Saturday, June 29, 2013

Hickory Knob State Park: Beaver Run Trail (Blog Hike #413)

Trail: Beaver Run Trail
Hike Location: Hickory Knob State Resort Park
Geographic Location: west of McCormickSC
Length: 2.2 miles ONE WAY
Difficulty: 3/10 (Easy/Moderate)
Last Hiked: February 2013
Overview: An out-and-back featuring the historic Guillebeau House.

Directions to the trailhead: From McCormick, drive west on US 378 5.8 miles to CR 7 and turn right on CR 7.  Take CR 7 1.6 miles to the signed state park entrance on the left.  Turn left to enter the park, then drive 3.8 miles to the park lodge.  Park in the parking lot beside the lodge.  The trail starts across the road from the parking lot.

The hike: For my general comments on Hickory Knob State Resort Park, see the Turkey Ridge Loop blog entry.  The Beaver Run Trail may be my least favorite trail at Hickory Knob State Park because 1) it stays close to the developed park area for its entire length and 2) it does not form a loop.  In spite of these shortcomings, this trail still offers a pleasant hike through the woods and decent views of Strom Thurmond Lake.  I came here on a chilly early February morning and did not pass another person along the entire trail.
            Before beginning, I need to make a quick note about the length of this trail.  The park lists the length at 2.5 miles.  However, my measurements indicate that this trail is only 2.2 miles, so I have listed it that way here.  I completed this hike as an out-and-back in just over 2 hours.
Trailhead-Beaver Run Trail
            The south end of the trail begins at a wooden information kiosk across the road from the park lodge.  The single track dirt trail heads slightly downhill with the lake visible through the trees to your left and the park road occasionally audible uphill to your right.  The trail is marked with white paint blazes and also white metal diamonds with the words “Beaver Run Trail” printed in green on them.  The forest is typical Piedmont forest with maple, sweet gum, slash pine, and loblolly pine.  The southern pine beetle has ravaged some other parts of this park’s forest.  This area features a few fallen pine trees with signs of beetle damage, but it has held up better than most.
            The trail passes a residence uphill and to the right.  A trio of fenced-in dogs noisily greeted me as I walked along the trail downhill from their home.  At 0.4 miles, the trail curves left and traces three sides of the historic Guillebeau House.  The Guillebeau House is a log cabin built in 1770 as part of a Huguenot settlement a few miles north of here.  The cabin was moved to this site in 1983, and you can only see it by hiking this trail or by driving a gravel road that departs the main park road near the boat ramp.
            Past the cabin, the trail descends gradually on broad switchbacks to approach lake level.  One of the best views of the lake can be had through some young pine trees at the bottom of these switchbacks.  Now heading due north, you soon come to the 1 mile marker.
Partial view of Strom Thurmond Reservoir
            Just past the 1 mile marker, you cross an old dirt road and enter a section of forest that appears to have sustained significant storm damage a few years ago.  Dead trees lie oriented in every direction, but they do not bear the tell-tale holes of beetle damage.  Areas such as this are notoriously hard to navigate, but there are sufficient blazes to allow you to stay on the trail at all times.
Storm damaged area
            At 1.2 miles, the trail begins treading atop what appears to be a dike that prevents the lake waters on your left from flooding the park road through the trees on your right.  At the end of the dike, the trail begins following an old road as it ascends gradually.  1.4 miles into the hike, the trail leaves the old dirt road just before it reaches a maintenance area for the golf course.  More metal diamonds and a wooden barrier mark this turn.
Trail follows dike
            The final 0.8 miles take you back down to the lakeshore one more time before climbing back toward the park road using a pair of broad switchbacks.  This last climb features the steepest grade on this trail, but you will hardly work up a sweat.  At 2.2 miles, the trail comes out at the dirt parking area that serves as the overflow parking lot for the golf course and the parking lot for the skeet shooting range.  If your group brought 2 cars, you could leave one here as a car shuttle and one in the lodge parking lot where you began.  Otherwise, you will need to retrace your steps the entire 2.2 miles to complete the hike or walk back along the park road, thus reducing the return distance to about 1.5 miles but also reducing the scenery.

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