A short drive from the bustling capital of South Carolina lies the Midlands’ only waterfall, hidden amid pine forests and sandy shrub.
Peach Tree Rock Heritage Preserve offers explorers a number of options, from a 2.3 mile loop to a 4.5 mile extended jaunt. Escape the notorious heat of the region by trekking along the dirt path, offering a nice variety of slow ascents and declines, and then emerge from the treeline to get your Vitamin D, while soft sand tests your calf muscles.
Get ready: From downtown Columbia, it will take you less than 30 minutes to get to the trail head. Follow SC-302 out of town and ride it until you hit SC-6 – take a slight left. After about a mile, you’ll see the parking area on the left.
Get set: The lot can get crowded during the weekend. If you’d prefer to start from the less popular, sandy side of the preserve, continue until you see a small parking area on the left, just past the power lines. The first couple times I went to Peach Tree, I used the official lot, but I grew to like starting my trek in the sandy, sunny area instead, so the latter option is where I usually park.
Go: If you’re starting from the official parking lot, set off down the trail, slowly descending into the pine forest. When you get to the bottom, you’ll see a sign pointing to the left marked with “Peach Tree Rock and Waterfall”. You can either go left, and see the waterfall and the preserve’s namesake – a strange rock formation – right at the start of your hike, or turn to the right to save it for the end. If you complete the “loop” it’ll be a 2.3 mile journey.
However, I like to add to the journey by continuing straight (if taking the LEFT TURN route) or taking a right (if making the RIGHT TURN route) and then hanging a right to head up OUT of the woods and onto the sandy loop. If you figure out how to do this (it’s not well marked), you will do about 4.5 miles.
If you choose to park at the second spot I mentioned, You’ll start on the sandy section of trails (just know that the wooded loop will be to your left, so if in doubt, go in that direction). Head down into the woods, make a left, continue straight until you hit the rock and waterfall, then follow the path past the rock. At this point you’re on the RIGHT TURN wooded loop (see above).
Effort: You can change up the mileage to best fit your experience level. There’s a nice variation in elevation change to keep your body guessing – run the trails to really get your heart rate up!
Takeaway: While many people complain about the preserve not being well marked, I like how the mystery of the trails lead to a different experience each visit. Peach Tree Rock Preserve is nice place to escape the hustle and bustle of town – or that famous Midlands summer heat! Bring the kids, a friend or the pup – you’ll enjoy it.