Reviewed by SCgregg1 on July 17, 2010
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UPDATED 14 March, 2011: The Lake Moultrie Passage is a great multi-use trail. Mountain biking seems to be as popular as hiking and I have also witnessed equestrian use between mile 13 and 17 on the North Dike.
The trail starts at Canal Recreation Area off of US 52 near Monks Corner, SC., and travels through pine forest until it reaches the Pinopolis East Dike. After climbing up to the dike, the trail stays on it for about four miles. Breezes coming off Lake Moultrie can be quite refreshing on a hot summer day, but can be quite chilling in the winter. Regardless, the views of the lake are spectacular any time of the year.
At mile four, the trail starts a road walking stretch that goes through the community of Bonneau Beach. The trail turns four times on residential roads in less than three miles but each turn is well marked.
Leaving the residential area behind (around mile 7), the trail gets back on the dike system, and with only two short exceptions, stays quite remote to the end of the passage.
There are several areas of noteworthiness along that remote section. They are too numerous to mention here but I will expand on two. Sandy Beach Waterfowl Management Area (WMA), and mile 13-17 on the North Dike.
Sandy Beach can be accessed from the Lake Moultrie Passage by the spur trail at mile 15.5, or can be accessed by walking down Sandy Beach Road at mile 17. Sandy Beach WMA is a worthy side trip on a thru-hike, a great day hike, or a super-great overnight backpacking trip. There is a great primitive campsite at the beach, with a hand operated water pump.
Mile 13-17 can be accessed from Russellville Landing, Canal WMA, or Sandy Beach Road. This area is crazy-loaded with alligators and turtles, but you will walk well elevated on the dike so it is quite safe. There is another primitive campsite just .2 miles off the trail at mile 16.
There are four primitive campsites along this passage. Three are right on the trail or just slightly off it.
The first is at mile-8. The second is at mile-16. The third is at mile-23. The fourth campsite is the previously mentioned Sandy Beach campsite, which is about two miles off the trail.
All campsites have a hand operated water pump with good water. No other amenities are available.
The Lake Moultrie Dike System is fairly open and can get quite hot during the summer. Honestly, I wouldn't recommend doing any of this passage during the summer. It's just too hot, and chiggers can be a real problem. I was on a few parts of this passage (doing overnighter trips) last summer and I suffered from both the heat and chiggers. Fall, spring, and even winter can be great times to be on the passage. As a note, Sandy Beach WMA and Sandy Beach Spur Trail is only open from March 2nd to November 15th.
There is a great guide book available for this Palmetto Trail Passage. It is contained in The Palmetto Trail Lowcountry Guide, available from The Palmetto Conservation Foundation (PCF). The guide gives good trail descriptions and provides maps of all the passages from the Atlantic Ocean to the end of the Wateree Passage. The guide is also a fantastic history book!
Information about the guide book and PCF can be found at www.palmettoconservation.org. PCF is a non-profit organization and is responsible for orchestrating all development of The Palmetto Trail.
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