Are you looking for the best state parks in South Carolina? Well, you're in luck for a treat!
Nestled within the heart of the southeastern United States, South Carolina is an excellent location to explore the country's extensive state park system. From the captivating coastline along the Atlantic Ocean to the breathtaking peaks of the Blue Ridge Mountains and stunning waterfall in Upstate South Carolina, the Palmetto State draws explorers of all kinds.
Whether you're a beachcomber, a seasoned hiker, a wildlife lover, or someone looking for a nature-infused escape, there's a state park here for everyone.
In this guide, we'll look at the 13 best South Carolina state parks, each offering a distinct outdoor adventure that will capture your heart and leave you craving more.
So pack your gear, fill your water bottles, and prepare to explore the natural wonders that South Carolina's state parks have in store for you.
1. Table Rock State Park
Location: 158 E Ellison Ln, Pickens, SC 29671
Table Rock State Park, nestled in the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains, is a must-visit state park for hikers and nature lovers. The park has a number of hiking trails with beautiful views, including the iconic Table Rock Mountain. For more adventurous hikers, the challenging Foothills Trail extends into the park and offers backcountry camping.
In addition, the park contains two magnificent mountain lakes, Pinnacle Lake and Lake Oolenoy, where you can enjoy fishing, paddling, kayaking, or just relax and enjoy the natural surroundings. Table Rock Lodge hosts “Music on the Mountain” jamming sessions every month. Moreover, the park has a playground and a gift shop. If you're looking to extend your stay, the park offers fully furnished cabins and campsites.
2. Myrtle Beach State Park
Location: 4401 S Kings Hwy, Myrtle Beach, SC 29575
Myrtle Beach State Park, South Carolina's first designated state park, is a must-visit destination for those who love sun and surf. This 312-acre green oasis in Horry County was established in 1936. The unspoiled maritime forest, tucked along a pristine mile of Myrtle Beach's coastline, is teeming with magnolias, wax myrtles, live oaks, and lush vegetation. The park offers endless activities, such as pleasant strolls through small wooded paths and pristine beachfront walks. Anglers can throw their lines from the famous Myrtle Beach fishing pier.
The park's northern end is open for swimming and has showers, restrooms, and picnic areas for guests' convenience. The park provides seasonal rentals of umbrellas and beach chairs for people who want to soak up the sun and waves.
3. Caesar Head State Park
Location: 8155 Geer Hwy, Cleveland, SC 29635
Caesars Head State Park, perched atop the majestic Blue Ridge Escarpment, is undoubtedly one of the best South Carolina state parks. Begin your visit at the Caesars Head Overlook to soak in the breathtaking mountain landscape. If you are a wildlife enthusiast, particularly birds, go to Hawk Watch to see raptors or birds of prey migrating to South America.
During the summer, you can take a refreshing dip in the Middle Saluda River by hiking the Jones Gap Trail. The Raven Cliff Falls Trail, one of the park's most popular hikes, leads to a suspension bridge with stunning views of the 420-foot Raven Cliff Falls. The park also provides rock climbing and rappelling opportunities, making it a hotspot for outdoor adventure seekers.
4. Huntington Beach State Park
Location: 16148 Ocean Hwy, Murrells Inlet, SC 29576
Huntington Beach State Park, located south of Myrtle Beach, spans 2,500 acres and features 3 miles of coastline and a two-mile hiking trail. It's famous for its incredible bird-watching opportunities, with over 300 bird species, including the painted bunting and the bald eagle.
Atalaya Castle, a National Historic Landmark, is also located in the park and provides visitors with an insight into the lives of philanthropists Archer and Anna Hyatt Huntington. After seeing the wonders of the castle, go to the nearby Brookgreen Gardens. This 1,600-acre park has a zoo, a butterfly garden, and the United States' largest collection of figurative sculptures. Explore the saltwater marshes, sandy dunes, and maritime forests that make this park a must-visit spot.
5. Hunting Island State Park
Location: 2555 Sea Island Pkwy, St Helena Island, SC 29920
Hunting Island State Park is the most iconic state park in South Carolina. This hidden gem in Beaufort County attracts over a million visitors each year. The park includes five miles of unspoiled beaches, saltwater lagoons, marshlands, and a maritime forest. Hike the 2-mile Maritime Forest Trail and explore local wildlife like hawks and deer.
The Hunting Island Nature Center offers regular educational activities and exhibits about the park's history and habitats. The park also features a fishing pier and a 100-site campsite. The historic Hunting Island lighthouse is a must-see, with its charm and grandeur leaving an everlasting impression. If you prefer sunsets, the marsh boardwalks are one of the best sunset-watching spots in the Lowcountry.
6. Edisto Beach State Park
Location: 8377 State Cabin Road, Edisto Island, SC 29438
Edisto Beach State Park is a must-visit for visitors to South Carolina. The park has an extensive trail system, perfect for hiking and biking. The 1.7-mile Spanish Mount Trail takes visitors up close and personal with some of the state's earliest Indigenous shell mound sites. Visit the easily accessible 1.5-mile Forest Loop Trail, a smooth trail winding through the heart of the park's maritime woodland, which is covered in live oak, palmetto trees, and Spanish moss. The park features 1.5 miles of oceanfront access, a nature learning center with interactive exhibits, two beachside picnic shelters, furnished cabins, 120 RV sites, and tent campsites. There is a small entrance fee to the park. However, children under the age of five are free! It's a great option for families.
7. Jones Gap State Park
Location: 303 Jones Gap Road, Marietta, SC 29661
Jones Gap State Park is a well-known state park in the Mountain Bridge Wilderness Area. The park is situated in the scenic mountains of Greenville County, SC, and offers visitors opportunities for hiking, camping, mountain biking, and fishing. The 4.3-mile Rainbow Falls trail is known for wildflower sightings, birdwatching, and magnificent vistas of one of the park's waterfalls.
The park is also a haven for wildlife like coyotes, deer, and bobcats. Open year-round, it provides a wide range of activities for all seasons. Snowshoeing and cross-country skiing are popular winter activities. Hiking, camping, and fishing are all popular activities in the spring and summer. As fall arrives, the park's scenery transforms into a spectacular display of colorful foliage, making it a beautiful time to explore Jones Gap.
8. Poinsett State Park
Location: 6660 Poinsett Park Rd, Wedgefield, SC 29168
Poinsett State Park is located in central South Carolina, about an hour southeast of Columbia.
This park, named for Joel R. Poinsett, a Charleston native and US ambassador to Mexico, has a diverse terrain, with the Blue Ridge Mountain Range as its focal point. This 11-mile stretch of the Palmetto Trail meanders through dense forests of hardwood and cypress trees and crosses numerous old railroad trestles. The park has nearly 25 miles of mountain biking, hiking, and running trails, including the famous Wateree Passage.
Poinsett State Park features a 10-acre Levi Mill Lake, ideal for fishing, swimming, and paddleboarding. There are 50 campsites available for people who like to enjoy the park's natural beauty overnight. If you enjoy horseback riding, equestrian trails provide a great way to explore the park's scenic terrain.
9. Sesquicentennial State Park
Location: 9564 Two Notch Rd, Columbia, SC 29223
This 1400-acre open park, located roughly 12 miles from Columbia, is known as “Sesqui” by locals. Sesquicentennial State Park offers a variety of activities to suit all interests. On hot summer days, you can cool down in the 26-sprayer splashing pad or go mountain biking on the 6-mile trail. Nature lovers can spot local birds and wildflowers on the 3.5-mile tree-lined circular road track or explore the 1.5-mile Jackson Creek Nature Trail, which leads to a stunning waterfall.
Fishing for Seabass and Seabream is a popular activity, and you can also rent a canoe or kayak to paddle on the calm 30-acre lake. For families, the park features overnight campsites, two playgrounds, and recreational amenities such as a basketball court and sand volleyball court.
10. Kings Mountain State Park
Location: 1277 Park Rd, Blacksburg, SC 29702
Kings Mountain State Park is known for its rich historical significance, as it commemorates the Battle of Kings Mountain, a pivotal conflict in the American Revolution. The park provides a variety of hiking opportunities, from easy strolls to more challenging treks. The Kings Mountain Nature Trail, a 1.2-mile loop that begins at the picnic area and winds through verdant hardwood forests and rich vegetation, allows visitors to explore the local species. You may spot rabbits, deer, birds, and other woodland critters here.
The park also rents kayaks and canoes for paddling on the 13-acre Lake Crawford. Visitors can also visit the Living History Farm, which features a blacksmith shop, cotton gin, and a two-story farmhouse, and see live demonstrations. If you want more adventure, Kings Mountain State Park has a campground, a 30-mile network of equestrian trails, and a playground.
11. Keowee-Toxaway State Park
Location: 108 Residence Dr, Sunset, SC 29685
Keowee-Toxaway State Park is located on the crystal-clear waters of Lake Keowee and is a popular camping and water-sports destination. This natural retreat provides easy access to the beautiful Jocassee Gorges Wilderness Area. The park has many lakeside campsites, some of which are only accessible by boat, providing campers with a unique and private experience. The half-mile trail that follows the lake's shores provides visitors with stunning vistas. In addition to its two shorter trails, the park has an excellent natural bridge.
If you're looking for an overnight stay, campgrounds and cabins are available for rent. Whether you're planning a day trip or a more extended getaway, Keowee Toxaway State Park guarantees a spectacular outdoor experience that is well worth the visit.
12. Devils Fork State Park
Location: 161 Holcombe Cir, Salem, SC 29676
Devils Fork State Park is a wonderful natural gem located within the Jocassee Gorges. These gorges include steep rock walls that run along the Blue Ridge Escarpment, channeling multiple mountain rivers into the vast 7,500-acre Lake Jocassee. The lake boasts secret waterfalls that can only be reached by boat, making it ideal for trout fishing. What truly distinguishes this park is its status as one of the top freshwater dive locations in the United States. Scuba divers flock to the park to explore the submerged remains of the submerged Jocassee Dam and discover the unique underwater landscape.
Furthermore, the park offers a sanctuary for the rare Oconee Bell wildflower, which grows in the unique temperate rainforest of the Southern Appalachian Mountains. For overnight stays, visitors can choose from fully furnished villas or campgrounds near Lake Jocassee.
13. Cheraw State Park
Location: 100 State Park Rd, Cheraw, South Carolina 29520
Last but certainly not least! Cheraw State Park, one of South Carolina's first state forests, is an excellent choice for anyone looking for an active outdoor adventure. The park includes a championship 18-hole golf course, designed by Tom Jackson, that meanders through piney trees while preserving the surrounding natural habitat. Cypress wetlands surround the 360-acre Lake Juniper. You can explore them by canoeing, kayaking, or walking along a boardwalk.
The park also features an extensive trail system for hiking, biking, and equestrian activities. The park has two boat-accessible campgrounds and seventeen parking spots along the lake's shoreline. Visitors looking for overnight accommodations can stay in one of the park's nine lovely cabins.
As we wrap up this guide to the best South Carolina state parks, one thing is obvious: the Palmetto State is an enigma of natural beauty and outdoor adventures. From the rugged terrain of Table Rock State Park to the pristine shores of Myrtle Beach, there's a state park for every explorer.
I hope this list of the 13 best South Carolina state parks has inspired you for your next adventure in the Palmetto State.
Have you visited any of these incredible parks? If so, which ones are your personal favorites? Is there a park we mentioned that has become your go-to spot? I'd love to hear from you, so please share your thoughts in the comments section below!
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I’m Steve. I’m an English Teacher, traveler, and an avid outdoorsman. If you’d like to comment, ask a question, or simply say hi, leave me a message here, on Twitter (@thefrugalexpat1). Many of my posts have been written to help those in their journey to financial independence. I am on my journey, and as I learn more I hope to share more. And as always, thanks for reading The Frugal Expat.