South Carolina is a great state to visit if you’re looking for a mix of historical parks and rugged outdoor experiences. Congaree National Park is home to some of the tallest trees on the east coast and an excellent destination for paddling among the old-growth forests.
South Carolina’s historical parks give a great glimpse into the history of the state including the original author of the country’s constitution and the site of Revolutionary War battlefields.
There is one National Park in South Carolina. There are also 9 National Park affiliated sites in the state.
National Parks In South Carolina
- Congaree National Park
South Carolina National Park Affiliated Sites
- Charles Pinckney National Historic Site
- Cowpens National Battlefield
- Fort Sumter and Fort Moultrie National Historical Park
- Gullah/Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor
- Kings Mountain National Military Park
- Ninety Six National Historic Site
- Overmountain Victory National Historic Trail
- Reconstruction Era National Historical Park
- South Carolina National Heritage Corridor
Congaree National Park
Covering more than 26,000 acres, the Congaree National Park encompasses a large floodplain formed by the Gongaree and Wateree Rivers. This site is home to a large old-growth bottomland hardwood forest which makes the perfect backdrop for an outdoor adventure.
There are many things to do in this Congaree National Park, but taking a canoe trip through the waters is one of the most popular. The area has some of the tallest trees on the east coast which look even bigger from the perspective of a kayak.
The Cedar Creek Canoe Trail is a popular route to take which covers 15 miles of wilderness. A number of outfitters in the nearby city of Columbia offer watercraft rentals if you don’t have your own.
Hiking is another great way to experience the park. Congaree has at least 10 trails ranging from easy 0.5-mile loops to strenuous 10 mile treks. Families will enjoy hiking along the boardwalks where you can get up close to the water and see the fish swimming underneath.
The most advanced hikes involve multiple water crossings and can be difficult to navigate. However, you’ll be rewarded with gorgeous untouched views and diverse vegetation and wildlife.
Congaree National Park has two front-country campgrounds which are limited to tent and hammock camping only. The Long Leaf Campground has sites that are walk-up only. Neither of these sites offer electric hookups so they are fairly primitive. However, you’ll get beautiful views on the daily because they’re located right on the waters edge.
Backcountry camping is permitted for backpackers and canoe campers with a free permit.
Congaree is a very pet-friendly National Park. Leashed animals are permitted on all trails and boardwalks.
Charles Pinckney National Historic Site
Did you know Charles Pinckney was the primary author of our country’s constitution? Pinckney’s coastal plantation has been preserved to keep his story intact and ensure the masses honor one of our nation’s founding fathers.
This National Historic Site also serves to honor the lives of African Americans enslaved throughout South Carolina. Positioned in beautiful Mount Pleasant at 1254 Long Point Road, Pinckney’s Snee Farm along with his country retreat are still in good shape.
This site officially became a National Historic Landmark in ’73 and a National Historic Site in ’88.
Check out this lovely natural setting for yourself and you will be taken aback by its stunning aesthetics. The site spans 25 acres, stretching between the Cooper and Wando rivers. The main house is the site’s primary draw yet there are also ornamental plantings, a corncrib, a barn and a stone cenotaph.
Cowpens National Battlefield
Also known as Cowpens National Battlefield Park, this is an official National Park Service unit. The site is located to the east of Chesnee by the North Carolina state line. The purpose of the site is to preserve one of the most famous American Revolutionary War battlefields.
Here, Daniel Morgan led his army as they completed the military tactic dubbed the double envelopment, one of only a couple that have been successfully performed in military history. This decisive victory shaped our country’s progression in the years to come.
Historical buffs are sure to love visiting this site, designated for entry onto the National Register of Historical Places in the fall of ’66. Be sure to check out the informative exhibits at the visitor center, the fiber-optic map that details the South’s Campaign, the battlefield walking tour and more.
There is even a reconstruction of one of the log cabins originally on the property.
Fort Sumter and Fort Moultrie National Historical Park
This National Historical Park is located in Charleston County along the coastal section of the state served as a form of protection for Fort Moultrie and Fort Sumter. The site was referred to as Fort Sumter National Monument until being renamed in ’19.
The site’s Visitor Education Center is loaded with museum exhibits, displays and information about the formation of the Confederate Army. You can also catch a tour boat from Charleston Harbor as it heads to Fort Sumter.
Topical programs for each boat are provided by volunteers and rangers. The site’s museum is primarily focused on the fort activities and its role during the country’s Civil War.
Gullah/Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor
The Gullah/Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor was officially designated by Congress back in ’06. The Corridor stretches from Wilmington all the way to Jacksonville. The area is meant to represent the Gullah-Geechee people and their unique story.
The Gullah-Geechee are the primary descendants of slaves from West Africa. It is hoped the designation will help preserve the culture’s practices. The Corridor is the culmination of more than 15 years of research.
In total, the area extends across South Carolina, North Carolina, Florida and Georgia. In particular, the Corridor primarily zeroes in on 79 barrier islands in the Atlantic and their inhabitants.
Kings Mountain National Military Park
The purpose of this National Military Park is to preserve the area where the Battle of Kings Mountain took place back in October of 1780. This battle was one of the most important victories during the Revolutionary War.
The site was established back in the spring of 1931 through an official act of Congress. The park connects to Kings Mountain State Park that provides extensive camping opportunities.
Be sure to check out the 1.5 mile trail that starts at the visitor center and stretches around the mountain base, guiding walkers to numerous monuments, some of which date all the way back to the early 19th century.
Ninety Six National Historic Site
Also known as Star Fort, this site is located to the south of Greenville, SC. The Ninety Six National Historic Site is meant to preserve Ninety Six, SC, a diminutive town formed in the 1700s. The site stretches across 1,000+ acres.
Here, you will find a visitor center along with a museum that features artifacts from the site along with oil paintings depicting battles that took place during the American Revolutionary war.
There is also a gift shop along with the option of renting a self-guided park tour with automated audio. Be sure to check out the mile-long interpretive trail and off-road trails that will bring you to Star Fort Pond.
Overmountain Victory National Historic Trail
The Overmountain Victory National Historic Trail replicates the route patriot militia used during the 1780 Kings Mountain campaign. All in all, the trail stretches across South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia and Tennessee.
The purpose of the trail is to recognize the Overmountain Men and others who passed through the Unaka Mountains and waged war in the Battle of Kings Mountain. The US Congress designated the site as a national historic trail in the fall of ’80 through federal legislation.
Be sure to bring your smartphone or digital camera along to capture the trail’s glorious natural beauty.
Reconstruction Era National Historical Park
The challenging reconstruction era between 1861 and 1900 was a time when the US struggled with the challenge of integrating recently freed African Americans into society and the economy.
This period of transformation is encapsulated by the Reconstruction Era National Historic Park.
Officially designated as a US National Historic Park, this site was established by President Obama in the winter of ’17 to commemorate Reconstruction Era activities that occurred after the American Civil War. The monument has four locations in the vicinity of Beaufort, SC.
Be sure to check out Darrah Hall at the Penn Center, an early school for slaves who had been freed. The Brick Baptist Church positioned next door, was built by slaves. The Old Beaufort Firehouse is the national historic park’s visitor center.
South Carolina National Heritage Corridor
This South Carolina National Heritage Corridor is primarily focused on preserving the historic, natural and cultural resources of the state. All in all, the site stretches across 17 counties from the Atlantic Ocean to the Appalachian Mountains.
This is a federally designated National Heritage Area. Here, you will find the state’s history promoted and interpreted with a particular focus on European settlement along with African American history.
National Parks In The Surrounding Area
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