There are plenty of hiking and off road cycling running through the 2,135 acres of the Harbison State Forest. Although camping is not permitted, drinking water and restrooms available at the picnic area make for a great day at the park! A canoe landing provides access to the Broad River for kayaks and canoes for put in or take out. The Harbison State Forest is located only 9 miles from downtown Columbia and is situated in Irmo, SC. Its unique urban location makes Harbison one of the largest public greenspaces inside the city limits of a metropolitan area in the eastern United States.
There are more than 16 miles of roads and trails for walking, jogging, hiking, or cycling that weave through the pine and hardwood forest, crossing wandering streams and descending through leafy glades to the Broad River. The trails range from easy to difficult so there is something for everyone!
Harbison State Forest’s emphasis is on natural resource education, providing demonstrations of forestry practices as well as recreation. Visitors are encouraged to come, enjoy, and even volunteer to help with the further development of this valuable urban forest.
The history of the Forest dates back thousands of years. In 1951 the South Carolina Forestry Commission purchased 2,135 acres of land on the Broad River from the Board of National Missions for the Freedmen of the Presbyterian Church. The Church stipulated that the land be named “Harbison Forest” in honor of a major benefactor (State Forest Website). In 1981, the Forestry Commission approved a master plan for the long-term development of the tract. The goal was to provide a public greenspace to serve as an educational environment promoting the value of the state’s forests and encouraging the stewardship of all of our natural resources (State Forest Website).
Parking passes are required of all visitors to Harbison State Forest and can be obtained at fee boxes located at each parking area. For only $5.00 a day or $25.00 for a year, a small fee for the use of such a great place to relax, walk, bike, or sit and enjoy a wonderful atmosphere! Proceeds from the parking passes help to maintain and improve the trail system on the Forest.
The Harbison Environmental Education Center, also features a 5,000 square foot log building, which serves as a classroom for visitors’ introduction to the Forest. The Center can also be rented out for meetings and special events. Located a short walk down the Discovery Trail is a pine Gazebo surrounded by a meadow and smaller picnic areas. If you travel north around one third of a mile from the Gazebo you will find the Eagle Shelter, which is a larger picnic shelter that provides a great place to have a quiet lunch outside of the fast pace of urban living.
One of the main goals of the Harbison Environmental Education Center is to increase each individuals’ awareness of the complexity of forest ecosystems.
Both the Gazebo and the Eagle Shelter may be reserved up to 6 months in advance to ensure that the perfect picnic spot will be waiting for you. Call the State Forest Office at (803) 896-8890 for details. Contact the State Forest office to schedule a program or reserve a facility.
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