Boasting more than 80,000 acres of protected land, South Carolina is home to some of the most beautiful parks in the country. The state is best known for the beaches and marshes of its coastline, but it has a wide variety of other terrain to offer as well, including towering mountains, beautiful forests criss-crossed by streams and rivers, and even sand dunes.
1.Lake Conestee Nature Park
Lake Conestee was formed by the damming of the Reedy River in the late 1890s, and in the early 2000s, it was turned into a wetlands through the work of a local conservation organization. Today, the Lake Conestee Nature Park is a popular recreation destination that encompasses approximately 400 acres of forest and wetlands. The park is home to a wide variety of plants and animals, including more than 200 species of birds, which has made it a popular destination with birdwatchers. It also offers 12 miles of walking trails, including 1 mile of boardwalk and 6 miles of paved trails.
601 Fork Shoals Rd, Greenville, SC 29605, Phone: 864-277-2004
2.Barnwell State Park
Barnwell State Park was created by the Civilian Conservation Corps during the Great Depression, and many of the buildings that were built during this time are still standing, including five cabins and four picnic shelters. The most popular activity in the park is fishing; three small lakes can be found here, and non-motorized boats are permitted on all of them. Boats and fishing rods are available for rent on site. More than 20 campsites are available to anyone who would like to spend the night in the park, and there is also a beautiful nature trail that winds its way around one of the lakes.
223 State Park Rd, Blackville, SC 29817, Phone: 803-284-2212
3.Charles Towne Landing State Historic Site
Created to preserve the site of the state's earliest British settlement, the Charles Towne Landing State Historic Site is a great place to learn about the fascinating history of South Carolina. The 665-acre park offers plenty of things to see and do, including a replica 17th-century ship, a natural habitat zoo filled with animals like bears and bison, and a Visitor's Center with a dozen rooms full of interactive exhibits. There are also six miles of trails running through the park, including a history trail that can explored with the help of a self-guided audio tour.
1500 Old Towne Rd, Charleston, SC 29407, Phone: 843-852-4200
4.Cheraw State Park
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Home to an 18-hole championship golf course nestled in a pine forest, Cheraw State Park was one of the first state parks created in South Carolina. The park is best known for its golf course, but it's also home to a 300-acre lake, which visitors are welcome to fish in or explore by non-motorized boat. The park offers two campsites that can only be accessed by boat, but there are also seventeen vehicle-accessible sites along the shore of the lake. Visitors who would prefer to spend the night without the hassle of setting up camp can rent one of the park's nine cabins.
100 State Park Rd, Cheraw, SC 29520, Phone: 843-537-9656
5.Chester State Park
Situated in the state's peaceful Piedmont Region, Chester State Park is centered around a 160-acre lake that provides plenty of opportunities for boating, fishing, and swimming. A 1.3-mile-long trail runs around the perimeter of the lake, and there is also a foot bridge spanning the lake that serves as an excellent spot for fishing or nature watching. Boats can be rented from the on-site boathouse, and all visitors are welcome to use the park's boat launch. When not enjoying the lake, visitors can picnic, mountain bike, or play a round of disc golf on one of the park's two courses.
759 State Park Rd, Chester, SC 29706, Phone: 803-385-2680
6.Colonial Dorchester State Historic Site
Set on the Ashley River, the Colonial Dorchester State Historic Site is home to a wonderful collection of archaeological artifacts that tell the story of the state's colonial days. Archaeologists are still working to unearth some of the structures in the park, but there are still plenty of things for visitors to see, including a church with a brick bell tower, wharves used for shipping logs, and a well-preserved fort made of tabby, an oyster-shell concrete. The park also offers an interpretive trail dotted with signs and exhibits detailing the history of the site and its artifacts.
300 State Park Rd, Summerville, SC 29485, Phone: 843-873-1740
7.Croft State Park
Found just outside the town of Spartanburg, Croft State Park is located on the site of a former army training camp. The park is most popular as a destination for equestrians; in addition to over 20 miles of equestrian trails, it offers an equestrian center with a large arena that regularly hosts shows and a stable with stalls available for rent. However, there are many other things in the park to keep visitors entertained as well, including more than 20 miles of bike trails, 2.5 miles of trails designated for hikers only, a campground, and a large lake perfect for fishing and swimming.
450 Croft State Park Rd, Spartanburg, SC 29302, Phone: 864-585-1283
8.Devil's Fork State Park
Located on the edge of the Sumter National Forest, Devil's Fork State Park is the only public access point to the beautiful 7500-acre Lake Jocassee. The lake offers the opportunity to enjoy a wide range of recreational activities, including canoeing, fishing, swimming, and SCUBA diving; the lake water is exceptionally clear, and fascinating features like old roads and signs can be seen on the bottom. There are also plenty of accommodation options for visitors to choose from, including more than 70 campsites for tents and RVs, 20 beautiful waterfront villas, and a peaceful campground that can only be accessed by boat.
161 Holcombe Cir, Salem, SC 29676, Phone: 864-944-2639
9.Dreher Island State Park
Only 30 miles away from Columbia, Dreher Island State Park stretches across three islands on the 50,000-acre Lake Murray, including the entirety of the lake's largest island. There are three boat launches for visitors who want to fish or boat, and the park also offers several fishing shelters equipped with Wi-Fi and catch-and-release tanks. Other popular activities here include hiking on the park's three trails, tent and RV camping, and picnicking under one of the park's shelters. The park is open every day from dawn to dusk, and a small admission fee is charged for visitors over the age of 15.
3677 State Park Rd, Prosperity, SC 29127, Phone: 803-364-4152
10.Edisto Beach State Park
Stretching along the South Carolina coast, Edisto Beach State Park holds the honor of being home to the state's largest handicap-accessible trail system. These trails are also suitable for hiking and biking, and they're an excellent way to explore the park and enjoy its natural beauty. Visitors can also learn about the area's nature in the Environmental Learning Center or stroll along the park's beautiful 1.5 miles of beach, which offer two ocean view picnic shelters and plenty of shells for beachcombers. A small admission fee is charged to visit the park, but children under the age of 5 can visit for free.
8377 State Cabin Rd, Edisto Island, SC 29438, Phone: 843-869-2156
11.Hamilton Branch State Park
Occupying a 703-acre peninsula on Lake Thurmond, Hamilton Branch State Park is an ideal destination for watersports enthusiasts and anyone who wants to spend some time admiring the views from the shore of a 70,000-acre lake. The park offers four large group campsites as well as approximately 150 regular campsites, most of which sit right on the lake. Shoreline fishing can be done from most of the campsites, but there are also two public boat ramps for anyone who wants to take their boat out onto the lake. Visitors are also welcome to use the park's three waterfront picnic shelters.
111 Campground RD, Plum Branch, SC 29845, Phone: 864-333-2223
12.Huntington Beach State Park
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Huntington Beach State Park was formerly the home of Archer and Anna Hyatt Huntington, but it's now a 2500-acre state park and coastal reserve that welcomes anyone who wants to enjoy the beautiful nature of Murrells Inlet. The park is an excellent nature-watching destination; more than 300 species of birds have been spotted here, and there is a Nature Center that offers the opportunity to see live animals and learn about the area's wildlife. The park is also still home to the Huntington home, which can be explored by guided tour and features exhibits about the history of the Huntingtons and the house.
16148 Ocean Hwy, Murrells Inlet, SC 29576, Phone: 843-237-4440
13.Jones Gap State Park
Part of the Mountain Bridge Wilderness Area, Jones Gap State Park is a scenic mountain retreat that encompasses almost 4,000 acres of forest. The Eastern Continental Divide runs through the park, as does the Middle Saluda River, which offers excellent fishing and is home to a fish hatchery with interactive exhibits. Visitors will find more than 60 miles of hiking trails in the park, many of which wind their way past waterfalls. Backcountry camping is available at certain spots along the trails, and parts of the trail system connect to the neighboring Caesars Head State Park.
303 Jones Gap Rd, Marietta, SC 29661, Phone: 864-836-3647
14.Keowee Toxaway State Park
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Nestled in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Keowee Toxaway State Park boasts stunning views of the mountains and access to the beautiful Lake Keowee. A short half-mile trail leads down to a canoe access point on the lake; only non-motorized boats are permitted, but visitors are welcome to fish. There are also two longer hiking trails in the park, one of which winds its way over a stunning natural bridge. Visitors who want to spend the night in the park can bring their tent or RV and stay in one of the campsites, but there is also a lakefront cabin available for rent.
108 Residence Dr, Sunset, SC 29685, Phone: 864-868-2605
15.Poinsett State Park
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Named in honor of the man credited with introducing the poinsettia to the United States, Poinsett State Park encompasses a wide variety of terrain, including the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, the Carolina Sandhills, and the coastal plains. More than 25 miles of hiking and biking trails run through the park, and there is also a 10-acre lake which visitors are welcome to use for fishing, swimming, boating, and stand-up paddle-boarding. Admission to the park is free, but visitors who want to spend the night at one of the park's 50 campsites will have to pay a small fee.
6660 Poinsett Park Rd, Wedgefield, SC 29168, Phone: 803-494-8177
16.Sadlers Creek State Park
Sitting on a peninsula that juts out into the 56,000-acre Lake Hartwell, Sadlers Creek State Park encompasses almost 400 acres of land and offers six miles of trails for biking and walking. Two boat launches are available for visitors who want to boat or fish on the lake, but there is also a 100-foot fishing pier for those who would prefer to fish from the shore. The park is also a great destination for family gatherings and other special events; in addition to more than 65 campsites, it offers a lakeside pavilion and two picnic shelters for rent.
940 Sadlers Creek Rd, Anderson, SC 29626, Phone: 864-226-8950
17.Table Rock State Park
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Found on the edge of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Table Rock State Park is a 3,000-acre piece of protected wilderness that offers plenty of opportunities for hiking, camping, and enjoying the area's jaw-dropping beauty. The park is best known for being home to Table Mountain, but it also encompasses Pinnacle Mountain, the tallest peak in the state. Hiking trails lead to the tops of both mountains, and some of these trails also provide access to the well-known 80-mile Foothills Trail. There are also two lakes in the park, one of which features an old-fashioned swimming hole with a diving board.
158 E Ellison Ln, Pickens, SC 29671, Phone: 864-878-9813
18.Charles Pinckney National Historic Site
Established to preserve the remains of the former home and plantation of politician Charles Pinckney, the Charles Pinckney National Historic Site is a 28-acre property that introduces visitors to an important part of South Carolina's history. The most notable part of the site is a cottage built in 1828 that has been converted into a Visitor's Center and museum filled with exhibits about Charles Pinckney's life and what it was like to live on a plantation in the 18th century. There is no admission fee to visit the park, and the site is open Wednesday through Sunday between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m.
1254 Long Point Rd, Mt Pleasant, SC 29464, Phone: 843-881-5516
19.Congaree National Park
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As the only National Park in South Carolina, Congaree National Park is a must-do for nature lovers who find themselves in the state. The park protects the country's biggest piece of old growth bottomland hardwood forest, and it's home to some of the tallest trees in the eastern part of the United States. One of the most popular activities to do here is hiking; the trails that run through the park vary in length, but most are quite flat because of the park's location within the floodplain. Visitors can also fish in the park’s streams, bird watch, and canoe or kayak down Cedar Creek.
100 National Park Rd, Hopkins, SC 29061, Phone: 803-776-4396
20.Cowpens National Battlefield
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Cowpens National Battlefield is the site of an important battle that took place between the British and the Americans during the Revolutionary War in 1781; although the British Army was better trained, the Americans defeated them in under an hour, giving their side the momentum and morale they needed to eventually win the Revolution. The Visitor Center offers a large number of informative exhibits about the war and about the Revolution in general, and visitors are also welcome to take self-guided audio tours of the battlefield. Other park amenities include picnic tables with barbecue grills, a gift shop, and public restrooms.
4001 Chesnee Hwy, Gaffney, SC 29341, Phone: 864-461-2828
21.Kings Mountain National Military Park
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Right next to the border between North and South Carolina, Kings Mountain National Military Park was created to commemorate the famous Battle of Kings Mountain, which was the American's first major victory after the British Army invaded Charleston. The Visitor Center offers a small museum with informative audio exhibits, artifacts recovered from the battle, and a short live-action movie played in a theater. Visitors can also go for a stroll along the park's 1.5-mile trail, which passes several monuments of various sizes and leads from the Visitor Center to where the Loyalists were positioned during the battle.
2625 Park Rd, Blacksburg, SC 29702, Phone: 864-936-7921
22.Reconstruction Era National Monument
© NPS Photo
The Reconstruction Era was one of the most significant times in American history, and the Reconstruction Era National Monument was the first national monument dedicated to this important period during which the United States began to work on addressing the many problems created by the inequality of slavery. The monument is made up of four different sites, including a school created specifically for newly freed slaves, a fort constructed to protect freed slaves from being recaptured, and the site of a town that was created for freed slaves during the Civil War. Hours of operation vary from site to site.
Penn Center Cir W, St Helena Island, SC 29920, Phone: 404-507-5868
23.Kings Mountain State Park Living History Farm
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Offering the unique opportunity to get a glimpse of how yeoman farmers lived during the 1800s, Kings Mountain State Park Living History Farm is a historic 6,800-acre property with dotted with replica historical outbuildings including a farmhouse and a blacksmith shop. Exciting living history days are held throughout the year, and there are also sometimes ranger-led programs that welcome visitors of all ages. Self-guided tours of the farm are available year-round; the trail is 1.5 miles round-trip, and the hours depend on the season. A small admission fee is charged for visitors over the age of 15.
Clover, SC 29710, Phone: 803-222-3209
24.Oconee State Park
Encompassing 1165 acres near the Blue Ridge Mountains in the South Carolina Upcountry, Oconee State Park offers plenty of wonderful opportunities for hiking, fishing, and picnicking. The park was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps during the 1930s, and many of the buildings constructed during this time are still standing, including approximately 20 rustic cabins that are available for rent. Campsites are available as well. There are also plenty of amenities for visitors who would rather just come for the day, including four large picnic shelters, an 18-hole mini golf course, and an old-fashioned swimming hole with a diving board.
624 State Park Rd Mountain Rest 29664, Phone: 864-638-5353
25.Paris Mountain State Park
Created by the Civilian Conservation Corps during the Great Depression, Paris Mountain State Park is the perfect destination for visitors who don't want to have to choose between enjoying South Carolina's natural beauty and learning about its fascinating history. Educational historical exhibits can be found inside the Park Center, and there is also a classroom that invites visitors of all ages to come learn about the park's ecology. If you'd rather spend some time outside, the park offers 15 miles of trails perfect for hiking and biking. Other amenities include campsites, picnic shelters, several small lakes for fishing and boating, and a swimming area.
2401 State Park Rd, Greenville, SC 29609, Phone: 864-244-5565
25 Best South Carolina State & National Parks
- Lake Conestee Nature Park, Photo: javarman/stock.adobe.com
- Barnwell State Park, Photo: Hermesphotos/stock.adobe.com
- Charles Towne Landing State Historic Site, Photo: Kristina/stock.adobe.com
- Cheraw State Park, Photo: Jackie DeBusk/stock.adobe.com
- Chester State Park, Photo: eyepark/stock.adobe.com
- Colonial Dorchester State Historic Site, Photo: Al/stock.adobe.com
- Croft State Park, Photo: RachelKolokoffHopper/stock.adobe.com
- Devil's Fork State Park, Photo: kake/stock.adobe.com
- Dreher Island State Park, Photo: alfa27/stock.adobe.com
- Edisto Beach State Park, Photo: Sasint/stock.adobe.com
- Hamilton Branch State Park, Photo: LizzyGreen/stock.adobe.com
- Huntington Beach State Park, Photo: Laura Ballard/stock.adobe.com
- Jones Gap State Park, Photo: Jefferson/stock.adobe.com
- Keowee Toxaway State Park, Photo: Farknot Architect/stock.adobe.com
- Poinsett State Park, Photo: Anthony Brown/stock.adobe.com
- Sadlers Creek State Park, Photo: Yulia/stock.adobe.com
- Table Rock State Park, Photo: Jill Lang/stock.adobe.com
- Charles Pinckney National Historic Site, Photo: ehrlif/stock.adobe.com
- Congaree National Park, Photo: Zack Frank/stock.adobe.com
- Cowpens National Battlefield, Photo: Jill Lang/stock.adobe.com
- Kings Mountain National Military Park, Photo: Zack Frank/stock.adobe.com
- Reconstruction Era National Monument, Photo: NPS Photo
- Kings Mountain State Park Living History Farm, Photo: Jill Lang/stock.adobe.com
- Oconee State Park, Photo: kellyvandellen/stock.adobe.com
- Paris Mountain State Park, Photo: Jefferson/stock.adobe.com
- Cover Photo: Jason Yoder/stock.adobe.com