While Yosemite, Grand Canyon, and Yellowstone get most of the glory, there are several other incredible national parks in the U.S. that you should take the time to see! Congaree National Park, located in Hopkins, South Carolina, is definitely one of the more underrated national parks! It’s the perfect place for nature lovers to visit, with great activities you can try, including camping.
About Congaree National Park
If you love to explore nature, Congaree is the place for you! Once a logging community, this area was dubbed a national monument in 1976, but wasn’t granted national park status until 2003, making it one of the newer national parks around! Not only will you love exploring the trails and rivers, but you’ll love seeing the biodiversity within the park, including the largest intact old growth bottomland hardwood forest still standing in the U.S. Some visitors out there may gripe that this national park doesn’t feature anywhere near as much grandeur as other national parks, but it doesn't claim to! It’s just perfect if you’re looking for a rugged, fun adventure, and there are plenty of other nearby attractions that will give you a full, fun itinerary!
Things To Do In Congaree
Congaree National Park isn’t as much about the breathtaking views as it is about the adventure! This doesn’t mean there aren’t some beautiful sights, but there is just so much fun to be had!
Canoeing and Kayaking
If you love being on the water, Congaree is the perfect park for a good float. The Congaree River borders the park, and a network of lovely creeks are great for exploring. There are several different routes to take, with trips that can last from a couple hours to three days long!
Congaree River Blue Trail
Ready for the ultimate water adventure? Floating down the Congaree River Blue Trail is a great multi-day trip. This route spans 50 miles from South Carolina’s capital of Columbia, and delivers paddlers right to Congaree National Park! It is suggested that you take two to three days to complete this float, that way you can get the most out of this amazing trip.
Since RV camping isn’t permitted in Congaree National Park, it’ll take some careful planning for this excursion. Depending on your time frame, you could plan to camp along the way and spend a night tent camping in Congaree before returning to your RV. Talk about fun!
If you’d like to explore by foot, Congaree features a great trail system where you can get a firsthand view of what this lovely park holds! There are 20 miles of trails for all levels of hikers, including a 2.4-mile boardwalk trail where you’ll be able to see several tree species, and is wheelchair and stroller accessible! Just be warned: flooding in the park isn’t uncommon, especially in the spring, so be sure to plan around the wet season, and be sure to pack a lot of mosquito repellant if you choose to come when the water is high!
Weston Lake Trail
A hike around the 4.4-mile Weston Lake Loop Trail will give you a great look into the diverse ecosystems of Congaree National Park! You’ll pass by Cedar Creek, where river otters and several species of birds have been known to hang around! Continue through a neat dried up river bed, where cypress trees can be seen jutting up, which is a cool sight to see.
Although exploring on your own is great, one of the best ways to learn about Congaree is to take a guided walk! Ranger led programs are available in almost every national park, and provide interesting facts and tidbits about the history and nature of the parks. If you have the time, taking a guided tour is worth it!
As mentioned before, RV camping is unfortunately not permitted in Congaree National Park, but that shouldn’t stop you from visiting! Our recommendation is that if you’d still like to bring your RV along, set up camp at a nearby RV park, float down the Congaree River Blue Trail, and spend a night or two tent camping!
Camping In Congaree
Congaree features two small tent-only campgrounds, the Longleaf Campground and Bluff Campground, as well as free backcountry camping with a permit! If you’re comfortable leaving your RV alone for a night or two, it’s inexpensive to set up camp in Congaree for a night with a $10 per night fee in Longleaf and $5 per night in Bluff.
As one of the closest RV-friendly campgrounds to Congaree National Park, Magnolia Campground is a great choice! It provides a nice, quiet atmosphere where you can relax after your Congaree adventures! It’s only 15 minutes from Columbia too, and features both 50 and 30 amp service, full hookups, a dog park, and more. The Magnolia Campground website says there is only a two-person-per-site maximum, which is pretty impractical if you’re traveling with a large group.
The Barnyard RV Park
If you’d like to stay closer to Columbia, the Barnyard RV Park makes it convenient to get to both the capital city and to Congaree! You’ll love the comfortable grassy sites, full hookups, laundry facilities, and affordable weekly rates (especially with your Good Sam, AAA, or AARP discounts). Make a reservation well in advance as this park tends to fill up on the weekends, especially in the busy summer months!
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What else do you like about Congaree National Park? We want to hear from you, nature lovers! Comment with the best trails to take, about how excited you are to visit, or if there are any other great spots to visit while in South Carolina!