Friday, February 15, 2019

Hickory Knob State Park: Lakeview Trail (Blog Hike #731)

Trail: Lakeview Trail
Hike Location: Hickory Knob State Park
Geographic Location: west of McCormick, SC (33.88223, -82.41411)
Length: 7.2 miles
Difficulty: 4/10 (Moderate)
Last Hiked: February 2019
Overview: A rolling loop with long segments along the shore of Strom Thurmond Lake.

Directions to the trailhead: From McCormick, drive US 378 west 5.8 miles to CR 7 and turn right on CR 7.  Take CR 7 north 1.6 miles to the signed state park entrance on the left.  Turn left to enter the park, then drive 1.3 miles to the barn-like Long Cane Center the left.  Turn left and park in the Long Cane Center's parking area.

The hike: For my general comments on Hickory Knob State Park, see either of my previous hikes here: the Turkey Ridge Trail or the Beaver Run Trail.  At 7.2 miles, the Lakeview Trail is the longest of the park’s three trails, and it is the only one to form a true loop.  As its name suggests, the Lakeview Trail’s main attraction is its route along the east shore of Strom Thurmond Reservoir, which the trail follows for more than half of its length.  Also, this hike features decent distance with only a small amount of difficulty, so it is a great early-season hike for powering up the hiking muscles after a long winter’s nap.
Trailhead: Lakeview Trail
            The Lakeview Trail starts at an information kiosk located on the east side of the Long Cane Center’s parking area.  The initial segment of trail passes through a nice forest dominated by loblolly pines.  Thus, a thick carpet of pine needles softens your footsteps.  A few metal diamonds nailed to trees mark the trail, but the more numerous blue rectangular paint blazes are more helpful in keeping you on track.  This trail is also open to mountain bikers, but I did not pass another single trail user when I hiked here on a cool Saturday afternoon in early February.
            The back side of the Long Cane Center comes into view on the right before the trail curves left to head for the lake shore.  Some partially obstructed views of more pine forest open up on the left as you round a small knob and begin descending.  At 0.7 miles, your first view of Strom Thurmond Reservoir appears through the trees downhill and to your left.  The trail stays at least 20 feet above the water as it heads out the east side of a finger peninsula that juts south into the lake.
First view across reservoir
            At 1.3 miles, you reach the tip of the finger peninsula and your first view across the width of the lake.  On my visit a fallen log made a perfect bench to sit, rehydrate, and enjoy the view.  This log may have been the victim of a southern pine beetle infestation that devastated this park a few years ago.  I had to negotiate a few fallen trees on my hike, but overall the trails at this park are narrow but well-marked and well-maintained.
            For roughly the next 4.5 miles the trail stays within 500 feet of the lake shore, so partially obstructed lake views will be nonstop.  The lakeside portion of the trail meanders around 5 different inlets with the general direction being west at first and then north.  Metal diamond mile markers used to appear at 1 mile intervals; some of them have fallen down recently.  For the most part the forest is the usual Piedmont mixture of pines and broadleaf trees, but at 2.3 miles a small stand of red cedar trees surrounds the trail.
Trail markers
            Near 4 miles into the hike, the trail curves right to head up the inlet that will take us away from the lake’s main channel.  On my visit this inlet featured numerous anglers on boats trying their luck and skill in the waters.  Also, piers near the park’s cabins can be seen across the inlet, and the park’s golf course can be seen at the head of the inlet.
Hiking along the reservoir
            After the park’s campground comes into view across the lake, the trail curves right and climbs gradually to leave the lake shore.  Just when you think you might have seen the last of the lake, the trail curves left and descends to come within sight of the lake one final time.  Some steep but usually dry drainage channels are crossed before the spur trail to the campground exits left at 6.6 miles; a brown carsonite post marks this intersection.  Continue straight to remain on the main loop.
            The trail begins the home stretch as it climbs gradually to leave the lake behind for good.  Now on an eastbound course, you join what appears to be an old road just before the red barn-like Long Cane Center comes into view through the trees uphill and ahead of you.  A final pass through the Center’s sewage and electrical areas returns you to the parking lot to complete the loop.  If you want to do more hiking while you are here, the Turkey Ridge Trail sits directly across the main park road.  On the other hand, a nice meal at the park’s restaurant might be in order if one (fairly long) hike per day is enough.