Congaree National Park

South Carolina

Just a half-hour outside of the state’s capital, Congaree National Park is the only national park in South Carolina. Some of the tallest trees on the east coast are located inside Congaree, which was named after the Native American tribe that used to reside there. Unlike many hardwood forests, Congaree was largely spared by the lumber industry in the late 1800s and was eventually designated as a national monument and then a national park thanks to the work of preservationists. The terrain includes the forest, the Congaree River, and the swampy floodplain.

The weather in this part of South Carolina can be hot and humid throughout the year. With average highs in the 70s, springtime is one of the park’s most popular times for visitors. In the summertime, temperatures can reach up into the 90s with regular thunderstorms and an average monthly rainfall of 4.5 inches. The rain continues into the fall season, but temperatures typically dip back down into the 70s with noticeably less humidity. Winters tend to be mild, with daily highs in the 50s, although snow does occasionally fall in the park. Winter is also the season that Congaree is most likely to flood, which makes it the slowest season for visitors.

The largest city closest to the park is Columbia, where you’ll find plenty of restaurants, museums, and other attractions. Congaree is also close to charming suburbs like St. Matthews and old ghost towns like Kingville and Lone Star, which make for a great day trip or afternoon visit.

If you’re looking for events inside the park, National Park Service rangers coordinate a number of educational hikes and tours throughout the year. Learn more about owls and other nocturnal animals at the Owl Prowl, or take a wilderness canoe tour through the forest to learn more about the park’s flora and fauna. The Audubon Society also leads a birdwatching tour on the second Sunday of every month.

National Park Sample Image
Weather
Spring 70-80 F
Summer 88-90 F
Fall 70-75 F
Winter 55-60 F
National Park Sample Image
Nearby Cities
Eastover, SC
National Park Sample Image
Trip Planner
Use our FREE RV trip planner to begin customizing the perfect RV trip. Continue
National Park Sample Image

Where To Stay

Congaree National Park has two campgrounds, although both are meant for tent camping only. Tent campers can also get a permit for backcountry camping, where you can choose a campsite of your liking nearly anywhere in the park.

If you’ll be camping in an RV, there are a few nearby state parks that have hookups for campers and trailers. Or you may opt to stay at one of the area’s many private RV campgrounds, which tend to have more amenities like laundry facilities and pools.

RV Rentals Near Congaree National Park

Nearby RV Rentals

National Park Sample Image

Hit the Trails

With trails that are generally flat, hiking at Congaree National Park is great for visitors of all skill levels. Each of the park’s 10 trails start at the Harry Hampton Visitor Center and range in length from 0.3 miles all the way to 11.7 miles. Here’s a list to help you choose a few must-do hikes:

Trails

Longleaf

Distance: 0.3 miles one way

Terrain: A short trail that leads to the Longleaf Campground

Fork Swamp

Distance: 0.6 miles

Terrain: This trail runs beside Bates Old River and into the Fork Swamp section of the park

Bluff

Distance: 1.7 miles round trip

Terrain: This hike through a pine forest leads north of the visitor center

Bates Ferry

Distance: 2.2 miles round trip

Terrain: Follow an old ferry road to the river banks

Boardwalk Loop

Distance: 2.4 miles round trip

Terrain: This wheelchair-accessible boardwalk trail includes views of multiple tree species

Sims

Distance: 3.2 miles round trip

Terrain: This old gravel road crosses the boardwalk and comes across an old hunting club

Weston Lake Loop

Distance: 4.4 miles round trip

Terrain: A hike along Cedar Creek is great for spotting otters and birds

Oakridge

Distance: 7 miles round trip

Terrain: This trail through the forest provides glimpses at local wildlife, such as deer and wild turkeys

River

Distance: 10.4 miles round trip

Terrain: A hike leading to the Congaree River

Kingsnake

Distance: 11.7 miles round trip

Terrain: This trail near Cedar Creek is a favorite of birdwatchers

National Park Sample Image

What to Do

Now that you’ve hit the trails and explored everything Congaree National Park has to offer, what’s there to do outside of the park? This charming part of South Carolina is only 30 minutes from the state’s capital city of Columbia, giving you plenty of access to great restaurants, shopping, museums, and other sightseeing opportunities. Looking for some suggestions? Here are a few of our favorite things to do around Congaree National Park.

Restaurants

Columbia and the surrounding area has thousands of restaurants to choose from. Whether you prefer Southern-style cooking, Carolina barbeque, or organic vegan fare, there’s an option for everyone, so bring your appetite!

Country Smokehouse

Type: Barbeque

Location: Hopkins

Blue Marin

Type: Low Country

Location: Columbia

Rosso Trattoria

Type: Italian

Location: Columbia

Captains Quarters Seafood and Steak

Type: Seafood and Steak

Location: Columbia

Il Giorgione Pizzeria and Wine Bar

Type: Pizza and Italian

Location: Columbia

Pearlz Oyster Bar

Type: Seafood

Location: Columbia

Good Life Cafe

Type: Vegan

Location: Columbia

Shopping

Checking out the local shops is a great way to get to know the area. With options for book lovers, fashionistas, and music fans, Columbia has plenty of interesting stores to choose from.

The Backpacker Quality Gear

This family-owned outdoor store stocks all the brands you love, from Patagonia to The North Face to Chaco.

Location: Columbia

Salty’s Board Shop

Channel your inner surfer with men’s or women’s gear from this Columbia board shop.

Location: Columbia

Vestique

This affordably priced boutique has clothing, handbags, and jewelry in all of the latest trends.

Location: Columbia

The Book Dispensary

South Carolinians love to support this locally owned, family-run bookstore, which has been around since 1975.

Location: Columbia

Cottage & Vine

This home boutique is great for finding unique gifts, accessories, jewelry, and home furnishings.

Location: Columbia

Cycle Center

For bike repairs, gear, or accessories, check out this cycle shop at the Market Place Shopping Center.

Location: Columbia

Papa Jazz Record Shoppe

For more than three decades, Papa Jazz has been the go-to spot for local vinyl junkies.

Location: Columbia

Museums

Since rainfall is a normal part of life in South Carolina from spring to fall, it never hurts to keep a few museums in mind for a rainy day. Luckily, Columbia has some of the southeast’s best museums for art and history, plus a great children’s museum to boot.

EdVenture Children’s Museum

Kids rave about this interactive museum with exhibits on aerospace, animals, and the human body.

Location: Columbia

Columbia Museum of Art

This dynamic art museum includes traveling pieces by many famous artists, including Claude Monet, Dale Chihuly, and Jackson Pollack.

Location: Columbia

South Carolina State Museum

This huge museum along the Congaree River has four floors of exhibits on art, science, and history. There’s also a 4D theater that screens movies such as Ice Age throughout the week.

Location: Columbia

South Carolina Military Museum

Brush up on your military history and trivia at this museum honoring the state’s soldiers and the National Guard.

Location: Columbia

Mann-Simons Site

This historic home, owned by one of Columbia’s most prominent African-American families, traces African-American history from the mid-1800s into the civil rights era.

Location: Columbia

Sightseeing

Congaree National Park isn’t all that South Carolina has to offer in terms of nature and wildlife. The greater Columbia area is also home to state parks, national forests, and even its own zoo.

Riverbanks Zoo and Garden

Come see more than 2,000 animals and a lush botanical garden at this 170-acre site.

Location: Columbia

Sesquicentennial State Park

It may be hard to spell, but Sesquicentennial State Park is a favorite place for locals to camp, fish, and kayak.

Location: Columbia

Dreher Island State Park

If you love to be out on the water, check out this state park offering swimming, boating, fishing, and scuba diving.

Location: Prosperity

Sumter National Forest

This national forest has opportunities for mountain biking, horseback riding, and ATV riding.

Location: Huger

Congaree Creek Heritage Preserve

A hiker’s dream, this 627-acre preserve has a 2.7-mile loop trail through the wetlands.

Location: Cayce

National Park Sample Image

How to Get There

With its convenient location just outside of Columbia, Congaree National Park is fairly easy to access. Most travelers coming to the park choose to arrive by car, RV, or plane.

By Car

If you plan on arriving by car, the National Park Service advises against using GPS apps or devices, which have a tendency to send drivers in the wrong direction. From the Columbia Metropolitan Airport, you’ll want to get on I-26 East and then take exit 116 to get on I-77 heading toward Charlotte. Finally, you’ll get off at exit 5 to merge onto SC-48 East for 8 miles before taking a slight right onto Old Bluff Road. After 4.5 more miles, you’ll reach the park entrance sign.

For more detailed instructions on how to drive to the park from Charleston, Charlotte, Spartanburg, or Augusta, Georgia, check out the National Park Service’s website.


By plane

If you’ll be flying in, the Columbia Metropolitan Airport is the fastest, easiest way to get to Congaree. The midsized airport is serviced by American Airlines, Delta Airlines, and United Airlines and has several car rental companies where you can pick up a vehicle for your trip. From the airport, Congaree National Park is just 30 minutes away. Another major airport is, of course, the Charlotte Douglass International Airport, which is serviced by Air Canada, American Airlines, Delta Airlines, Frontier Airlines, JetBlue Airways, Lufthansa, Southwest Airlines, United Airlines, and ViaAir. As the sixth busiest airport in the world, Charlotte offers more than 700 flights per day. From CLT, the drive to Congaree National Park takes roughly two hours.

By RV

You may also decide to travel to Congaree by RV. Renting an RV allows you to skip the hotel reservations and bring along all the comforts of home while still experiencing the natural beauty of the outdoors. Whether you plan on renting an RV near Columbia or finding an RV close to home and then driving it to South Carolina, there are plenty of RV rentals available across the country for less than $100 per day. Depending on your needs and the size of your travel group, you can look at large motorhomes, smaller campers, or even a tiny pop-up trailer to tow behind your vehicle.

As a reminder, there are no RV hookups at the campgrounds at Congaree National Park, but you can always camp out at one of the nearby state campgrounds or a private RV park in the area.

View RV Rentals

Entering the Park

Unlike many other national parks, getting into Congaree National Park is completely free. That’s right -- there’s no charge to enter the park or participate in ranger-led programs. Simply show up and you’ll be welcomed in.

We hope you’ve enjoyed our guide to Congaree National Park and we wish you a great trip! Here at RVshare, we love working with people like you who are passionate about travel, nature, and the outdoors. Whether you visit South Carolina in an RVshare rental or simply want to share your national park experience with other travelers, email us your vacation photos at [email protected] or tag us on social media for a chance to be featured on our blog or social media channels.