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  • A beautiful afternoon at 11-acre Sedalia Lake

Hiking the Enoree Passage of the Palmetto Trail

I’m gonna let you in on a little secret.
There’s a forest just an hour away offering endless opportunities.
Over 170,000 acres of protected forests, creeks, ponds and valleys have been set aside for you to enjoy for free.
Camping, fishing, hunting, hiking, kayaking, biking and much more can be found in the Enoree Ranger District of Sumter National Forest, located around the small town of Whitmire.
The best part about it is that the forest is virtually unheard of.
I have a goal to hike on every section of the Palmetto Trail, South Carolina’s work in progress cross-state hiking trail spanning nearly 400 miles from the mountains to the sea.
For a while now, my grandpa, Chuck McCurry, and I have planned to do an overnight trip along the 36-mile Enoree Passage of the Palmetto Trail. This section traverses the forest valleys and ridges of Sumter National Forest.
We had enough time to do just 10 miles of that.
Around 9 am last Saturday morning, we were packed and ready to go with our 30-pound packs, and we hit the road. Both of us drove separately so we could have a car at either end of the trail.
The drive through Sumter National Forest was surprisingly colorful for this time of the year. We hoped this previewed the beautiful hike ahead.
By the time we arrived at our starting point, Sedalia Lake, the rain had passed to form a nice fall afternoon.
The lake was the perfect place to spend the afternoon relaxing, but we had to get going.
It was close to 2 pm before we started hiking. The 1st ½ mile followed the shoreline and crossed the dam before disappearing into the floodplain below.
We enjoyed a gentle climb up a quiet valley to an old logging road that we followed all the way down to a luscious green field.
Just a few minutes later, we reached another picturesque body of water, Macedonia Lake. This large lake was even prettier than the 1st one.
The trail skirted around the lake and across the dam before once again descending down below the dam.
We were tempted to camp at the lake. Several grassy areas around the lake would make perfect spots. But, we still had a couple more miles to hike, and we were quickly running out of daylight.
We kicked it into high gear over the next 2 miles to make it down to the Enoree River before it got too dark. The trail followed Johns Creek the rest of the way to the river.
About an hour later we made it to the Enoree River bridge. We crossed the river just in time to watch the sunset leaving nothing but a golden sky.
Quickly, we had to set up our tents and cook some food. But we ran into a problem. Chuck’s tent poles had fallen out of his bag, rendering his tent useless.
Thankfully, we came up with a quick improvisation. I climbed a tree and secured a rope around it to hold up the roof of his tent.
Problem solved.
For dinner, we had several packs of Ramen noodles, the perfect trail dinner. By then it was dark. With nothing else to do, we decided to sleep the dark away.
We woke up to a gorgeous and chilly, morning. I went down to the river to filter some water for the day and ate a honey bun for breakfast.
By 10 am, we had our campsite all packed up and were ready to start the day.
We were immediately greeted with a moderate climb up and away from the river below. The trail weaved over ridges for the next couple of miles.
Along the way, the treescape changed drastically from the bottomland softwoods near the river to longleaf pines planted by the forest service up on a ridge line and eventually into hardwoods towards the end of the trail.
The trail on our 2nd day was a lot less defined and, at times, it felt like an aimless hike through the woods.
Thankfully, yellow blazes were planted onto trees. When we couldn’t find those markers, we looked for cut logs to know we were still on the trail.
After 2 ½ hours of hiking across quiet ridges and valleys, we made it back to Chuck’s car.
We had hiked 10 ½ miles over 2 days. For us, that was the perfect distance.
The trail was fantastic, perfect for a quick day trip or a 4-day hike to finish the section.
Along the way, make sure to enjoy the numerous lakes more than we did.
Believe me, we barely scratched the surface of what Sumter National Forest has to offer.
Do you have a favorite place to hike? Email your ideas to Cole at 
cole.lexchron@gmail.com .

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