Take a Winter Hike

Cold weather, early dark and stressful holidays are the perfect time for a winter getaway where your tension will melt away. Just 32 miles south lies a place in the city that’s nothing like the city. In the heart of the South Carolina Midlands sprawls a state forest with a deep and rich history. Bordered on one side by the Broad River, Harbison State Forest is one of the largest public greenspaces inside a city’s limits in the eastern United States. Hard to believe Columbia is just 8 miles away.

Here’s a place where you can beat the winter blues. Hike or bike its 31 miles of roads and trails and enjoy some winter daylight and get something more: history itself, for here’s where Catawba and Cherokee tribes found sustenance in woods and waters of the Broad River. When European settlers arrived, an oft-used Broad River ford in the forest came to be known as Deutsche volk. Today we know the area as Dutch Fork. Now, as then, you can walk these woods as Native Americans and European settlers did. See landscapes free of leaves. Get close to the Broad River and see the Broad River rapids where a rocky ridge extends across the river, visible evidence of why we call this region the Falls Line.

The Harbison Environmental Education Forest proper has 18 miles of trails where you can cycle, hike, jog or walk. Be alert to deer, bird species and the common grey squirrel. You’ll find ample trails sure to meet your level of adventure. Trail difficulties range from easy to moderate to moderately difficult and difficult.

The Harbison Environmental Education Center, a 5,000-square-foot log building, serves as a classroom that teaches visitors about the forest. Encircling the Education Center, the Learning Trail hosts four outdoor classrooms where you can learn about the complexity of forest ecosystems (The forest consists of approximately 67 species of trees).

You’ll find plenty of reasons to take a break. A short walk down the Discovery Trail you’ll find a pine Gazebo in a meadow. Here and there are smaller picnic areas. Strike out north about 1/3 mile up the trail across from the Gazebo Field and you’ll come to the Eagle Shelter, a great setting where traffic lights, honking horns and the crush of city life seem far, far away.

A winter hike offers a time when you can see farther, be free of pesky insects and not work up a sweat. Keep in mind some basic rules. Whatever you carry in, pack out (You’ll find drinking water and restrooms at the picnic area). Bicycles are allowed only on designated trails. Wear approved helmets when cycling. You can canoe here too, but save that for warmer weather.

Now’s a good time to beat the winter blues and holiday stress with a short daytrip to a beautiful, bountiful green space. Head to Harbison State Forest and leave your winter worries behind.

If You Go …

 • Parking passes required of all visitors. Get them at fee boxes, online, and the Education Center.

• Harbison State Forest
5500 Broad River Road
Columbia, S.C. 29221
• 803-896-8890

• www.state.sc.us/forest/refharb.htm

Learn more about Tom Poland, a Southern writer, and his work at www.tompoland.net. Email day-trip ideas to him at [email protected]

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