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Congaree National Park

Skill: Easy to Moderate
Water: Plenty in the swamps that line the trails.  Filter it, of course.
Pros:   An easy walk through giant trees.  Solitude and unspoiled backcountry allows plenty of privacy.
Cons: Biting insects
Notes: Bring insect repellant, you'll need it. Be aware of rotting limbs that may be high above your camp site. This is not a good hike for the summer, the heat and humidity can be oppressive, the Spring and Fall are the best times to view this ancient forest.

Download Map | Congaree Photos | Trails | Directions | Permits

Camping | Weather | Tips | Trip Report | Map

Overview

If it's solitude that you are looking for then this is the place. Moss covered trees line trails that wind through 22,000 acres of bottom-land, old growth forest. Dwarf palmetto and other sub-tropical plants give this area a "feel" that is unusual for the midlands of South Carolina. This is the largest remaining tract of this type of forest in the US. At one time, there were over 1,000,000 acres of bottomland forest in South Carolina alone. 

Though only 1/3 of this area has developed trails, according to one ranger, the rest is available for hikers to bush-whack. Several loops can be made through primeval old growth loblolly pines and bald cypresses, some of the pines are over 160 feet tall. The tallest trees in the Amazon are 130 to 150 feet tall.  Many old maples and beech trees can be seen here too, some reaching nearly record heights.. There are over 25 miles of trails here and all are open to back-country camping. Very few visitors venture far from the board-walk loop, so the rest of the park is open and uncrowded.  

Topography

The terrain here is very flat and is a pleasant walk in the woods. At times very large roots may be in the path but not enough to be a problem. There are few rocks here, just rotting remnants of old giants that have fallen . Dead fall litters the sides of the trail. Hurricane Hugo cut a swath through this forest in 1990 and it left behind open areas. The roots of the trees in this type of forest grow out and on top of the ground for support. The Congaree River floods several times a year and as a result the soil is very dark and rich.  Check with the rangers about safety issues regarding the flash floods that can occur here. Although there has been little flooding in the past few years, at times, the entire floodplain can be under several feet of water. 

Wildlife

Because of the dense undergrowth and thick tree cover this area has 167 species of birds. For this reason bird watchers frequent the boardwalk but they rarely venture into the wilderness. Wild Boars are also frequently spotted here, the damage from their foraging lines the trails. Flooding controls the herd, they are not good swimmers.  Snakes can be seen on the trails although most of them are non-poisonous. There isn't any black bear but because of the many raccoons that live here you must still hang your food. Not only does this area have lush foliage it has an abundance of wildlife.

Parking

If you plan on spending the night, we recommend you do, be sure to park outside the entrance gate

Insects & Plants

Insect repellant is a must here and poisonous plants line the trail. Being aware of these issues are necessary for a comfortable hike.

The ranger station is open from 8:30 to 5:00 PM seven days a week. The phone number is:  (803) 776-4396. 

Download Map | Congaree Photos | Trails | Directions | Permits

Camping | Weather | Tips | Trip Report | Map

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