Thursday, January 7, 2021

Day Trip: Congaree National Park

Magical treehouse meets enchanted forest. That's what you'll find at Congaree National Park

Located an hour and a half south of uptown, just past Columbia, SC, this is a beautiful and worthwhile destination for a day-trip from Charlotte.

Congaree National Park, nestled in the floodplain of the Congaree and Wateree Rivers, is home to the largest expanse of old-growth bottomland hardwood forest in the southeastern U.S. And it is gorgeous.

For an pleasant and rewarding excursion, you can chose from a number of trails, but I highly recommend the Boardwalk Loop trail, an easy, 2.6-mile hike that starts and ends at the visitor center. This remarkable trail, good for all ages and abilities, is built almost entirely on boardwalks, some low, some elevated, and all offering an impressive, immersive trek through lush marshlands and towering old-growth trees.

We especially appreciated the 20-stop self-guided walking tour, which provides valuable insight into the Congaree's cultural history and ecological importance. Along the tour, you'll learn fascinating facts about the native plants and observe signs of ecological transformation over the years. You'll also spot an old still, left over from the days when moonshiners found refuge in the hard-to-reach floodplain during the days of prohibition.

We visited for a hike, but the 26,276-acre park, open 24 hours a day, year-round, also offers camping  and canoe/kayaking adventures.

I found our time in these lowland woods, rich with bald cypress, water tupelo and loblolly pines, to be almost mystical -- and we were there on a rainy winter day. I'm already looking forward to a return visit to experience the magic of this natural wonderland as the seasons change. 

Note: Mosquitoes can be unpleasantly prevalent here in warmer months; plan your visit accordingly. 

How to get there: Congaree National Park is located at 100 National Park Rd., Hopkins, SC, 29061

Don't forget to pack:
  • Comfortable walking shoes
  • Water and snacks
  • Bug spray (especially in warmer months!)
  • Hats, sunglasses and sunscreen 

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