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15 Best State and National Parks in South Carolina

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From the Blue Ridge Mountains to the Midlands and the Lowcountry of the southeastern United States, South Carolina offers a wide selection of national and state parks. Hikers, photographers, campers, anglers, and other outdoor enthusiasts will want to add a few of them to their bucket lists.

More than just a means to outdoor recreation, South Carolina parks are a window to the past. Many of them preserve the American history of the Revolutionary War and the Civil War within their forests.

Pines, cypress, live oaks, and hemlocks provide shelter and such to Eastern cottontails, box turtles, white-tailed deer, and bobcats. Bird nerds will become downright giddy with the array of feathered natives that include red-winged blackbirds, great horned owls, and yellow-rumped warblers.

If you’re visiting the Palmetto State and its natural landmarks for the first time or the 50th time, take note of our picks for some of South Carolina’s best state and national parks. They preserve the stories of the past and conserve nature for the future.

Top State and National Parks in South Carolina

Park Name Location Highlights
Myrtle Beach State Park Myrtle Beach Beach, Horseback Riding
Caesar’s Head State Park Cleveland Mountains, Hiking Trails
Congaree National Park Hopkins Old Growth Hardwood, Synchronous Fireflies
Hunting Island State Park Hunting Island Lighthouse, Camping
Jones Gap State Park Marietta Cross-Country Skiing, Rivers
Table Rock State Park Pickens Mountains, Waterfalls
Sesquicentennial State Park Columbia Swimming Pool, Kayaking
Edisto Beach State Park Edisto Island Accessible Trail System
Keowee Toxaway State Park Sunset Campsites, Cabin
Oconee State Park Mountain Rest Laurel Blooms
Huntington Beach State Park Murrells Inlet Beach, Atalaya Castle
Landsford Canal State Park Catawba Spider Lilies, Historic Buildings
Kings Mountain State Park Blacksburg Horseback Riding, 1800s Farm
Paris Mountain State Park Greenville Lake, Campsites
Lake Hartwell State Park Fair Play Boat Ramp, RV Sites

1. Myrtle Beach State Park

Address: 4401 S. Kings Kings Highway, Myrtle Beach, South Carolina 29575

Filled with hollies, poplars, and magnolia trees, the 312-acre Myrtle Beach State Park offers a peaceful place to enjoy the outdoors. It opened in 1934 and was South Carolina’s first state park.

The park itself is a good escape from the midway and popular attractions of the boardwalk and Grand Strand area of Myrtle Beach. Explore hiking, bicycling, and equestrian trails where you can try to catch sight of animals such as birds, reptiles, amphibians, whitetail deer, and more.

Go surf or pier fishing along the coastal area where you might see loggerhead sea turtles and possibly catch flounder, spot, or Spanish mackerel. You could also just enjoy the background of sea oats and sand dunes while relaxing on the beach.

Other activities include swimming, picnicking, and RV and tent camping. There are a few fully furnished rental cabins with heat, air-conditioning, and TVs. Visit the nature center for interactive displays, live animal exhibits, and fun aquariums full of fish.

Accommodations Near Myrtle Beach State Park

2. Caesars Head State Park

Address: 8155 Geer Highway, Cleveland, South Carolina 29635

Part of the same Mountain Bridge Wilderness Area as Jones Gap Park, Caesars Head State Park is one of the most popular travel destinations in the Blue Ridge Mountains. It goes without saying, then, that it’s one of the best South Carolina state parks.

The 17,000-acre area is located north of Greenville and offers stunning views of the surrounding mountains and valleys. Along with an array of wildlife that includes black bears and deer, you’ll come across unique geologic features.

Try to spot jagged boulders, metamorphic rock, and the 420-foot Raven Cliff Falls, the tallest waterfall in the state. From September through November, you might see hawks and other raptors migrating to South America.

Caesars Head is a wonderful destination for exploring, nature watching, and fishing for brook and rainbow trout in the Middle Saluda River. Hiking paths offer varying difficulty levels – I recommend the Rainbow Falls Trail. There are backcountry campsites available for anyone who prefers to “rough it”.

Accommodations Near Caesars Head State Park

3. Congaree National Park

Lake and Trees in Congaree National Park
image by naturenps is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Address: 100 National Park Road, Hopkins, South Carolina 29061

With its sprawling forests, meandering rivers, and abundant wildlife, the 26,692-acre Congaree National Park is South Carolina’s only National Park (though the National Park Service manages seven other properties). It’s about 30 minutes from the state capital in Columbia.

Congaree holds the title of being the largest intact expanse of old-growth bottomland hardwood forest in the United States. Part of the Congaree Biosphere Region, a designated UNESCO site, it features the floodplain habitats of the Congaree and Wateree Rivers, which eventually meet to form the Santee River.

The annual synchronous firefly mating season, when thousands of fireflies light up in unison, is a popular time to visit. This unique and magical spectacle only takes place in a few places. The Great Smoky Mountains in Gatlinburg, Tennesee is one of the other U.S. locations where this takes place.

In addition to kayaking, canoeing, and camping, travelers can see rare and endangered species of plants and animals, including the red-cockaded woodpecker, the Carolina parakeet, and the American eel. It’s home to an impressive array of rare trees such as bald cypress, water tupelo, loblolly pine, and sweetgum. Canoeing trails include Cedar Creek and the Congaree River Blue Trail.

Accommodations Near Congaree National Park

4. Hunting Island State Park

Lighthouse in Hunting Island State Park

Address: 2555 Sea Island Parkway, Hunting Island, South Carolina 29920

Located along the coast in Beaufort County, between Charleston and Hilton Head, Hunting Island State Park is one of the most popular state parks in the Palmetto State. The 5,000-acre site is home to five miles of pristine beaches and a variety of saltwater and freshwater marshes filled with animal life.

It is a wonderful destination for fishing, crabbing, kayaking, and wildlife viewing. Check out the Hunting Island Lighthouse, the Marsh Boardwalk Trail, or the Nature Center for a glimpse of the ecosystem.

At the Nature Center, you can learn about the ecology, culture, and history of the Lowcountry through exhibits, programs, and live animals (including alligators!). The property has 102 campsites with RV hookups, which fill up quite quickly, as well as about 25 rustic tent sites.

Accommodations Near Hunting Island State Park

5. Jones Gap State Park

Address: 303 Jones Gap Road, Marietta, South Carolina 29661

Located in the beautiful mountains of Greenville County, Jones Gap State Park is also part of the Mountain Bridge Wilderness Area. Open year-round, it features a range of wildlife, including deer, coyotes, and bobcats. During the winter, visitors can enjoy cross-country skiing and snowshoeing.

Spring and summer are perfect for hiking, camping, and fishing for river trout. Fall leaf-peeping is one of the most scenic times to visit.

You can even hike from Caesars Head Park to Jones Gap. Known as the Rim of the Gap Trail, it’s approximately four miles of narrow hiking trails that pass by waterfalls and other scenic sites.

Accommodations Near Jones Gap State Park

6. Table Rock State Park

Lake at Table Rock State Park

Address: 158 Ellison Lane, Pickens, South Carolina 29671

Table Rock State Park is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the state. Because it’s located in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, you’ll want to keep the camera out!

Capture stunning landscapes of the valleys, peaks, lakefront scenes, and other scenic views along the nature trails. This site is home to wildlife such as deer, turkeys, black-tailed jackrabbits, pileated woodpeckers, and bobcats.

In addition to the natural beauty, you’ll find a variety of convenient amenities such as camping sites, a gift shop, picnicking areas, and a visitor center. Two lakes provide the perfect place for canoeing or fishing for bass and bream.

Don’t miss the monthly Music on the Mountain Bluegrass sessions! They are held at Table Rock Lodge on the second Saturday of each month.

Accommodations Near Table Rock State Park

See Related: Things to Do in Charleston, South Carolina

7. Sesquicentennial State Park

Kayak in Sesquicentennial State Park

Address: 9564 Two Notch Road, Columbia, South Carolina 29223

Known as Sesqui (and we can understand why), Sesquicentennial State Park is a wonderful spot to get away from it all and enjoy the outdoors. The park is located in the Sandhills region near Columbia.

Sesqui opened in 1940 and has various amenities for a day of family fun, including a swimming pool, splash pads, playgrounds, picnic areas, and walking paths. The park is popular for fishing, kayaking, and canoeing as well as peddle boating.

You can’t swim in the lake, but you can rent kayaks, stand-up paddleboards, and peddle boats. Hike the two-mile Sandhills Hiking Trail or pedal along the six-mile mountain biking path.

Accommodations Near Sesquicentennial State Park

See Related: Things to Do in Fayetteville, North Carolina

8. Edisto Beach State Park

Address: 8377 State Cabin Road, Edisto Island, South Carolina 29438

Edisto Beach State Park, just north of Hunting Island State Park and south of Charleston, is a must-see for any traveler. This beautiful site stretches along the Atlantic Coast and offers the most extensive wheelchair-accessible trail system in South Carolina.

These pathways can also be accessed via bicycling and walking. They’re a perfect way to check out the park’s natural beauty.

Discover the environment through an outdoor Environmental Learning Center, which puts a focus on the area’s ACE (Ashepoo, Combahee, and Edisto Rivers) Basin. These three rivers meet at St. Helena Sound to the south of Edisto Beach.

You could also stroll around the 1.5-mile beach, which offers two picnic sites, scenic sunset views, and lots of shells for beachcombers. When visiting, a small entrance fee is required, but kids younger than five can enter for free.

Accommodations Near Edisto Beach State Park

9. Keowee Toxaway State Park

Trail at Keowee Toxaway State Park

Address: 108 Residence Drive, Sunset, South Carolina 29685

Created in 1970, Keowee Toxaway State Park is a beautiful getaway located in the wooded regions of the northwestern section of the state. The park’s highlight is Keowee Lake, a stunning body of water with a boat launch, making it perfect for canoeing and fishing.

Enjoy spectacular views from the half-mile trail along the lake’s shore. In addition to its two shorter walking trails, there’s an impressive Natural Bridge and a Raven Rock trail. These pathways are beautiful spots to photograph wildflowers, lilies, ginger, and violets in the spring.

Campsites and cabins are available for rental for those looking to spend the night. A fully furnished cabin sits lakeside with a private boat dock.

Accommodations Near Keowee Toxaway State Park

See Related: Best Museums in Charleston, South Carolina, to Visit

10. Oconee State Park

Address: 624 State Park Road, Mountain Rest, South Carolina 29664

Located on Lake Keowee, the 1,165-acre Oconee State Park offers activities like hiking, fishing, and boating. Several paths wind through the site, including the Palmetto Connector Trail, which leads to Station Cove Falls and the Oconee Station historic site.

The park’s highlight is its stunning springtime laurel displays and for offering plenty of unique activities. Listen to bluegrass and learn to square dance on Friday nights from Memorial Day to Labor Day. Oconee is the only site in the state park system with a mini golf course.

Accommodations Near Oconee State Park

  • Chattooga Trails Bed & Barn
  • Mountain Rest Cabins and Campgrounds

11. Huntington Beach State Park

Trees at Huntington Beach State Park
image by ericrichardson is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Address: 16148 Ocean Highway, Murrells Inlet, South Carolina 29576

Huntington Beach State Park is a stunning green space covering 2,500 acres and a three-mile beach. The property provides a beautiful place for bird watching. There are more than 300 species of winged wonders here!

The observation tower along Sandpiper Pond Nature Trail is a popular area to see ospreys, egrets, and herons. Not into birding? You can also go hiking, kayaking, geocaching, swimming, and fishing.

The park is home to Atalaya Castle, a famous historical home built in 1931 for industrialist Archer M. Huntington and his wife artist Anna Hyatt-Huntington. The Huntingtons were benefactors to the area.

Their generosity has made the property what it is today – a beautiful place to visit, learn about local history, and enjoy time outdoors. Visit exhibits devoted to Huntington history via guided tours.

Accommodations Near Huntington Beach State Park

12. Landsford Canal State Park

Address: 2051 Park Drive, Catawba, South Carolina 29704

The 448-acre Landsford Canal State Park is located on the Catawba River and offers beautiful views of the water and surrounding countryside. The spider lilies that bloom along the river are a must-see highlight of any visit.

Landsford Canal has several walking paths, a playground, a picnic area, and a fishing pier. Other activities include geocaching, an interpretive trail system, and bald eagle watching.

It’s a great place to spend a day or two if you’re looking to escape city life’s hustle and bustle. On your next visit, kayak along the river or check out historic structures from the 1800s, including a mill site, canal locks, and the lockkeepers’ house.

Accommodations Near Landsford Canal State Park

13. Kings Mountain State Park

Lake at Kings Mountain State Park

Address: 1277 Park Road, Blacksburg, South Carolina 29702

Kings Mountain State Park is a beautiful year-round place to visit whether you’re into fishing, hiking, bicycling, or just enjoying the great outdoors. The 1,200-acre property was established in 1963.

There are three lakes, playgrounds, several walking paths, and more than 30 miles of horseback riding trails in this Piedmont region site.The area is known for trout, bass, and bream fishing, and the two lakes are popular for kayaking and canoeing as well as casting a line.

In addition to its many recreational activities, Kings Mountain has educational programs and historic sites. Check out the Living History farm, a museum dedicated to the farm and frontier life in the 1800s.

Accommodations Near Kings Mountain State Park

14. Paris Mountain State Park

Paris Mountain State Park Lake and Skyline

Address: 2401 State Park Road, Greenville, South Carolina 29609

Located in Greenville County, Paris Mountain State Park is an excellent destination for a day trip or weekend getaway. It has lakes for fishing and boating and paths for walking and biking.

There are several picnic spots, a playground, and a campground. It’s open from sunrise to sunset and admission is free.

Picnic areas are scattered throughout the area, providing an ideal place to enjoy a meal with family or friends. After a long day of exploring, relax at the campground or release some energy at the playground. Paris Mountain is a wonderful place to enjoy the outdoors in the southeastern United States.

Accommodations Near Paris Mountain State Park

15. Lake Hartwell State Park

Lake Hartwell State Park in South Carolina
HJR1960 / TripAdvisor

Address: 19138 SC-11, Fair Play, South Carolina 29643

Lake Hartwell State Park is located on the South Carolina-Georgia border just off I-85. Centered around the expansive 56,000-acre Lake Hartwell, the area is renowned for its excellent fishing opportunities.

Anglers often target species such as striped and hybrid bass, largemouth, crappie, bream, and catfish. There are two boat ramps and a courtesy dock for easy access, and the 140-foot pier is a welcoming spot to cast a line.

Birdwatchers and wildlife enthusiasts will appreciate the park’s natural habitat, which supports a variety of bird species, offering a tranquil experience for visitors to connect with nature. Hikers can head out on the .75-mile nature trail.

Camping accommodations include 115 paved sites for RVs or tent camping. If you’re an “off-the-grid” type, there are 13 walk-in tent sites. For those who prefer a bit more comfort, there are two single-room camper cabins for a rustic, without being completely rustic, camping experience.

Accommodations Near Lake Hartwell State Park

FAQ

How many state parks are in South Carolina?

There are 47 state parks in South Carolina.

What are the most popular state parks in South Carolina?

The most popular state parks include Myrtle Beach State Park, Table Rock State Park, Jones Gap State Park, and Hunting Island State Park.

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