Looking for a great one day hike? Then this may be the answer. This passage of South Carolina’s Palmetto Trail snakes through the Manchester State Forest, linking Mill Creek County Park with Poinsett State Park. The High Hills of Santee Passage trail gets its name from the high, rolling sandy dunes, which are part of the regional geology. These rolling hills are the ancient ocean shoreline found in the state’s midland area. This is one of my favorite hikes when introducing new hikers to the trail.
Located in Sumter County, near the Northern side of Santee Lake, this 10 mile trail winds through the forest from Sumter County’s Mill Creek Park (+-195’), North up to Poinsett State Park. As the Manchester forest is state managed, you will pass through a couple areas which have been logged in the past and are now in various stages of regrowth. The term forest however is a little misleading. With fairly diverse terrain, including rolling sand ridges, mixed pines and hardwood forest, creeks, and even a patch of quicksand, there is plenty to keep the hike interesting every step of the way.
Of course you can hike in either direction, I prefer starting at Mill Creek Country Park and Hiking toward Poinsett State Park. The southern end of the trail is a bit more sandy and easier to travel through while you’re fresh. Towards the northern end of the trail you enter more rolling hills and wooded sections. As you come up from Shanks Creek crossing, there is a parking lot area before the trail crosses Poinsett Park Road. You are within the last few miles before entering the state park. With a latrine here, this is a great spot to take a short break before the last leg of this hike. Crossing over the road you pick up the trail again. You will step into another completely different type of wooded area as you enter a forest of scrub oaks draped with Spanish moss. This is one of my favorite sections of this hike. As the trail enters the park, it crosses and drops off to the left of the park road and winds down around the creek as you head toward and around the Old Levi Mill Pond. You will comes out of the woods and cross the earthen dam holding back Old Levi Mill Pond. While you are there, take a few minutes and explore the Singleton Grist Mill ruins and old grinding wheel. You end your hike at the park visitors center (+-100’) trail head at the parking lot.
Favorite Time of year: Fall through Spring
Distance: About 10 miles
Things to Know: This is a Moderately Easy hike.
Camping: Camping is available at both Mill Creek County Park and Poinsett State Park (reservations required). Both parks have restrooms, bathhouses, and parking. For all permit and reservation information at Mill Creek county park, call Steve at (803) 436-2248.
Pet friendly: Must be leashed at all times, including the forest, okay everywhere outdoors except cabin and lodging areas of the park.
Getting There: Poinsett State Park and Mill Creek Park are both located near on the Northern side of Santee Lake, and West of the town of Sumter, in Sumter County, South Carolina. It’s about a 1 hour drive from the Charleston area.