lWith the South Carolina sun high in the sky, it’s always important to know a good place to go to cool off. Whether you are a nature enthusiast, water lover, or just looking for something to do in the era of COVID, I recently found just the spot. About a forty-five minute drive north of Columbia, the Rocky Creek Trail is a perfect day trip.
This is an out and back trail that is a part of the Katawba Land Trust and a Carolina Thread Trail. There is a spacious lot right off of SC-200 E. While the GPS coordinates were a little off, there is a sign that will take you right into the lot. The most difficult (and my least favorite) part of the trek was the beginning. From the parking lot, there is a beaten down, steep section of pavement. Worry not though. This is a fairly short section and drops you at a sandy kayak/canoe launch spot. The trail itself forks here.
To the left, take a short 0.2 mi hike to a small waterfall. There’s a little bridge where we met a turtle and plenty of shade to cover you on your adventure. On the scorching day that we visited, I happily dunked my head into the crashing water to cool down. Near the waterfall, trails wind through to top and further than I had the opportunity to explore.
Back the other way, the trail follows the Rocky Creek, a tributary of the Katawba River. The trail is a mixture of dirt and gravel with opportunities to hide in the shade or work on your tan as you walk. There is no incline and I would certainly rate this trail as easy. As you travel further, there is private property to the right, but this is obviously marked and the best views are of the Rocky Creek to the left. There is a fence with a gate that you must cross through to access the rest of the creek. The trail ends once it veers away from the creek and you find another gate, this one inaccessible.
One of my favorite parts about the creek is how wide and easy to access it is. Along much of the stretch, large flat rocks rise out of the vast creek bed and allow you to explore on the water with minimal contact. Watch your step, many of the rocks are slippery. I wandered through them barefoot while another of our party strolled out in his waterproof boots. Sitting in the middle of the creek on a nice flat rock with only the sound of the rushing water and the occasional dragonfly visitor was quite relaxing.
Hiking and Sunbathing
Obviously, this is a hiking trail, so strap on your boots and feel free to explore. As I stated before, there is ample shade here, but also plenty of places to sunbathe as well. I caught some rays in the middle of the creek, but also along the banks, where there are also rock outcroppings to enjoy the sun or shade as you see fit. After a while of being in the sun, I certainly enjoyed the cool shade next to the rushing waters of the creek.
The trails are also sufficiently wide enough to take a bike and enjoy a leisurely ride. It looked like someone had gathered some of the gravel at a particularly wide point to make some jumps, but I assume that they change with time and may not be there for my next visit.
There is also the walk up boat launch at the beginning. I’m planning on bringing my inflatable dinghy the next time we go so that we can explore further down the creek. It looks like a wonderfully peaceful little water cruise that I can’t wait to try out.
We saw a few people as we went by (on a weekday), but the trail is wide enough and long enough that everyone had plenty of space.
While not much of a bird watcher myself, we did see many birds flittering between the branches as we explored the creek. The area has been designated as an important Bird Area by the National Audubon Society. It is a diverse and healthy wildlife habitat, so enjoy what you see, but try not to disturb the habitat.
This one is still a mystery to me. At the boat launch, there is a sign directing you to the right to see the Mill Ruins. We traveled the whole of the trail and no one saw any ruins. Picturesque creek? Check. Beautiful birds. Check. Ruins???? Nope. They could be past the fence or maybe I missed them.
Don’t forget to check out the chainmaille shop while you’re here. I have a fun variety of jewelry inspired by nature and the world around us.
Are you looking for a little fantasy to escape from our world for a bit? Check out my new free to download short story here.