Hiking in Hunting Island State Park near Beaufort

After a memorable camping experience at Fort McAllister State Park in Georgia, I really wanted to explore another state park. Since we had to start heading north to get back home, we decided to take a short detour from I-95 in South Carolina to visit Hunting Island State Park, near Beaufort.

Hunting Island State Park is apparently South Carolina’s most popular state park (more than a million people visit it each year). Located on the Atlantic coast, the park showcases the nature of Hunting Island, protecting more than 5,000 acres of maritime forest, swamps, lagoons and islets, as well as more than eight kilometres (5 miles) of beach.

Hunting Island State Park also includes several kilometres of hiking trails. We only had a few hours to spare as we had to continue our journey north, so we decided to hike a short loop, combining some of the trails together, to explore different ecosystems in the park.

Alligator at Hunting Island State Park
A lazy alligator near the visitor center of Hunting Island State Park

We started our hike from the park visitor center, heading deep into the forest on the Maritime Forest Trail. As its name suggests, this straight trail highlights the maritime semi-tropical forest of Hunting Island, with its dense and varied vegetation. Its palm trees, palmettos and the few snakes we passed along the trail almost made me feel like I was hiking in the jungle!

Maritime Forest Trail
Such a lovely trail!

We then took the short Palmetto Pass Trail which brought us closer to the water, to the Lagoon Trail. As its name suggests, this trail follows a long saltwater lagoon and offers several viewpoints over it. We saw a few herons there, as well as a lot of small crabs that quickly hid under the sand when we approached.

Saltwater lagoon at Hunting Island State Park
Walking along the lagoon

What I especially loved about the trail was seeing how different the forest looked along the lagoon. The vegetation there was sparser, and the tall pines made a surprising and interesting contrast with the palm trees.

Lagoon Trail
Pines and palm trees

Initially, our plan was to hike to Little Hunting Island Trail, a short loop around a small island created by the passage of Hurricanes Matthew and Irma. This trail apparently provides a close look at the impact that erosion and natural disasters can have on shaping the landscape. But the intense heat and the beating sun finally got the better of us, and we rather wisely decided to turn on the Marsh Boardwalk Crossover Trail and return to the parking lot following the Maritime Forest Trail again (which was fortunately more shaded).


We will just need to come back at another time to explore the trails we weren’t able to hike this time!

Maritime Forest Trail
On the way back to the visitor center

There was no question for us of leaving without having seen the popular beaches and the famous lighthouse of Hunting Island! So once back to the van, we drove to one of the parking lots giving access to the beach. There were a lot of people there enjoying that warm day, and I’m not really a beachgoer person, but I took the opportunity to walk on its fine sand and to soak my feet in the Atlantic Ocean.


The lighthouse, emblem of the state park, is clearly visible from the beach. It dates from 1859, but was rebuilt in 1875 after it was destroyed during the Civil War. The lighthouse is the only one that can be visited by the public in South Carolina, but it was unfortunately closed on that day, as it needs some repairs.

Hunting Island State Park lighthouse
The famous lighthouse

Just one more reason for us to come back one day! Hunting Island State Park has definitely enchanted us and I can’t wait to come back to explore more of its trails, and maybe even enjoy its camping sites!

Beach by the Atlantic Ocean
Goodbye for now Hunting Island State Park!


    1. It was gorgeous. I wished we could have had more time to spend there, as there are many more trails. But it will for another time! 🙂

  1. I want to go! Mike and I have already added Hunting Island to our South Carolina to-do list because of your last post. Those pine and palm trails, the lagoon, and even the beach – we’re not really beach people either – make for a perfect destination. Thanks so much for sharing this beautiful place with us, Vanessa!

    1. Thank you Kellye! I definitely want to go back, there are so many more trails we haven’t had the time to hike. And the trails were surprisingly quiet, even though it is a very popular park. I hope you get to visit it one day!

  2. What an interesting place and hike Vanessa. The alligator should come with a sign on his back reading…”Please stay on the trails”. Have a great weekend. Allan

    1. I agree that the alligator is a good incentive to not wander off the trails! Happy Saturday Allan, and thanks for reading! 🙂

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