiet nature preserve goes largely unnoticed, since it is tucked discreetly off of Palmetto Bay Road and is easy to miss for the non-discerning eye. The preserve has a series of interconnected trails that add up to about a mile total and makes for a great place for a leisurely hike to get a sense of what Hilton Head Island was like before being developed. Many of the local species of plants are tagged and there are informative panels about the ecosystem scattered throughout the preserve that explain the various micro-ecosystems that make up Hilton Head Island and you’ll have the chance to see them first hand. It is a fantastic spot for quiet reflection and slow, mindful walks through the woods. Most calm in the morning hour, there is a flurry of bird and wildlife activity right after the sun comes up.
Burkes Beach, 60 Burkes Beach Rd, Hilton Head Island, SC 29928
Burkes Beach is an islander’s favorite, and is mainly used by locals as a way to access isolated fishing spots. Before you get to the beach, there is a small trail that winds through the maritime forest butting up to The Folly, where at high tide ocean water flows into a salt water marsh creating a temporary creek that is ripe for exploration.. It is a unique place where forest meets marsh, meets beach. In all, the trails comprise only a .3 mile loop, but within that loop you will travel through pine forests, marshland, and sandy beach trails. After snaking through the forest, the trail leads you to the tidal creek known as The Folly. At low tide there is a lot of ground exposed and more room to explore, making that the best time to go. Be careful where you walk, however, there are large tracts of “pluff mud” (a soft gooey marsh mud) that you can sink into like quick sand. After you’ve had your share of exploring you can follow the sandy trail that runs between the forest and the dunes back to where you began.