Congaree National Park was an absolute treat. I am always looking for National Parks to visit on our trips, and I came across this one about halfway between Charlotte, NC and Charleston, SC. Perfect! As I started researching, I found that it is regarded by many as one of the most underrated national parks in the system. It really offers a lot more than you might expect from a national park with virtually no roads through it!
The park is located near Columbia, SC. It is some of the tallest deciduous forest on Earth and the largest intact expanse of old growth bottomland hardwood forest remaining in the southeastern United States, according to the NPS.
We opted for hiking as our choice activity, as we only had a few hours for our stop. But you can canoe, kayak, and camp here as well. There are even canoe trails! They offer frequent ranger-led activities too, and a great junior ranger program, which we did while we were there.
We started with a picnic at the picnic area outside the visitor center which was as fun as it looks here- hah!
Attitudes improved once they had some food and got amped about the cool hike! It’s amazing what a little food, rest, play, and water will do for a person.
We did the Boardwalk Loop Trail which had a really cool “tour” pamphlet associated with it. You can also get this digitally if you prefer. It was super informative! Between that and our Junior Ranger activities, we learned a ton! 🙂 While planning this trip, I read that the boardwalk floods from time to time, so check before you go. We also spurred off on another trail- I think it was the Bluff Trail. Gorgeous!
The park is swamp and forest. On the Boardwalk Trail, you will see the river floodplain, an oxbow lake, swampland, and hardwood forest. It is incredibly diverse landscape over a few short miles. The loblolly pines were our favorite thing to say on the hike, and we loved seeing and hearing lots and lots of birds and animals.
We had visited Jean Lafitte National Park and Preserve in March, and it had swampland too. The kids noticed similarities and differences to that one, and it was really fun to hear their observations. Lucy said it looked like a fairy forest, and I quite agree.
The kids all earned their Junior Ranger badges! They take this pretty seriously, and the activities were really great for discovering plants and wildlife on our hike.
It was a great way to spend the Sunday afternoon. We followed it with pizza at a classic dine in Pizza Hut and then drove straight to the ocean- more about that here.