Untarnished wilderness filled with giant trees, stunning landscape, and tremendous biodiversity, Congaree National Park is worth a stop on your next visit to South Carolina.
In this article, we’ll discuss best things to do in Congaree National Park, the best time to visit, entry fees, lodging options, and much more. Let’s dive right in!
|Park||Congaree National Park|
|Things to do||Touring, camping, hiking, etc.|
|Hotels near Congaree National Park||Cottage Tree House, Gypsy Camper and many more|
|Camping Location||Multiple Locations|
Where Is Congaree National Park?
Congaree National Park is located in Central South Carolina, which is eighteen miles to the southeast of Columbia.
If you are traveling by air, then you can take a flight to the nearest airport, which is Columbia Metropolitan Airport, and then drive for thirty minutes to reach the Congaree National Park.
The nearest town to Congaree National Park is Eastover, Soth Carolina.
Read: Everglades National Park
This park is one of the smallest national parks in the United States that offers its beauty in one of the most modest ways.
Spread over a whopping 26,000 acres of land in South Carolina, it is home to the largest old-growth bottomland hardwood forest in North America and one of the tallest canopies globally.
Unlike most national parks famous for their stunning views or diverse wildlife, Congaree serves as a sanctuary for plants and animals and a research site for scientists.
Whether you’re looking for a hiking adventure or want to enjoy a stroll down the Boardwalk or rest under the trees, the Park has got you covered.
This understated beauty is a perfect destination for those who have time to appreciate it.
Overview Of The Park
History of Congaree National Park
In addition to its unique features, the landscape of Congaree has a vibrant cultural heritage.
Long before it became a national park, the floodplain was under human use for over 13,000 years.
From prehistoric residents to Spanish explorers, war patriots to run-away slaves, loggers, and conservationists, the landscape is evident of stories of the people who have helped make it a national park.
Like most national parks, Congaree River National Park was initially designated as a national monument in October 1979.
Seven years later, in 1982, the Park was established as an International Biosphere Reserve by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization.
In November 2010, the bill to upgrade the monument into a national park got approved, making Congaree National Park the 57th national in the country.
Things to do in Congaree National Park
Here are the top five must-do things in the part you can’t miss on your first visit to this Park:
Hike the Boardwalk Trail
The Boardwalk Loop Trail is one of the most popular trails for first-time visitors to explore this gorgeous Park.
Located just after the Harry Hampton Visitor Center, this 2.4-mile loop takes you through a beautiful old-growth bottomland complex forest, where you’ll get to see some of the tallest trees in the Park.
The trail is named Boardwalk as it starts as a high boardwalk and transitions into a low passage, perfectly accessible for people of all ages and abilities.
So, lace up your boots and get yourself ready to witness some of the incredible forest scenery and native birds.
Take a tour to Weston Lake Loop.
Weston Lake Loop trail is another highly famous circuit walk in the Park that you shouldn’t miss.
The trail winds approximately 4.4 miles through the Congaree wilderness.
It takes you deep into the woods, where you’ll be surrounded by a variety of tree species, including tupelo trees, bald cypress, oaks, and more.
The trail offers a glimpse of the unique flora and fauna of the reserve and a great view of Cedar Creek, where otters and other wading birds are frequently spotted.
If you want to go on a mellow hike with your family, nothing beats a day trip to the Weston Lake Loop trail.
Go Kayaking on Cedar Creek
Kayaking is one of the most popular ways to explore the unseen areas of this stunning wetland.
Cedar Creek is an excellent spot to launch a vessel in the water and experience this Park.
The waterway passes through an ancient old-growth forest that offers tons of opportunities to view various wildlife and even alligators.
Kayaks can quickly enter into the narrow inlets and wiggle between the hardwoods to let you explore the Park in a truly different way.
For kayaking in Cedar Creek, visitors must bring their kayaks with them, but if you can’t, you can rent them from professional outfitters in Columbia.
Camp Under the Stars
The best way to enjoy the beauty of this Park is to camp in a secluded place with few neighbors around.
Thanks to the Park’s camping grounds where you do that. The Park offers well-managed camping sites where you can experience the wild forest and see the old-growth woods up-close.
There are two primitive campgrounds with basic and peaceful campsites in the park, but neither allows RV camping.
If you want to bring your TV, you can choose from other campgrounds outside the Park.
Best Time to Visit Congaree National Park
Although the Park is perfect for visiting any time of the year, the best time to go is spring and fall due to excellent weather conditions.
Water levels are ideal for kayaking during these seasons, and mosquitos are generally not a problem.
March through May and September through November is a lovely time to visit the Park.
Congaree National Park is one of the best parks to take a road trip, and having a park’s map with you will help you visually plan your tour by showing the locations of visitor centers, roads and trails, campgrounds, and lodging options in the Park.
Click here to download the Park’s map in PDF or visit the official site of nps.gov for more information.
There are two designated campsites in the Park, including Longleaf Campground and Bluff Campground.
The camping grounds are pretty primitive, with no toilets or running water. Backcountry camping is also available if you don’t mind getting a little off the beaten path.
All campers are required to make a reservation to camp in the front country and backcountry camping grounds.
To make reservations, visit Recreation.gov.
The Park has a humid subtropical climate with wet and warm summers and mild winters.
During summer, the average daily temperature can reach up to 90 degrees with high humidity.
From November to February, Winters are with an average daily temperature in the mid-50s but can drop below freezing at night.
Rain is a common occurrence, and there’s a higher risk of flood throughout the year.
It is best to check the latest weather forecast before visiting and prepare proper clothing and gear.
Best Hotels Near Congaree National Park
There are a plethora of great accommodation options in Columbia, just a few miles away from the Park.
Here’s a list of some best hotels near the Park:
Entry Fee & Reservations
Congaree National Park is one of the few national parks that allow free entry.
Not only is the it free, but there are also no charges for camping and other ranger-led programs offered by the Park.
Checklist for Items to Pack
Here are some essential travel items you should bring with you for a day of adventure in Congaree National Park:
- Small backpack
- Rain Cover
- Sleeping bag
- Comfortable quick-drying clothes
- Hiking shoes
- Sun hat & Sunscreen
- Drinking water
- Pocket knife
- Trail mix/snack bars
- Bug/Mosquito Spray
- First-aid kit
How much time Should I Spend in Congaree National Park?
If you want to see the Park by the water, it takes approximately 12-14 hours to explore the park thoroughly, while if you’re going to hike or camp, 1-2 days would be ideal.
Is there a higher risk of flooding in Congaree National Park?
More than 80% of the Park is located within the floodplain of Congaree River, which means flooding can any time of the year.
Are pets allowed in Congaree National Park?
Yes, Congaree National Park welcomes the pets on all trails and campgrounds, but they should be leashed.
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