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Richard Remick: Five places for hiking around Augusta you should not miss

newspaperEnjoying the open air in Augusta is a no-brainer. With a mix of terrain and a temperate climate during most of the year, the area offers recreational opportunities for those with all kinds of outdoor interests.

As avid outdoorsy people, we enjoy hiking. Sometimes we are in the mood for a simple leisurely stroll. Other times we prefer to challenge ourselves with treks that require more stamina, where we can really get a good workout.

We checked out several hiking areas in the Augusta area and wanted to share our experience. I hope that your interest will be piqued enough to try some of these.

Savannah River Bluffs Heritage Preserve

We decided to swing by Savannah River Bluffs, which is located on the north side of the river, after reading glowing reviews on the AllTrails site.

The site rates the trail as moderately difficult and we agreed with this classification. While it’s short, it does require some physical exertion due to navigating boulders and fallen trees along the trail.
Savannah River Bluffs is a 2-mile, well-marked loop that winds along a stream, leading you to the banks of the Savannah River. The scenery was stunning – didn’t feel like what I imagined of this area.

Dogs are permitted on the trail, but must be leashed and cleaned up after.

Phinizy Swamp Nature Park

Located right outside the city of Augusta, Phinizy Swamp Nature Park is a great place to break out those hiking shoes especially for those who aren’t up for a particularly strenuous trek.

The park encompasses 1,100 acres. We discovered that part of this park is used for environmental education and research.

One could argue that the walking the trails at Phinizy Swamp don’t actually qualify as hiking but we found the park so lovely, I wanted to mention it.

There are two trails that take you through wetlands (which some may consider a nice word for “swamp”) and woodlands with the opportunity to see a variety of wildlife.

Because it runs through a wetland, a good portion of the trail is a boardwalk. We loved the majestic Cypress trees that grew out of out of the wetlands area and the Spanish moss that draped down from their branches.

Forks Area Trail System (FATS)

Not too far away, on the South Carolina side of the river, sits the Forks Area Trail System (FATS).  Its trail loops are apt for those hikers ready for a moderately difficult trek. It is also popular with mountain bikers.

The portion of the trails we hiked offered striking views of wide, rolling valleys and their adjacent hills. We enjoyed the thickly wooded areas on this trail system.

FATS is definitely a remote location for immersing yourself in the real outdoors. There are some nice inclines but we didn’t run across anything that was too strenuous for someone who is in decent physical shape.
Blanchard Woods Cross Country Trail

Located just 30 minutes northwest of Augusta is Blanchard Woods Cross Country trail. This loop runs a distance of 3.2 miles and winds around a pond.

It’s situated within a local park, which has multiple other recreational activities, including a soccer and football field, so is not completely remote.

With its gentle slopes, the trail was pretty well marked and offered just enough resistance so that we felt it was a true hiking experience (as opposed to a simple stroll through the woods).

There was a fair amount of traffic during our visit. Certain portions were forested with some areas that opened into sun-exposed fields. Truthfully, this wasn’t top on our list but is worth a try if you’re in the area.

Leashed dogs are permitted.

Augusta Canal Trail

This out and back trail is located in Augusta proper. This is probably our favorite of all the trails we tried in the area. It is bordered by a river at certain points, runs for almost 11 miles, and offers an assortment of side trails.

It was never boring, as there were a multitude of sights including a mill, various waterways, a waterfall, and old railroad trusses, to name a few.

The scenery is mixed, as the trail passes through both urban and unspoiled natural areas. Hikers will be more than satisfied with the diversity of flora and fauna. If you’re lucky, you might even spot a gator.

We noticed there are several points of entry including trailheads at Lake Olmstead, Mill Village, and Old Turning Basin to name a few.
Apparently, it’s pretty popular, as there were lots of other people enjoying the trail on the weekend; but it was sufficiently wide so we were able to get around the slowpokes without any trouble. You may want to try a weekday if you prefer more solitude, though.

One thing worth mentioning here – for those who are into canoeing, kayaking, or biking, rentals are available nearby. Your furry friends are welcome as long they’re kept on a leash. This is an especially good trail for beginners. If you would like some advice on learning the basics on getting started hiking, here is a resource to get you started.

These are only a few of the options for hiking in and around Augusta. We were limited in our exploration, simply due to time restrictions.

We would have loved to set foot on many more of Augusta’s abundant trails. Perhaps we will be able to swing it during our next visit.

augusta free press
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