United States

Hilton Head Island, SC

A Guide to Running in Hilton Head. See Also Our Guides to Nearby Beaufort and Savannah

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.

Editor's Picks

Some of our favorite runs in Hilton Head Island, SC

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  • Iconic Routes
  • Weather & Climate
  • Where To Stay
  • Stores & Group Runs
  • Events

Hilton Head Beaches

Hilton Head Island, SC

One of the best beaches for running in the southeastern U.S. 11+ miles of continuous, flat & wide beach, much of it with reliably hard, packed sand. Beach itself is all public but with specific access points and parking spots.
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Bridge Loop

Hilton Head Island, SC

A good long run option in Hilton Head, this 12 mile loop incorporates the Cross Island Bridge, with great harbor and marsh views. There are bike lanes along nearly the entire run. Marshland Rd. offers a good canopy for those hot days.
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Sea Pines Preserve

Hilton Head Island, SC

Resort occupies the southern third of Hilton Head. Combination of paved, hard sand, gravel, and grass trails. Miles of bike trails and 650 acre forest preserve. Great mix of marshes, boardwalks, canopy, and water views. $6 entry fee required for non-guests.
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Palmetto Dunes

Hilton Head Island, SC

Extensive resort between Shelter Cove and the beach, with numerous hotels. Lots of paths and quiet roads for running, including 5 miles of bike paths. Great to combine with a section along the beach.
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Palmetto Bluff

Hilton Head Island, SC

A combination residential community and resort area 20 miles west of Hilton Head. Some 20 miles of gorgeous trails open to the public. Highly recommended is the River Rd. Trail, with woods, live oaks, views to the May River, and freshwater lagoons.
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Hilton Head Beaches

Hilton Head Island, SC

One of the best beaches for running in the southeastern U.S. 11+ miles of continuous, flat & wide beach, much of it with reliably hard, packed sand. Beach itself is all public but with specific access points and parking spots.
Explore

Sea Pines Preserve

Hilton Head Island, SC

Resort occupies the southern third of Hilton Head. Combination of paved, hard sand, gravel, and grass trails. Miles of bike trails and 650 acre forest preserve. Great mix of marshes, boardwalks, canopy, and water views. $6 entry fee required for non-guests.
Explore

Hilton Head climate ranges from mild to hot. The most pleasant seasons are spring and fall, when temperatures level off. Height of summer is hot and humid, with average July high temps near 90F (32C) and warm nights. Adjust your running schedule accordingly and make sure to hydrate.

Winters are mild, with average January highs of 60F (16C) and cool nights, so bring layers. Temperatures occasionally fall below freezing. Also, summers can be rainy, with near daily downpours and thunderstorms. Winter months get half as much rain as summer.

Hilton Head Island is primarily a resort community, so hotels are the ‘raison d’etre’ of the place. Many of the hotels are located within some of the plantations (gated communities). Some of them, like Sea Pines, are the community itself, while other plantations, such as Palmetto Dunes, host several hotels.

There are clusters of hotels along the northern beach section of the island off Folly Field Rd. Another cluster a  few miles south, in the Palmetto Dunes plantation stretching from Shelter Cove down to the beach, and several resorts in the Coligny Beach area. The southern third of the island is taken up by the Sea Pines resort.

More budget friendly hotels will be found along Rt. 278, a mile or two inland from the beach.

 

The main running store in the area is Palmetto Running Company. They have a location on island in Shelter Cove, and just off island in Bluffton. Great stores, and very helpful people.

The Hilton Head store has group runs Saturdays at 8am during the winter months, and 7am during the summer months.

Area Events and Group Runs

Group Events Page

 

 

Area Running Calendar

Hilton Head Marathon & Half. Also an 8k. February.

Palmetto Bluff Half. Also a 10k. March. Off island, about 20 miles east of Hilton Head. As the largest waterfront property on the East coast, Palmetto Bluff is evolving as a residential community and conservation preserve, with over 20,000 acres that remain virtually undisturbed.

Buffalo Run. Event in the fall, with 10k, 30k, 50k distances, benefiting the Palmetto Bluff Conservancy.