A mere 50 miles from state capital Columbia and 80 miles from the beach, Manning is a small town with big opportunity. Manning’s location along I-95 makes it easy to get out of town, and its proximity to Lake Marion provides endless outdoor adventure for your fur-baby.
If he’s a very good boy, take Spot for a tour of Lake Marion. There are several lakeside parks with boat ramps in easy reach, but why do all that paddling? Book a ride on a 40-foot pontoon boat instead; pups can join you for no additional cost on the Wildlife Swamp Tour and the Historical Locks Trip offered by Fisheagle Wildlife in Santee.
Shopping and dining options are limited in Manning, but you won’t have to venture far for pet supplies: the Tractor Supply Store (where leashed pets can join you) and E&E Farm Garden and Pet both carry high-end food and treats. There's also an animal clinic based in Manning, so your buddy’s healthcare needs are covered. If things get hairy on a weekend, you'll find an emergency veterinary facility on Two Notch Drive in Columbia.
Manning’s Gibbons Street Park has grassy lawns around the playground and picnic areas that are great for a romp and a roll. Kid-friendly pups will enjoy this family-focused locale; while dogs must remain on-leash, the fenced perimeter adds a level of safety. The athletic fields at Rex Josey Park and the pocket-sized playgrounds at Bellewood and Memorial Parks give you plenty of options for a quick stretch.
At over 28,000 acres, the Manchester State Forest is true wilderness, rugged enough to get your pack howling at the moon. Sumter County’s Mill Park on the forest's southern tip and Poinsett State Park are great launching points to explore Manchester Forest; restrooms and water are available at both parks. The statewide Palmetto Trail runs north-south through the forest for almost 10 miles — with trailheads at both Mill Park and Poinsett — and nearly a dozen shorter trails crisscross this beautiful landscape. Get a full trail map at the SC Forestry Commission website. Since the area is also used for managed timber and hunting, hikers in the Manchester Forest are asked to wear orange for safety. (Let’s hope your dogs root for Clemson.) Use extra caution during deer season.
Extending for 15,000 acres and 18 miles along the shore of Lake Marion, the Santee National Wildlife Refuge was created to protect threatened waterfowl. Now it’s beloved by lots of species, including on-leash canines. Santee NWR has 10.4 miles of dedicated hiking trails, plus another 30 miles of mixed-use trails to sniff out. The Palmetto Trail runs through the refuge, so you can follow it all the way to the beach or the mountains if you really want (although your pups will be ready for nap long before you reach either). The Wrights Bluff Nature Trail is a peaceful trek through the forest and along the shore with furrific views over Cantey Bay. With fishing, splashing, and boating opportunities on the lake, your dog-paddlers will also be thrilled. Do exercise caution: though the birds are protected, deer and hogs may be hunted within the refuge.
For all your shopping and park-ing needs, bustling Sumter is just 20 miles north of Manning. With dog-friendly outdoor seating at a handful of burger joints, ice cream shops, and coffee bars, you can fuel up for a day of adventure. Sumter Bark Park is inside Dillon Park in the Archdale neighborhood; it's the closest off-leash dog park to Manning. It offers separate spaces for big fellas and little guys, along with running water and limited shade — pawfect for a little exercise if the weather isn’t too hot. For a leafier experience back on-leash, you can catch the Cyprus Trail from Dillon Park; it runs along the park’s northern boundary. Reward your buddies with a treat from one of Sumter’s big-box pet supply stores. If they prefer to eat local, you might check out King Feed, a locally-owned farm-and-pet outfit.
Lake Marion is the largest lake in South Carolina, and one of the best ways to enjoy it is from scenic Santee State Park, 25 miles from Manning. Across the lake from Santee NWR, this 2,500-acre recreation area features boat ramps and endless waterfront splashing to cool off hot dogs. You’ll definitely work up a pant. The 7.5-mile hiking/biking trail encircles the park, while three easy 1-mile loop trails making sure that even your short-legged friends can enjoy the flora and fauna. On your way home, stop in the town of Santee for some fine dining at Clark’s Inn and Restaurant in a historic building: just call ahead to reserve a pet-friendly outdoor table.
New rule: anyone who lives just 50 miles from a national park must check it out. The Congaree National Park might not have the same name recognition as Yosemite or Yellowstone, but it’s just as scenic. According to the National Parks Service, this 26,000-acre expanse is “the largest intact expanse of old growth bottomland hardwood forest” left in the Southeast. The area is famous for its biodiversity, so make sure your fur family stays on-leash and avoids gnawing on any rare species. You can explore the 25 miles of peaceful hiking trails and 2.5 miles of wetland boardwalk; that’s enough to wear out even the most hyperactive pets in your pack. South Carolina summers are no joke, so bring water bottles and insect repellant for your journey.