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The city of Marion in northeastern South Carolina is the Marion County seat. It's also one of many local places named after Revolutionary War hero Francis Marion, and the community is steeped in history. The Marion Historic District was built in the 1800s and is on the National Register of Historic Places, and the storefronts and homes in this area make a beautiful backdrop for your on-leash exercise: Marion just begs to be explored on foot.
At the Green Street Park on the east side of Marion, you’ll find a short path through the athletic fields and a grove of trees, and a giant open field perfect for serious frolicking. Just down the street is Durant Cemetery, established in 1901, where you can get Spot a workout while exploring the community's history.
Nestled among the well-kept neighborhood to the northeast, Harmon Park is a nature preserve so leafy and peaceful that you might forget you’re still in town. Since there are no facilities available at Harmon, bring water for your pups. It gets hot down here!
With some convenient big-box shopping and dog-friendly fast food joints, Marion is an easy place to get comfortable. Your pups can join you at the Tractor Supply Store, where they also have a weekly vaccine clinic. The local animal hospital on US-76 offers comprehensive veterinary care.
There's so much to see and sniff in Downtown Marion! After your walk through the historic district, head north to the corner of Railroad Ave and Henry Street. That's where you'll catch the Marion Hike and Bike Trail. Parking is available at the old train station at the trailhead, and the path follows a converted rail line transformed into green space. The trail cuts across the city, over a creek, and out into the farmland beyond. You can make the 2.2-mile round trip or hop off at Withlacoochie Park on the edge of town. With an oval running track, restrooms, and picnic facilities, you might just spend the rest of the day with-your-poochies at Withlacoochie.
The Little Pee Dee State Park isn't so little, with 835 acres of parkland on a 56-acre lake for you and your on-leash buddies to explore. Since this lush lakeside forest is only 16 miles from Marion with free parking and admission, you'll probably make it a regular stop. The 1.3-mile Beaver Pond Nature Trail lets your pups sniff out the local wildlife while you bone up on your natural history via the interpretive panels. Fun fact: the park preserves the sand rim of the ancient Atlantic coastline during eras of higher ocean levels. If your pups wish the beach was still that close, take them for a splash in the lake or a float on a boat; you can use the public boat ramp or rent a canoe and do some dog-paddling.
Florence, only 20 miles from Marion, provides shopping and dining opportunities you might be missing at home. With three large pet supply stores and 25 dog-friendly restaurants with outdoor seating -- including the posh and well-named Redbone Alley -- you can bring the pack along for little retail therapy. Florence's beautiful parks are free, of course, so don't worry about overindulging. McCleod Park is the doggy hotspot in town; locals love McCleod's fenced off-leash dog park, where hilly terrain and pond make playtime extra fun! The park's nature trails add some on-leash adventure to your visit. For a real challenge, use the McCleod trailhead to catch the Florence Rail Trail. This 2-mile converted rail line is paved and pawpular with bikers, hikers, and dog walkers alike.
The beautiful Great Pee Dee River Heritage Preserve protects seven miles of river and 2,700 acres of forest. It's a taste of the wilderness just 30 miles from home. This hidden gem takes some insider knowledge to find, as it's reached from a dirt road on SC 35 about 1.5 miles from the intersection with SC 34 through a gate kept closed but unlocked. Close the gate behind you, proceed to the parking area, sign in at the kiosk, and either set off on foot or continue driving another 2.5 miles to reach the river. These public lands are open for hunting, so exercise caution in deer season. In the meantime, the dirt roads and trails are yours to explore. You'll enjoy perfect peace, though the remote location is bound to bring out the wild-child in your furbaby. Bring plenty of water, plus a charged phone in case you lose your way.
Racing fans all know Darlington, SC: the NASCAR Darlington Raceway is sometimes called the "the Track too Tough to Tame," and a drag race arena is also located on the edge of town. Since Darlington is only 32 miles from Marion, it's an easy day trip destination. But, fans can also make it a weekend without leaving their pups at home: the Raceway grounds and camping facilities are dog-friendly. Darlington has great trails for those who like a slower pace, too. Williamson Park on Spring Street features a peaceful boarded nature trail. It's comfy on tender paws, with signs telling you more about the species you encounter. In other words, you'll know exactly what kind of tree Spot just peed on!
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