Ravine Gardens State Park was the first conservation park I visited when I moved to the area, and it remains one I keep going back to. Some of the major pluses include clean and far less buggy trails compared to most places, and the fact that it changes with every season. While best known for its colorful azalea season in February and March, you will find amazing changes in flora and fauna throughout the year.
There is a welcome center, plenty of paved trails for biking, a playground and much more. Visit the Ravine Gardens website to learn more, because what we’re looking at here is the trail hiking.
What makes this stop unique for the region is its namesake – it is in fact a gorge with a nice stream at the bottom. This means you will have many more inclines in the well-kept sandy trails than in most places and get a good workout. There are also many wooden and some cement stairs as well, as pictured below. In spring and summer you will find an abundance of butterflies and dragonflies, and the flowers change throughout the year. I have not measured the trails, but it is easy to get a good five miles in and the suspension bridges, pond, and water wheel are all very cool.
This is a relatively well-visited area, so one thing you will not find is time alone. But even on weekends I have been able to hike and take pictures in relative calm despite some loud people who tend to scare the birds and other wildlife away. I never understood why people can’t take a couple hours to stop babbling and enjoy nature.