The vast and unusual Sand Hills State Forest (16218 U.S. 1, 843/498-6478, www.state.sc.us , office hours 8 a.m.–4:30 p.m., free) between the towns of McBee and Patrick comprises 46,000 acres of recreational opportunities, from hunting to fishing to biking to horse-riding to bird-watching. The rare red-cockaded woodpecker calls this home, as well as a copious variety of fish in the forest’s 13 ponds.
The eponymous sandhills are vestiges of sand deposits made millions of years ago. They’re lovely to look at, but also infertile, which led the feds to buy the land from hardscrabble farmers in the 1930s.
Most activity here centers on Sugar Loaf Mountain—actually a hundred-foot natural sandpile—around which wind numerous hiking trails. Horseback riding on the trails is encouraged, but you need a permit in advance ($5/day). There are several campsites as well ($10–15 day).