Santee Cooper: 5 Tips for Safely Exploring the Palmetto Trail

Thursday, September 17th, 2020

Fall is the perfect time to get out and take a hike on South Carolina’s Palmetto Trail. Established in 1994, the Palmetto Trail is 500 miles of hiking and biking paths stretching from the mountains in the west to the east coast of the state. Its 26 passages, ranging from 1.3 to 47 miles, provide free public access to outdoor activities and exercise while also showcasing the mountain ridges, lakes, forests and cities it connects. Conservation and preservation are a priority for the trail, and Palmetto Conservation is committed to helping South Carolina communities grow and prosper while maintaining local character, preserving historic landmarks, and improving quality of life.

As always when you’re headed to any outdoor recreational activity, staying safe is most important. It is easy to get injured or lost if you’re traveling a more rural passage of the trail, and setting your expectations before setting out will make your journey a much more relaxed and enjoyable one.

Here are five ways you should prepare to safely explore the Palmetto Trail:

Plan ahead

Before you leave, make a plan for your trip. Know the weather conditions and dress accordingly, locate stops for water and supplies on longer trips, and estimate how long your trip will take. It is smarter and safer to hike with at least one other person when you venture out to low-traffic trails. It’s also smart to leave your travel plans with a friend or family member who isn’t going with you. Let them know where you’ll be and when you intend to be back.

Stay on the trail

Sticking to the intended paths of the Palmetto Trail will help you stay safe on your journey, and also helps the sustainability of the trail itself. When hikers and bikers veer off the path, it can widen the trail, disrupting the environment that is thriving around it. You could also put yourself in danger hiking through unknown land while you’re trying to make a shortcut, but the locations of the passages were thoughtfully created for your and the surrounding environment’s safety.

Plan your route carefully

Everyone travels at different speeds and has a unique threshold for energy and exercise difficulty, so plan your trip on the trail according to the abilities of your group. Consider your start time as most trails are considered closed to the public after sunset unless you’re camping. Plus, traveling after dark is more difficult.

Be aware of bears

Yes, there are bears out and about in South Carolina! Many bears living in South Carolina can be found in the mountains, but the coast is also a common habitat for these large mammals. What happens if you cross paths with one? According to the National Park Service, the first thing you should do is stay calm. Move slowly and speak in a calm, confident voice, and don’t scream or throw food at it as a distraction. Don’t run, but slowly back away and avoid eye contact until the bear has moved on or you are in a safe area.

Don’t disturb wildlife

Giving food to animals or damaging plants disrupts the natural environment that has been present long before the trail was established. Animals have natural foraging habits and ecosystems have a circle of life that is beautiful to observe and experience but should be respected and protected by visitors.

Santee Cooper is proud to be part of this project through our development of the Lake Moultrie Passage. We highly recommend making a trip to see any of the passages that make up the beautiful Palmetto Trail, but please take precautions to stay safe while you do!

Have you hiked the Palmetto Trail this spring or summer? We’d love to hear your story. Share your favorite Palmetto Trail stories pictures with us on social media.