Harbison State Forest in Columbia enjoys the unique designation as one of the largest greenspaces within city limits east of the Mississippi River. Particularly suited to mountain biking enthusiasts, the forest’s 18 miles of trails offer riders, hikers and joggers an up-close and personal view of the wilderness without ever leaving town. Bounded along its northeastern edge by the Broad River, Harbison State Forest encompasses 2,137 acres of forestland only nine miles from the capital city’s center. More than 30 miles of roads and trails weave through the mixed pine and hardwood forest, crossing wandering streams and descending through leafy glades to the river’s edge.
Things to do
You will need a permit for any activity at Harbison State Forest; parking passes are required of all visitors. Recreational permits can be purchased online through sc.gov, at a fee box in the main parking lot, or at the Harbison State Forest office during regular business hours. Daily passes are $5, and annual passes are $25.
In addition to the main roads connecting various parts of the forest, Harbison Environmental Education Forest offers 10 different trails – totaling more than 18 miles – for walking, jogging, hiking and bicycling that range from moderately easy to difficult. The gates providing access to the interior of the forest are temporarily closed Monday-Friday due to staffing limitations, but all portions of the forest can still be accessed via the trail system, which can be joined at either the main parking lot on Broad River Road or at the Environmental Education Center.
Main gate hours: 9 a.m.-4:30 p.m.
Visit Harbison’s Maps page to view/download a printable trail map of the forest, or you can navigate the trails on your smartphone with our free geo-referenced map, which can be downloaded to your mobile device.
Biking the trails at Harbison is a very popular recreational activity.
- Bicycles permitted only on designated trails.
- No motorized bikes or off-road vehicles are permitted on trails.
- Use caution when overtaking another, and make your presence known in advance.
- Stay on designated trails ONLY.
- Always wear an approved helmet when riding.
A canoe landing located near the Broad River provides access for kayaks and canoes as a put-in or take-out from the river. To use the landing, Harbison rules require that boaters file a simple float plan (Richland County Riverside Dock Consent Form) that allows paddlers access to the landing. Float plans can be completed at the Environmental Education Center or by calling (803) 896-8890. There is no additional fee to use the canoe/kayak landing.
Visit Harbison’s Maps page to download a float plan (Richland County Riverside Dock Consent Form).
In recognition of the Forestry Commission’s 90th anniversary in 2017, Harbison State Forest created a geocaching course! Geocaching is a great family-friendly activity for all ages to get outside and explore our beautiful forests. The purpose of the course is to educate the public about the South Carolina Forestry Commission (SCFC) and the importance of forestry in our state.
The course follows the established 0.7-mile “Learning Trail” and 0.5-mile “Discovery Trail,” which both start at the Harbison Environmental Education Center. There are seven individual geocaches hidden along these trails, which can be found in .50-cal ammo cans. Each cache contains a log book and information regarding the divisions and duties within the Forestry Commission. There is an accompanying set of seven questions (one for each cache) that can be completed and turned into the Environmental Education Center. If you answer all seven questions, you will receive a specially designed SCFC geocaching coin!
For more information about the program, how to locate the coordinates for the caches and where to download/obtrain the answer sheet, please call SCFC Assistant Environmental Education Coordinator Beth Foley at [email protected] or (803) 896-8855.