An immense rock in a forest clearing.
WOPA050726_D196 (ALL RIGHTS) Peachtree Rock in Peachtree Rock Preserve, South Carolina, United States, North America. Photo credit: © Harold E. Malde © © Harold E. Malde

Places We Protect

Peachtree Rock Heritage Preserve

South Carolina

Peachtree Rock Heritage Preserve is one of the Midlands' best hiking destinations.

A Prehistoric Playground

Only 30 minutes away from downtown Columbia, S.C., Peachtree Rock Heritage Preserve feels like a trip back in time.

Layered sandstone formations, riddled with the fossils of ancient marine creatures, crop up on either side of the well-kept trails. Native longleaf pines tower overhead. Near the preserve’s entrance, the only natural waterfall on the state’s coastal plain splashes into a small pool.

Rich in culture, history, unusual geology, plants and wildlife, Peachtree Rock Heritage Preserve is a wonderful and educational place to visit. A new kiosk near the preserve’s titular formation – the now-toppled Peachtree Rock – describes the area’s unique natural offerings.

A Fallen Landmark

The “big rock” for which Peachtree Rock Heritage Preserve was named took the shape of an inverted pyramid, balanced on its tip. This unusual silhouette was created when the waters of the Atlantic Ocean receded long ago. The lower layers of the rock eroded more quickly, creating a wide top and narrow base.

Erosion, storms and visitors carving into the rock gradually wore away at that fragile pedestal. On December 7, 2013, a hiker observed that Peachtree Rock had toppled.

The sandstone’s crumbly nature made it impossible to hold up the rock artificially, so the decision was made it leave it on its side. The Nature Conservancy and South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (SC-DNR) continue to monitor its position and stability.

While the big rock has fallen, a smaller but similar formation – affectionately known as “Little Peachtree Rock” – still stands just off the trail near the back of the preserve.  

Your Support is Making Peachtree Rock Better!

Peachtree Rock is a Heritage Preserve co-managed by the Conservancy and SC-DNR. A shared goal for the preserve is to nurture its on-site native longleaf pine forests. Seventy-four acres of non-native slash pine were removed and replanted with longleaf in 2007. Those seedlings are being nurtured through controlled burning, which has taken place in 2008, 2014 and 2016 to remove dense underbrush and encourage longleaf germination and growth.

How to Prepare for Your Visit

Wear walking shoes or hiking boots.  Animals permitted only if on a leash.  Please do not touch or climb on Peachtree Rock. 

What to See: Plants

Diverse plant communities ranging from bogs to xeric sandhill scrub can be found in Peachtree Rock Preserve. The area harbors a swamp tupelo-evergreen shrub bog and a longleaf pine ecosystem. Typical sandhill scrub vegetation, including pines, turkey oaks, and sparkleberry bushes, are present in abundance on the preserve. The federally endangered Rayner's blueberry is found growing on the seepage slope within the longleaf pine forest.

Visitors can observe moisture-loving plants, including mountain laurel and the crane-fly orchid. The latter's leaves are visible during winter and spring. The flowering spike, which is 4 to 20 inches tall, appears during September. Near the waterfall several fern communities can be observed, and maple-leafed viburnum grows in abundance here. Sand myrtles, titi and sweet pepper bush dominate the seepage slopes. Two contrasting plant communities can be noted here: the shade and moisture-loving galax, normally found only in cool mountain environments, and Solidago pauciflosculosa, a unique woody goldenrod, which grows on drier slopes.

What to See: Animals

Many different animals live amidst the undergrowth at Peachtree Rock Preserve, including Northern red salamanders, skinks, antlions and several species of beetles. In the forest surrounding the trail, the chirping of birds and a flash of wings may reveal a chickadee, titmouse, cardinal, even a yellow-billed cuckoo or red-cockaded woodpecker.