Congaree National Park is located in central South Carolina, and preserves the largest tract of old growth cypress left in the world. The forest populates a floodplain of the Congaree and Wateree Rivers. The park contains the tallest of 15 species of trees, plus six national champion trees for their overall size. Only the redwoods stretch taller than Congaree’s biggest trees!
We woke up early on our last morning in morning in Charlotte, NC. We stayed with one of my mom’s best friends, who lives about 1.5 hours away from Congaree National Park. Our flight was scheduled to leave from Charlotte that evening, giving us the day to explore the park. With its compact size, we really just needed that day for the park. The main attraction at Congaree is the boardwalk trail through the forest. This trail is accessible, less than 3 miles long, and provides a leisurely way to experience the wilderness of Congaree National Park.
Throughout our walk, we used a brochure from the visitor’s center for a self-guided tour. We referenced this as we completed our walk throughout the park—it was a great way to learn about the unique environment and history of the park. To my surprise, we actually saw a variety of wildlife during our time at the park as well. We saw massive spiders (and their webs), turtles, birds, and even some wild hogs! We had a lot of fun together exploring our 62nd national park.
If you’re visiting Congaree National Park and want to explore off the boardwalk, the park offers a few more challenging hikes as well:
- Weston Lake Loop (4.4 miles RT): Passes through cypress knees and waterbirds along Cedar Creek
- Oakridge Trail (6.6 miles RT): Travels through large oaks where you might see wild turkeys
- River Trail (10 miles RT): Goes to the Congaree River
- Kingsnake Trail (11.7 miles RT): Common for bird watchers along Cedar Creek
In the spring and fall, park rangers guide canoe tours with canoes, floatation devices, and paddles provided. If visiting outside of the spring and fall, visitors can also canoe or kayak on the Cedar Creek Canoe Trail (15 miles), however you must bring your own boat or rent the appropriate gear in Columbia. Beware of fluctuating water levels.