Congaree National Park was one of the locations listed on our spreadsheet of places to visit in South Carolina before we’d even started our 50 state road trip.
During our Columbia Canal walk, our guide Spencer also highly recommended visiting Congaree National Park, especially when compared to another large park nearby. We therefore knew we needed to make this park a priority and are glad we did.
Congaree National Park was about a 40 minute drive from our hotel near Columbia, South Carolina. The parking when we arrived was clearly marked and free. There were great bathrooms and a nice visitor center which we stopped at once we’d completed our hike. There was even a mosquito index from ‘all clear’ through to ‘war zone’ to let you know what to expect out on the trails.
We looked at the notice board listing the different hiking trails and chose the Weston Lake Loop, a 4.4 mile round trip.
After picking up a trail map, we set off on the boardwalk which leads to most of the hiking trails. The boardwalk is an excellent feature of Congaree National Park. It’s a 2.4 mile loop which is wheelchair and stroller-friendly, so this national park is accessible for everybody.
The first section of the boardwalk is low to the ground (the second half of the boardwalk is elevated), so we got a good view of the unusual-looking tree roots protruding from the ground.
After about half a mile, we saw the clearly marked exit off the boardwalk to begin our hike on the Weston Lake Loop.
The hike itself was peaceful and was an easy trail to navigate, although there were several downed trees.
We took a break along the way by the creek for a granola bar and some water. When we neared the end of the trail at Weston Lake, we stopped for lunch on the elevated boardwalk.
The peaceful setting and nice seating area made it the perfect spot for a relaxing lunch. After lunch, we chatted to some other walkers and had a little nap in the sun beneath the trees and blue sky.
After the hike, we stopped in the visitor center to look for postcards. We instead found a National Parks Passport where you can get stamps from each National Park you visit. This seemed like a fun and easy way to collect small, free souvenirs on our road trip.
Special thanks to Carol G., a volunteer at the Park for her kindness and assistance in choosing the National Parks Passport. All the rangers we encountered were incredibly friendly and helpful. They doted on Truffles too which she always loves.
We didn’t love the trail we chose in the end (the Weston Lake Loop). We particularly love hikes with water along it and waterfalls; while there was some water, the lake at the end left a bit to be desired in terms of scenery. This could also be due to the time of year we visited (January).
Despite not loving the trail we picked, we’d highly recommend the Congaree National Park for anyone looking to explore the natural area around Columbia, South Carolina.
There are hikes with different difficulty levels and it’s free to both park at and enter the National Park.