With 47 state parks and more than 80,000 acres of protected land, South Carolina truly has it all, from camping in the Blue Ridge Mountains to surfing along the Lowcountry’s beaches.
Ground zero for your South Carolina camping adventure is Greenville. Grab a headlamp and coffee to go—it’s a stiff, 3.6-mile hike up to the overlook at Table Rock State Park, named for the 3,124-foot granite dome that bears witness to South Carolina’s most iconic sunrise. Later, spin the legs out on a bike ride along the Swamp Rabbit Trail. It’s 22 miles of paved greenway between Greenville and the city’s small town neighbor “TR,” or Travelers Rest. Mountain bikers need only drive 15 minutes north of the city to find buttery singletrack at Paris Mountain State Park. Cool off at day’s end in Lake Jocassee at Devils Fork State Park. Buttressed on all sides by undeveloped mountainside, this 7,565-acre lake is rope-swinging, waterfall-plunging, trout fishing paradise. Don’t forget the sunscreen.
Your camping quest continues in the South Carolina capital of Columbia. Built at the confluence of three rivers—the Broad, Saluda, and Congaree—Columbia is a city where adventure is woven into its very fabric. From town, you can float and fish the Saluda River, which is stocked with trout and the occasional class II rapid. Just 30 minutes south is Congaree National Park. Some of South Carolina’s largest and oldest bald cypress and water tupelo trees call this fertile floodplain home. At 27,000 acres, Congaree is the largest unbroken tract of old growth bottomland hardwood forest remaining in the Southeast. Cap off the day with a sunset over Lake Murray. If you visit between June and August, you won’t be alone. Hundreds of thousands of purple martins layover on Dreher Island State Park before continuing their winged journeys south.
Drive through Charleston’s palmetto-lined avenues to Folly Beach, where the surf is good and the coffee is free (and available 24/7 at Bert’s Market). Paddle through grass-lined tidal creeks and salt marshes to catch a glimpse of dolphins in their natural element. On John’s Island, stroll beneath the storied boughs of Angel Oak, a live oak tree that’s thought to be over 400 years old. Soak it all in. Your South Carolina camping trip has taken you from the mountains to the sea, so it seems fitting to say ‘adieu’ with your toes in the sand at Hunting Island State Park.