Hilton Head is a resort town on an island in South Carolina, located 20 miles from Savannah and 95 miles from Charleston. With 12 miles of beachfront and two dozen golf courses, Hilton Head is a popular vacation spot, attracting some 2.5 million visitors annually. The island has an interesting history: seasonally occupied by Native Americans thousands of years ago, site of several small plantations, and base for a Union blockade during the Civil War. Current “native islanders”, are descendants of freed slaves known as the Gullah, who settled on the island after the Civil War. Today, the island is mainly a vacation destination, where 70% of the tourists stay in some form of ‘gated community’. The best running on Hilton Head is on the great beaches and along the miles 60 miles of canopied bike paths.
Among the best places to run on Hilton Head are the 12 miles of continuous beach, which is very wide in spots and features firm, packed sand. Other great running spots are a loop incorporating the Cross Island Parkway Bridge, paths in Sea Forest Pines Preserve, and 14 miles of trails on Pinckney Island. Note that there are some 50 miles of bike paths on Hilton Head, mostly alongside the major roads (and not always that scenic). Those staying in one of the gated communities can enjoy some quiet residential streets for running. Nearby, there’s great running on Pinckney Island and Palmetto Bluff. See also our running guide for Beaufort.
Note: Hilton Head Island is a beautiful place, but navigating it can be confusing. While many areas are free and open to the public, they can still be hard to find because of how the Island is set up. Much of Hilton Head is segmented into gated communities, also known as plantations. While some of them are private residential communities for people who live on the island year-round, there are others with resorts, golf courses, businesses and places to visit that are open to visitors — especially Sea Pines, Palmetto Dunes, and Wexford.