south carolina

Francis Marion National Forest | Travel (73/556)

Francis Marion National Forest | Travel (73/556) | Alaina Ann Photography (iPhone 6) While making my way from Charleston to Columbia (South Carolina), I took a bit of a detour through Francis Marion National Forest. The swamps and marshes were the biggest attraction to me, even with all the flying, some biting, visitors.

Top Five Hikes + Places to Explore
  1. Awendaw Passage - this seven mile trail stretches the cross-state Palmetto Trail to the Intracoastal Waterway.
  2. Little Wambaw Swamp Wilderness - with no formal hiking trails, this wilderness is perfect for exploring with fresh eyes. Wild orchids also grow here.
  3. Sewee Shell Ring Interpretive Trail - a one mile self-guided interpretive trail offers close views of areas transformed by Hurricane Hugo.
  4. South Tibwin Hiking Trail - a diverse, beautiful hike through hardwood bottomlands, pine uplands, tidal marsh, freshwater ponds and wetlands.
  5. Swamp Fox Passage Trail - this 47.2 mile hike is the longest section of the cross-state Palmetto Trail.

What are some of your favorite spots in Francis Marion National Forest?

Charles Pinckney National Historic Site | Travel (72/556)

Charles Pinckney National Historic Site | Travel (72/556) | Alaina Ann Photography (iPhone 6) Spring is a lovely time to visit Charles Pinckney National Historic Site, in South Carolina. Green grass and trees beside bright, blooming flowers. An afternoon stroll is perfect for exploring the grounds. My visit was peaceful, quiet and beautiful.

Charles Pinckney National Historic Site | Travel (72/556) | Alaina Ann Photography (iPhone 6)

Top Five Hikes + Places to Explore
  1. Boardwalk - One of my favorite spots in the park, this boardwalk overlooks Wampacheone Creek.
  2. Historic Road Trace - walk along the original road, once connecting Snee Farm to the public road. You will find yourself beneath beautiful cedars.
  3. Lowcountry Farmhouse - dated back to circa 1828, this visitor center is filled with information and the surrounding gardens are lovely.
  4. Nature Trail - a secluded path allows for exploring along a tidal wetland. Do keep an eye out for poison ivy.
  5. Self Guided Tour - an easy half mile walk takes you by exhibits, describing the house, history and surrounding environment.

Charles Pinckney National Historic Site | Travel (72/556) | Alaina Ann Photography (iPhone 6)

Tell me all about your favorite areas in the park, in the comments below :)

Charles Pinckney National Historic Site | Travel (72/556) | Alaina Ann Photography (iPhone 6)

Kings Mountain National Military Park | Travel (6/556)

Kings Mountain National Military Park | Travel (6/556) Kings Mountain National Military Park was the last stop on my South Carolina road trip. I enjoyed the cooler temperatures and mountain views as I walked through the battlefield. The soldiers fought from tree to tree as they made their way up the mountain.

Kings Mountain National Military Park | Travel (6/556) | Alaina Ann Photography

Recommended Hikes
  • Battlefield Trail - a 1.5 mile trail with exhibits highlighting events from the battle. Key features along the trail include the Centennial Monument, U.S. Monument and Ferguson's Grave. The trail is paved with some steep places along the way.
  • Browns Mountain Trail - this 5 mile, round trip, trail takes you from the visitors center to Brown Mountain. You will need to backpack to return to the visitor center (the trail is not a loop).
  • Clarks Creek (Lake Crawford) - a 6 mile, round trip, trail taking you to Lake Crawford, located in the state park. Again, this is not a loop trail, requiring you to backpack to the visitors center.
  • Park Loop Trail - this 16 mile trail goes through the National Military and state parks.

There are 16 miles of horse trails available, along with various camp sites in both the National Military and state parks.

Have you been to the Kings Mountain area? I would love to hear about your time exploring the parks in the comments below!

Cowpens National Battlefield | Travel (5/556)

Cowpens National Battlefield | Travel (5/556) | Alaina Ann Photography Cowpens National Battlefield was conveniently located on my route home from Clemson, South Carolina. I made a 90 minute stop at the park, walking along the battlefield trail, to stretch out my legs and enjoy the beginning signs of springs.

Points of Interest
  • Auto Loop Road - a 3.8 mile, one way, road around the perimeter of the battlefield. Parking lots and short trails allow for convenient access to the Green River Road, Robert Scruggs Log House and picnic area.
  • Battlefield Trail - a partially paved 1.3 mile trail through the battlefield.
  • Overmountain Victory National Historic Trail - this trail covers more than 330 miles and takes you through North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia. The Commemorative Motor Route is accessible 24/7 and the non-motorized pathway is accessible from dusk until dawn (weather permitting).

Cowpens National Battlefield | Travel (5/556) | Alaina Ann Photography

Have you ever spent time at Cowpens National Battlefield? I would love to hear about your experience at the park!

Sumter National Forest | Travel (4/556)

Sumter National Forest | Travel (4/556) | Alaina Ann Photography My time in Sumter National Forest was shorter than anticipated. While driving through, I noticed spring was still waiting to arrive and much of the forest was still relatively colorless. Although still beautiful, I made the decision to drive around and become familiar for another visit, instead of exploring on foot with my camera.

At this time, I am planning to revisit during the fall (my favorite season) to photograph the trees with color. Since the national forest has three ranger districts, with no touching borders, I would like to spend at least one day in each district.

Enoree Ranger District

Located northwest of Columbia, the Enoree Ranger District consists of more than 170,000 acres of land.

Long Cane Ranger District

This 120,000 acre district is located in the Piedmont of South Carolina.

Andrew Pickens Ranger District

Located in Oconee County, with more than 85,000 acres, in the mountainous region of the state.

Have you been to Sumter National Forest? I would love to hear from you in the comments below!

Ninety Six National Historic Site | Travel (3/556)

Ninety Six National Historic Site | Travel (3/556) | Alaina Ann Photography Walking along the battlefield at Ninety Six National Historic Site was quiet and peaceful. Spring was beginning to arrive, the grass was turning green and there were flowers blooming in the trees. I was the only person on the battlefield during my visit.

Ninety Six National Historic Site | Travel (3/556) | Alaina Ann Photography

Recommended Hikes
  • Cherokee Path - a primitive, 1.5 mile hike to Star Fort Pond through a woodland area.
  • Gouedy Trail - a 1.5 mile loop trail through one of the most historic areas of the park.
  • Historic Interpretive Trail - a paved, one mile trail through the battlefield. There are signs along the trail, explaining the events that transpired during the battle.

Ninety Six National Historic Site | Travel (3/556) | Alaina Ann Photography

Points of Interest
  • Star Fort Pond - located along Hwy 246, this 26-acre lake is available for fishing (on certain days/times), bird watching and wildlife viewing.
  • Picnic Area - a handicap accessible picnic area is available close to the visitor center. Perfect for enjoying lunch outside during your visit!

Ninety Six National Historic Site | Travel (3/556) | Alaina Ann Photography

Have you ever traveled to Ninety Six National Historic Site? I would love to hear about your experience and recommendations for future visits!

Congaree National Park | Travel (2/556)

Congaree National Park | Travel (2/556) | Alaina Ann Photography Congaree National Park, in South Carolina, is a truly unique place. Each time I visit a national park for the first time, I find myself thinking "I have never seen anything like this before." I had this exact thought as I walked along the boardwalk trail in Congaree.

My visit took place after the flood waters receded from beneath the boardwalks and before the green goodness began to fill the forest floor. That said, the new green leaves on the trees were a refreshing sign of spring.

I spoke to several locals and park rangers, asking the best time to make a second visit. June, October and November were the months recommended. June for ample greenery, with October and November being ideal for fall foliage.

Prepare to see many large, healthy snakes and spiders during your visit! They are happy inhabitants of the forest and water.

Congaree National Park | Travel (2/556) | Alaina Ann Photography

Recommended Hikes
  • Bluff Trail - the bluff is a small elevated area on the edge of the floodplain. The trail is .7 miles in length.
  • Boardwalk - a 2.4 mile, round-trip walk along an established boardwalk. This easy trail takes you through the forest, beneath the canopy of the large trees.
  • King Snake Trail - this 11.1 mile hike will take you to a remote area of the forest and park. Wildlife and birds are abundant along this trail.
  • Oakridge Trail - if you are looking for large Oak trees, this is your trail! This is a moderate 7.5 mile hike.
  • River Trail - another option for a longer hike, at 10.4 miles. This trail takes you to the Congaree River
  • Weston Lake Loop Trail - this 4.6 mile trail takes you through an old-growth forest.

Congaree National Park | Travel (2/556) | Alaina Ann Photography

Other Activities
  • Canoeing and Kayaking - explore the park and forest by boat. Free guided tours are offered and fill up quickly.
  • Camping - there are two campgrounds (Bluff and Longleaf), as well as backcountry opportunities.
  • Fishing - permitted in all areas of the park, except the Weston Lake overlook and the 100 feet surrounding the overlook.

I am hoping to make my way back to Congaree to photograph the fall foliage during November. I would love to take a guided canoe tour as well!

Have you ever been to Congaree National Park? I would love to hear about your trip and recommendations for visiting the park!

South Carolina Road Trip | Travel

South Carolina Road Trip | Travel | Alaina Ann Photography I was thrilled to hit the road for the first time in 2014 :) Winter was a bit of a hibernation period here in Maryland with the cold temperatures, ample snow and catching up from a busy 2013.

I planned my first road trip around my Clemson Crew reunion in South Carolina. Many of my dear friends were heading into town for the 25th reunion of the crew team. This was a perfect opportunity to visit a handful of my 556 in 12 locations before and after arriving in Clemson!

South Carolina Road Trip
  • I stretched my legs with a family visit in North Carolina :)
  • Congaree National Park
  • Ninety Six National Historic Site
  • Sumter National Forest
  • Clemson
  • Cowpens National Battlefield
  • Kings Mountain National Military Park

I am already planning a return visit to Congaree National Park and Sumter National Forest, likely in the fall (October/November). Although both were beautiful during my visit, I would love to see each during peak fall foliage season!

More detailed travel posts for each location will be on the blog in the near future!