• Activities:

    Backpacking

  • Skill Level:

    Intermediate

  • Season:

    Spring, Autumn, Winter

  • Trail Type:

    Point-to-Point

  • RT Distance:

    29 Miles

Forest

A great 2-3 day backpacking trip suitable for everyone from beginners to seasoned hikers. Travel through varying forest types and beautiful swamps in the Francis Marion National Forest within an hour of Charleston, South Carolina.

The Swamp Fox Passage is a portion of the larger Palmetto Trail, which travels from the Western mountains of South Carolina, Eastward to the Atlantic Ocean. This adventure hikes along a 29 mile section of the Swamp Fox through the Francis Marion National Forest in Eastern, South Carolina. The Swamp Fox is a linear trail, so it is crucial to either run a shuttle with 2 cars or purchase a shuttle service from Nature Adventures Outfitters. Drop your car off at the Rt. 17 trail head of the Swamp Fox Passage near Awendaw, SC. Shuttle to the Witherby Ranger Station off of Witherby road within the National Forest.

Day 1
You'll start your hike by making a right-hand turn across the road from the ranger station. Shortly after starting your hike you will come across the 29 mile-marker. Nearly every mile of the Swamp Fox is designated with a nice mile-marker. The mile-markers are great for determining your location, but can be painful on those long days when you're moving slower than you think.

Around mile-marker 25 you'll come across a designated campsite at Nicholson Creek. This is a very small campsite next to a stagnant swamp. There is only room for 1 or 2 tents in this spot. Just past the campsite is a good place to get some moving water. Continue hiking through a mix of swamps and nice forest trails to mile-marker 18 where there is a nice, larger designated campsite at Turkey Creek. The Turkey Creek campsite is not on the map and must have been created after the last map update. Turkey Creek is a good water source.

Day 2
Make sure to fill-up with water before leaving Turkey Creek. There is approximately a 7 mile stretch without a reliable water source, often traveling through a mixture of open canopy forests and grass lands with little protection from the sun. Stop at Harleston Dam Creek bridge at mile-marker 10 to fill up with water before stopping at the Harleston Dam designated campsite. The Harleston Dam campsite is large, flat and can accommodate larger groups. The water source at the campsite is a small stagnant pond, which is why it is best to fill your water at the bridge 1/2 mile before the campsite.

Day 3
The last day of hiking travels through some denser deciduous forests. You'll come to the Halfway Creek designated campsite around mile-marker 6. The trail splits and is not marked very well just before arriving at the campsites and can be rather confusing. Many people use this campsite for car camping as there is a parking lot right next to the campsites. The map states that there is potable water at halfway creek, but the water pump has been removed and there is no water at the campsites. Around mile-marker 4 you will come out on and follow a dirt road for about a mile. The trail markers are scarce through this section. Once you get back onto the true-trail, you will hit mile-marker 3 and then it is a straight shot to the trail head. Be sure to take a picture at the 1 mile-marker. This is when it is good to see a mile-marker.

Notes
The Swamp Fox Passage has very little to no elevation gain throughout the entire hike, which makes this great for beginners. It also means that experienced hikers can really put on some miles if desired. The forest service does a lot of prescribed burns throughout the forest, so check ahead of time to see if they will be closing a section of the trail. You will be hiking through areas that are charred from the prescribed burns, which is quite interesting. The trail constantly goes in and out of different forest types. 1 mile you will be hiking through a beautiful pine stand, then the next mile you will be in a nice shady deciduous forest, then through a swamp area and finally through some grass areas. Do not bring a water filter for your water treatment. The stagnant water sources have a lot of sediment, which easily clogs water filters. Using some sort of chemical water treatment or a UV treatment would work best for this trip. Finally, be sure to bring some bug spray. You are constantly walking through swamp areas and most of the campsites are near some stagnant water, which breeds a lot of biting insects.

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Jason Erdman

A native Pennsylvanian, I have been an outdoor professional for over 15 years. I currently run the Outdoor Adventure program @ the University of Pennsylvania. You can find me climbing, hiking, paddling or skiing for work or play.

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