Hiking The ACE Basin South Carolina

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Hiking The ACE Basin
Places you’ll want to see!

ACE Basin National Wildlife Refuge – Combahee Unit

Description: This moderate, 3-mile loop through wetlands, old rice fields, and canals ranks among the best of numerous trails through the ACE Basin. The ACE Basin (an acronym for Ashepoo, Combahee, and Edisto rivers) is an immense 350,000-acre area of undeveloped estuaries and wetlands. The basin is also an excellent habitat for waterfowl such as pintail mallard, wood duck, heron, ibis, and wood stork. You may also see alligators, bald eagles, and white-tailed deer. From the trailhead, you will pass between two duckweed-clogged ponds to a lovely canal. Cross the bridge, turn left, then right at the next canal. At the first rice trunk (wooden water control structure), begin a loop in either direction to return to your starting point.

Length: 3-mile loop. There are also many miles of additional trails in the refuge.

Fees: None

Directions: From Beaufort, drive north on US 21 for 10 miles and turn right onto US 17. Drive 4.5 miles and turn left onto River Road (Beaufort County S-7-33). The parking area and trailhead are two miles ahead on the left, almost directly across from a large white house.

Hours: Dawn to dusk. The refuge is closed for nine days during deer hunting season (September, October and November). Check with the refuge office for dates.

Camping: No camping.

Information: ACE Basin National Wildlife Refuge, P.O. Box 848, Hollywood, SC, 29449. 843-889-3084.

ACE Basin National Wildlife Refuge – Edisto Unit

Description: Starting from the Grove Plantation house, a former rice plantation house built in 1828, which serves as the refuge headquarters, you can cross the road and walk a series of interconnected trails, or drive back toward the entrance and walk two shorter out and back trails. This area was once rice fields, but now is the habitat of a very diverse range of wildlife, from land based to water based. You can see shorebirds such as egrets, herons, sandpipers, plovers, yellowlegs, and ibis along with animals such as deer, raccoons, bobcats, otters, gray fox, and rabbits. You may notice remnants of burning in parts of the basin, and this was done on purpose to improve the habitat and remove undesirable plants.

Insect repellent is highly recommended during warm months. Almost half of the ACE Basin is tidal marsh and is flooded twice daily, so it’s possible you may encounter flooded sections of the trail. Removing plants, animals, or artifacts from this area is prohibited.

Length: Approximately 10 miles of trail.

Fees: No fee.

Directions: From Charleston, drive west on US 17 to Osborn (approximately 24 miles) and turn left onto SC 174. Drive 3.3 miles and turn right onto Charleston County S-7-55. Drive 1.8 miles and turn left into the refuge on S-7-346. Parking and the refuge headquarters are at the Grove Plantation House.

Hours: 7:30 am to 4:00 pm. Monday thru Friday. During the weekend the refuge is not staffed, but you can visit it during daylight hours.

Camping: No camping.

Information: ACE Basin National Wildlife Refuge, P.O. Box 848, Hollywood, SC, 29449, 843-889-3084.

Edisto Beach State Park Trail

Description: A series of short, mostly level trails wind through through Edisto Island’s maritime forest of live oak, hanging Spanish moss, and palmetto trees. During your walk you may see white-tailed deer, osprey, or alligators, and may even catch a glimpse of the wary bobcats. Follow the Spanish Mount trail to the wetland area along Scott’s Creek and visit the second oldest Native American pottery site in South Carolina, Spanish Mount, a large shell mound dated to around 2,000 B.C. Remember to stay off the mound and leave the artifacts as you found them.

Stay on the trail and watch for snakes. Mosquitoes, and ticks thrive here, so remember to wear insect repellent and protective clothing during warmer months. Pets are allowed on a leash.

Length: Spanish Mount 1.7 miles, Scott Creek 0.6 mile, Big Bay 0.4 mile, Campground 0.4 mile, Forest Loop 0.5 mile, and Bike 0.4 mile.

Directions: From Charleston drive west on US 17 to Osborn and turn left onto SC 174. Drive 2.6 miles to the SC 162/174 fork and turn right to stay on SC 174. Drive approximately 18 miles further until you pass the Edisto park sign on the right. At the blue Nature Trail sign, turn right onto the dirt road. Drive a short distance to the trailhead and parking area on the right amid the trees.

Camping: Call 1-866-345-PARK (7275) or go online at www.SouthCarolinaParks.com to make your reservations today!

Park Information: Park Manager, Edisto Beach State Park, 8377 State Cabin Road, Edisto Island SC 29438. Phone: 843-869-4430. Fax: 843-869-4428.

Edisto Nature Trail – Jacksonboro

Description: This rewarding, 1.5-mile loop runs through a forest maintained by the Westvaco Corporation, a paper and packaging manufacturer. The Edisto Nature Trail proper is an easy one-mile loop, but an inner loop extends the distance by a half mile. Both sections of the trail wind through a typical Lowcountry forest that includes mature pines, hardwoods, and baldcypress. A brochure available at the trailhead permits visitors to conduct a self-guided tour, and tags along the trail identify almost 60 varieties of flora and fauna. A section of the trail winds through a cypress swamp atop an old railroad bed, which provides an excellent view of the forest. Other interesting landmarks include the historic King’s Highway, an old railroad tram, and an old phosphate operation.

Length: 1.5 mile loop

Fees: None

Directions: From Charleston, follow US 17 south for approximately 30 miles toward Beaufort. The trailhead is on the right, just after a bridge over the Edisto River and immediately before the town of Jacksonboro.

Hours: Dawn to dusk

Camping: No camping available at the Nature Trail. But there is full-service camping at nearby Colleton State Park and Edisto State Park.

Information: Westvaco, Timberlands Division, P.O. Box 1950, Summerville, SC 29484, 843-871-5000.

Backwater – Donnelley Wildlife Management Area

Description: From the parking area, you will walk/ride on a relatively flat dirt surface loop, which is bordered on two sides by the “backwater” of an old rice plantation. You will pass through a forest of pines and upland and bottomland hardwoods, where you may encounter deer, wild turkeys, and hear the songs of a large variety of birds. Maps of the area and bird guides are available at a covered bulletin board near the office.

There are no restrooms or drinking water at the trailhead, but there are restrooms at the WMA office. Insect repellent and protective clothing are recommended at all times. Bring pets on a leash, and DO NOT let them run free.

Length: 1.5 miles.

Fees: No fee.

Directions: From Walterboro, drive south on SC 303 to US 17. Turn left onto US 17, and then right onto the first gravel road. The WMA office is .5 mile on the left. Stop at the parking area and sign in at the kiosk where you can also pick up a map and information. After you sign in, drive back toward the entrance and park in the small parking area on the right.

Hours: This trail is open from January 21 to October 31 from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Monday-Saturday. It is closed during special hunts in April and October. The hunts are posted on the bulletin board, but if you are driving a long way, you should call ahead.

Camping: No camping.

Information: Donnelley Wildlife Management Area, SC Dept. of Natural Resources, 585 Donnelley Drive, Green Pond, SC 29446. 843-844-8957.

Boynton – Donnelley Wildlife Management Area

Description: At the gate just past the abandoned house, you will begin this easy walk/ride through a lush mature maritime forest, and across former rice field dikes and isolated wetland habitat. Remember to take binoculars to view the incredible diversity of birds from wood ducks to bald eagles, and wildlife such as feral hogs and alligators. Before you begin, take note of the bamboo stand near the house where screech owls sometimes spend the daylight hours. As you enjoy the sights and sounds of this natural area, remember to stay on the trail and out of the water, which can range from 18 inches to 10 feet deep. The alligators and snakes are not a danger if you stay a reasonable distance from them. Remember, this is their home you are invading. Maps of the area and bird guides are also available at a covered bulletin board near the office.

There are no restrooms or drinking water at the trailhead, but there are restrooms at the WMA office. Insect repellent and protective clothing are recommended at all times. Bring pets on a leash, but DO NOT let them run free.

Length: 3.0 miles.

Fees: No fee.

Directions: From Walterboro, drive south on SC 303 to US 17. Turn left onto US 17, and then right onto the first gravel road. The WMA office is .5 mile on the left. Stop at the parking area and sign in at the kiosk where you can also pick up a map and information. Drive another 2 miles and turn right at the trail signs. You can drive as far as the abandoned house. Park and walk toward the gate.

Hours: This trail is open from January 21 to October 31 from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Monday-Saturday. It is closed during special hunts in April and October. The hunts are posted on the bulletin board, but if you are driving a long way, you should call ahead.

Camping: No camping.

Information: Donnelley Wildlife Management Area, SC Dept. of Natural Resources, 585 Donnelley Drive, Green Pond, SC 29446. 843-844-8957.

Hunting Island State Park

Description: Starting from Parking Area J you will find this trail to be a moderately easy hike, or an easy mountain bike ride with some technical spots. A mixed base of sand, roots, mud, and crushed oyster shells adds to the uniqueness of this trail. This is basically an out and back trail, but by using some of the park roads you can make it a loop. You will follow bluffs along the lagoon, where you will have views of water for most of your hike or ride. At approximately half way, you can visit the 1,100­foot fishing pier, which is the longest free­standing pier on the East coast, or you can get something to eat at the café. Take water and during the warm months insect repellant is a must.

Length: 8.0 miles.

Directions: From Beaufort, drive east on US 21 to the park entrance. Turn onto Hunting Island Drive and continue to Parking Area J. The trailhead is at the south edge of the parking area.

Camping: Call 1-866-345-PARK (7275) or go online at www.SouthCarolinaParks.com to make your reservations today!

Park Information: Hunting Island State Park, 255 Sea Island Parkway, Hunting Island, SC, 29920. 843-838­2011

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