Take a walk in the woods … or on the beach

Laurel Hill Plantation is one of the newest Charleston County Parks. Provided.

“A Walk in the Woods” was life-changing for author Bill Bryson, whose book about hiking the Appalachian Trail was recently adapted to film, starring Robert Redford and Nick Nolte. But a life-changing walk doesn’t have to be a 2,000-mile trek; it can be a short walk in Lowcountry woods – or on the beach.

With the weather still transitioning from winter to spring (hopefully not too distant), this is a perfect time to get out and enjoy nature. There are plenty of places within a short drive where you can watch birds, deer, alligators and other critters, get a little fresh air and exercise. Best of all they’re pretty kid-friendly, no strenuous walking.

I’ve come up with a short list of places you may want to add to your bucket list, one for every day of the week. Call or visit the facility’s website to make sure it’s open, dress appropriately, grab your camera or binoculars and get out.

Botany Bay Plantation Wildlife Management Area (843-869-2713), located at 1066 Botany Bay Road, Edisto Island, is a 4,630-acre property owned by the S.C. Department of Natural Resources that offers a unique opportunity to visitors – a true boneyard beach with trees standing in the ocean as the tide comes in. It’s a short walk down a causeway from the parking area to the beach but don’t collect any shells; there’s a hefty fine. There is a driving tour of the former plantation and Jason’s Lake offers an opportunity for kayaking and catch-and-release fishing on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays for youth 17 and younger who must be accompanied by no more than two adults age 18 or older.

Caw Caw Interpretive Center (ccprc.com), located at 5200 Savannah Highway, Ravenel, is part of the Charleston County Park system and includes more than six miles of trails that meander through swamps and old rice fields. It is a noted birding hotspot where you might see waterfowl, songbirds, swallow-tailed kites or bald eagles, not to mention alligators sunning on warm days. There is a $2 admission charge and the park is open Tuesday-Sunday from 9 a.m.-5 p.m.

Donnelley Wildlife Management Area (843-844-8957), located at 585 Donnelley Drive, Geen Pond, is an 8,000-acre property managed by the S.C. Department of Natural Resources. There is a driving tour and opportunities to walk, including a 1.5-mile loop bordered by the backwaters of an old rice plantation and there’s a chance you may encounter deer, wild turkeys, alligators and spot all types of birds and waterfowl.

Dungannon Plantation Heritage Preserve and Wildlife Management Area (803-734-3886) is located just off Highway 162 in Hollywood. The 643-acre property is owned by the S.C. Department of Natural Resources and includes 320 acres of bald cypress-tupelo gum swamp and 323 acres of mixed upland forest. It has five miles of designated nature trail and there are secondary trails. The boardwalk is closed during the wood stork nesting season (February-September) but you can expect to see plenty of other birds, squirrels and maybe even a deer.

Laurel Hill County Park (ccprc.com) is one of the newest Charleston County Parks, with a public trailhead located at 1251 Park West Blvd. (Park West Rec Complex), Mount Pleasant. The 745-acre park features several miles of running, walking or biking trails on the site of an old plantation, complete with an oak allee and a small lake. There is a $1 admission charge.

Poinsett State Park (southcarolinaparks.com), located at 6660 Poinsett Park Road, Wedgefield, is well worth the 90-minute drive from Charleston. The 1,000-acre park, located off Interstate 95 north of Lake Marion, has been dubbed the “Mountains of the Midlands” and includes two mountain trails that connect to the Palmetto Trail (a trail system connecting the mountains to the coast of South Carolina) through Manchester State Forest. There’s also a small lake that can be used for paddling or fishing.

Roxbury Park (roxburypark.org), owned by the town of Meggett, is located at 4468 SC-174 in Hollywood. It is a 157-acre park that includes creek frontage, tidal marsh, brackish and freshwater ponds along with upland oak and hickory hardwoods. It is open only on Saturdays and Sundays from 8 a.m.-6 p.m. but the third annual Roxbury Park Bird Count will be held Monday. Canoeing and kayaking are allowed on the two ponds and tidal creek and catch-and-release fishing is allowed in the two ponds.