Let’s Hit the Trails :: Top 10 Kid-Friendly Hiking Spots Around Columbia


The Midlands is home to a surprising number of family friendly hiking trails. This fun, inexpensive, and educational hobby is a great way to wear your kids out after school or on the weekend.

Some of y’all out there may think this hiking thing is not for you; I beg to differ. The trails my family has explored have been far from arduous. No special equipment is needed, and they are fun for all ages, I promise! Even if you aren’t in the best of shape, and I’m definitely not, you can tackle these trails with gusto!

Before You Go

1. Gear to Use

It maybe dorky, but I’m a huge fanny pack fan. I got a great one at Walmart that includes two water bottles and has large zipper pockets that can easily hold small snacks, keys, and my phone. It cost me around $10, and has served me well on many a hike and even the occasional 5K. If you plan on being out for more than 2-3 hours, you may want a backpack instead, especially if you are hiking with a little one in diapers, though I can say I can easily fit one disposable diaper and a zip top bag with a few wipes in a fanny pack.

2. What Not to Forget

Even with cooling temperatures, there will be bugs. South Carolina is home to a lot of them. Pack some bug spray or spray it on the kids as soon as they are out of the car.

3. Wear This

I recommend always wearing long, durable pants, like jeans. Partly due to the whole bug thing, and also because the paths on various trails tend to be narrow, or you may have a little explorer that is determined to get through the brambles.

4. Bathroom Basics

If at all possible, use the bathroom and change diapers before you go. Even if there is a bathroom or port-a-potty at the trail head, chances are pretty good that someone may need to pee in the woods down the road. Which brings me to the next point: teach your kid use the bathroom in the woods. For obvious reasons, you may want to add some wet wipes to the fanny pack or backpack, just in case.

5. When Taking the Littles

If you have a non-walking baby, slow moving toddler, or easily tired preschooler, you may want to invest in a baby/toddler carrier. While some of these trails are stroller friendly, many are not. If you plan on doing much hiking at all, trust me, this is one purchase that is worth every penny.

hiking with kids
The baby carrier used here is a Lillebaby – I alternately used it on a 4 mile hike with both my 3 year old and my 1 year old. What a lifesaver!

Where To Go

In no particular order, here are my top 10 places to hike:

1. Harbison Forest

There are an abundance of trails within Harbison Forest. We like the Stewardship Trail. There’s a great view of the Broad River and the length and difficulty suits a variety of experience levels. There is $5 fee to enter the park on a one-time basis but annual passes are available.

Harbison Trail Map
Harbison Trail Map

2. Congaree Swamp and Nature Preserve  

Fall and spring are the best time to visit this enchanting part of the Midlands. Mostly stroller friendly, with a wonderful visitor center, water bottle filling station, and real bathrooms, this is something you will want to visit more than once. For more details, check out my review here.

Boardwalks at Congaree Swamp
Boardwalks at Congaree Swamp

3. Saluda Shoals

In the heart of Lexington County, Saluda Shoals shines. It has everything from a splash pad, to nature trails, bike paths and rentals, and more. There is an entrance fee or you can purchase an annual pass. It’s situated conveniently between Lexington and Irmo and has stroller-friendly walking trails throughout.

4. Peachtree Rock and Heritage Preserve

Especially now that I’ve moved out to Red Bank, Peachtree Rock is a place my family visits and hikes frequently. There are rocks to climb for bigger kids, the area’s only natural waterfall, and it’s free! It’s no secret that we love it here, and if you have any questions, you can read more about it, here.

The Waterfall at Peachtree Rock
The Waterfall at Peachtree Rock

5. The Palmetto Trail

The Palmetto Trail actually extends across the entire state, but of course we have access to parts of it throughout the Midlands. There is over 350 miles of trails and pathways connecting one end of the state to another. If you haven’t yet discovered our part of the Palmetto Trail, there is no better time than the present!

6. 14 Mile Creek

Don’t let the name scare you! 14 Mile Creek is a short, stroller friendly path following the creek with a shallow wading spot at the end. If you’re ever on North Lake Drive in Lexington, you’ve probably passed it and didn’t even realize it. 14 Mile Creek

7. Clemson Sandhill Research Center

Sandhill is not just a place to shop! Across Clemson Road from the mega shopping center is Clemson Sandhill. This sprawling research center is home to the Children’s Garden (there is a sandbox, gardens, play houses and more), the Lake House, and even walking trails. It’s currently closed right now until further notice, but be sure to keep them on your list to visit when they reopen. 

8. Timmerman Trail

This trail is part of the Cayce Riverwalk System, is ADA compatible (and therefore stroller friendly), and worth the trip. My kids loved going over the short bridge and found lots of fun bits of nature to explore along the way. Timmerman Trail

9. The Riverwalk

All told, the Riverwalk runs a bit north of the Gervais Street Bridge and extends along the river for miles. This paved path is a favorite spot for runners, walkers, and families. This area is prone to flooding so parts of the path are under construction from time to time.

10. Sesquicentennial State Park 

Sesqui, as locals often refer to it, is home to a variety of trails and campsites and has a lot to offer. I’ve camped there, hiked there, canoed on the lake, and my children love playing under the large oak trees as much as they love the playground and splash pad.

On the Lake at Sesqui

Did I miss one of your family’s favorite hiking spots? Tell me about it! My family loves to explore Columbia and I bet yours does, too!



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