Congaree National Park is one of the most unique parks we’ve visited. It’s a giant floodplain that boasts the largest intact expanse of old growth bottomland hardwood forest remaining in the southeastern United States. Spanning 20,000 acres, you can explore the park under the giant cypress trees that make you feel teeny tiny and insignificant in this forest.
Located about 2 hours from Charleston, SC, the GPS will take you straight up the 26 until you start navigating backcountry roads. Take a look at the map before you leave, as you will lose cell signal getting there. It’s also about 30 minutes south of Columbia, SC, just a straight shot down 48E.
With over 25 miles of trails, there are hikes available for all skill levels. From the easy 1.7-mile Bluff Trail, or a stroll along the raised boardwalk near the Visitors Center, to the more challenging 11.7-mile Kingsnake trail. Venture out into the backcountry for a better chance to spot wildlife like river otters and wild boars. By visiting in the Spring, you avoid the mosquitos and heat, but the heavy rainfall effects the backcountry trails which may be flooded and/or too muddy to navigate without proper gear. With miles of accessible waterways, there is also the opportunity to kayak or canoe on the Congaree River.
There are only 2 campgrounds located inside the park; Longleaf & Bluff campgrounds and they are tent only sites with no hookups for RV’s. Longleaf has 2 vault toilets at the entrance to the campground, and Bluff has no amenities whatsoever. Make a reservation online prior to arriving at Recreation.gov, the fees are $10 a night for Longleaf and $5 a night at Bluff. An additional note about Bluff campground is that it is located a mile from the parking lot on an uneven trail with lots of tree roots. There is also backcountry camping available and you can find additional information about rules and regulations for permits here.
Camping Packing List
Sleeping bag or blankets
Food & water
Firewood (it’s legal to burn anything on the ground, but if it’s been raining the wood is difficult to burn)
Lighter/ matches/ firewood starter
She-wee (for Bluff campground)
First Aid Kit
Deck of cards