Francis Beidler Forest Four Holes Swamp Trail, South Carolina

The South Carolina Lowcountry's "real swamp" experience!

National Recreation Trail

Designated in 1984

• View more details for this trail
in the NRT Database

• Learn about the NRT Program.

The National Audubon Society's Francis Beidler Forest located in Four Holes Swamp, SC contains within its 18,000 acres the largest remaining stand of virgin Bald Cypress and Tupelo Gum swamp forest left anywhere in the world. The Beidler Forest has been recognized as a Ramsar Wetland of International Importance, a National Natural Landmark, an Important Bird Area, and a site on the Underground Railroad.

Wander along an elevated boardwalk past ancient trees, black water swamp, clear pools, and abundant wildlife. Thousand-year-old trees and native wildlife abound in this pristine sanctuary that has been untouched for millennia. The swamp is a birding paradise, with some 140 species of bird documented on the sanctuary, including nesting Prothonotary Warblers from April-July and Barred Owls present year-round. Reptiles are frequently seen from the boardwalk trail during the warm months.

A 1.75-mile self-guiding boardwalk trail allows visitors the chance to safely venture deep into the heart of the swamp... to experience the peace and serenity that has characterized the area for centuries... to hear the sounds of bird and bug and breeze that have echoed through the trees for ages... to take a relaxing and informative walk back in time... to see a swamp the way nature intended it to be!

The boardwalk trail is a loop that starts and ends at the visitor center, which is located at 336 Sanctuary Road, Harleyville, SC 29336. Please see the Beidler Forest website ( or call 843-487-9988 before visiting to check for current hours and to reserve tickets.

A second trail has also been opened at the Francis Beidler Forest. Unlike the boardwalk trail through the swamp, the Grassland-Woodland Trail traverses upland habitats being restored by Audubon staff to native grasslands and Longleaf Pine savanna. This 2+ mile trail is open every day from dawn to dusk. Parking is located in a gravel lot adjacent to the entrance driveway for the visitor center. Painted and Indigo Buntings are regularly seen on this trail from April-August. More information can be found here:


  • Nothing done to lure wildlife, however over 300 vertebrate species are possible!
  • 140 species bird list
  • Excellent songbird habitat and great for spring migrants
  • 7 species of woodpecker possible
  • Barred Owl heaven
  • 40 species reptile list
  • Snakes, turtles, lizards, alligators all frequently seen in warm seasons
  • Native mammals, fish and amphibians abound on the sanctuary but may elude casual observation

photo credit: Mac Stone