I was surprised to find there are so little resources on tourist places in Columbia. Even the web sites didn’t do much for me although they offered some tidbits. Maybe because I already knew the sites they highlight. Maybe because they didn’t offer information on what I am interested in – low cost/no cost activities, walking tours, green spaces, and historical areas. The brochures I picked up at the visitor center are more chock full of ‘stuff’ than the websites. Book wise was the pretty much the same as the websites, general information only and emphasis on restaurants, shopping, and the higher priced activities.
Book wise the South Carolina travel books will have to do, but the websites are a better alternative.
Brochure Names (with associated web address)
Columbia South Carolina 5km/10km Historic Capital City Walk (www.columbiacvb.com)
General Sherman’s March on Columbia, South Carolina – Self Guided Tour (www.shermansmarch.com)
Home Places, Work Places, Resting Places: African-American Heritage Sites Tour (historiccolumbia.org)
Three Rivers Greenway (www.RiverAlliance.org)
I visited the park in winter and was kind of hoping the mosquitoes weren’t so prevalent. But this was a few months past the historic 2015 flood and that might explain the number of those insects out for my blood. Bring bug spray. But don’t avoid the park. It has some very nice trails running through including a canoe trail along the South Edisto River. I don’t have a canoe, but you can rent one there. At the moment canoe rentals are only for the lake so check the website to see when they are offering rentals again.
I like to start my forays in the park at the visitor center, to get a map and a stamp for the Ultimate Outsider book. From there I viewed the lakes and started out on a trail, going deep (okay so not so deep in the woods, but it sure looks like from within). My interest was piqued by name of one of the trails, the Jungle trail and I had to investigate. I mean, who doesn’t want to walk the Jungle trail. Despite the mosquitoes it was a fun hike. It really did look like a jungle. I ended up walking partway on the road that winds through the park in order to see the boat launch. I had to see the South Edisto River, the longest free-flowing blackwater river in North America.
The park is interesting too because it was built by African Americans employed by the Civilian Conservation Corp of the Great Depression. Check out the exhibit.
How to Get there
Located on SC53. From I20, take exit 33 toward Wagener on SC39. Turn right on SC302 (in Wagener),then straight onto SC53 (SC302 will make a sharp right, you go straight.)
What’s Close by:
I’d heard plenty about Harbison State Forest, but never visited until a national hike day, or maybe it was visit a park day. Whatever day it was, I went. Harbison Forest is located in Columbia along the Broad River. It’s not difficult to find being just east of Broad River Road. I pulled in the parking lot, nice and shady, paid my five dollars and studied the trail options.
In this 2,177 acre park there are plenty of trails to choose, twenty miles worth! Choose from the easy Discovery trail, 0.5 miles, to the six mile, difficult Lost Creek trail. The 4.4 mile, moderate Firebreak trail which interconnects to other trails. Or you can customize your trip if you wish, like I did. I can’t even tell you which ones I used.
The trails are for use for hikers and off road bicycling except for two which are for hiking only. Listen out for the call from a rider to announce themselves. There’s a canoe ramp that provides access for kayaks and canoes.
Harbison State Forest is one of the largest urban green spaces located within a city limits in the eastern part of the U.S. It’s named after Samuel P. Harbison who is/was from Pennsylvania. He provided much of the funds needed for the land to be purchased. Thank you, Mr. Harbison.
How to get there:
Take I-20 to exit #65 and go northwest on US #176 (Broad River Road) 5.9 kilometers (3.7 miles). The forest will be on the right side of the road.
What’s Close by:
River Front Park and Historic Columbia Canal
I didn’t expect the terrain to be so hilly here. Driving up to an overlook (yes, this park has an overlook), you can see for miles. From there I made my way to the visitor center. There’s a trail that connects the two, but I was wanting to take another trail and see the lake. I had a good chat with the ranger who was taking a break from fixing some steps. I have to say, rangers are jacks of all trades. I see them mowing, fixing things, and leading tours. They are a font of knowledge when it comes to the flora and fauna and everything else in the park and they always friendly.
He told me about the meeting hall which had been built by the CCC in the 1930’s. I picked up quite a few brochures on Sumter county here, which was nice as I got information on other sites to see in Sumter.
Not far from the meeting room is a pretty spillway also by the CC. It flows under a bridge and trickles down a small waterfall into a stream. It hardly looks man made at all.
Several trails wind through these high hills of Santee. One goes around the ten acre lake. There’s the Coquina Trail, Laurel Group Trail, Hill Top Trail, and the Scout Trail. I did the Coquina trail and thus walked a bit on the Palmetto trail which passes through.
If you don’t walk the trails, one can rent a canoe or a kayak.
How to get there:
From US76 / US378, take the 261 toward Wedgefield. There should be a sign to the park. The park will be on the right.
What’s close by:
Manchester State Forest
City of Sumter with Swan Lake and Historic Downtown
Cheraw State Park is located just outside of the town of Cheraw off US52. However way you get there, it’s a pleasant drive. I took US1 through McBee. I wanted to see the peach tree blossoms. I was either too late or too early, but no matter I got to visit other sites and had just a good a time on my trip to the park as I did in the park.
The park is know more the large championship, 18-hole golf course. While not a golfer myself, I admired the greens and trees. You have to pass the course to get to the Lake Juniper, a 300 acre lake created by the CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps) back in the 1930’s. They built a number of structures in the park as well, but not the boardwalk that curves around a section of the lake. From it you can explore the cypress wetlands that line the lake. Or explore it by renting a kayak or canoe. Being along, I opted not to go out on the lake. I’m not much of a water person anyway, preferring to look at it instead of being on it. or via a boardwalk that runs along the lake.
I saw a nice camping area on my walk. There are cabins to rent as well. Visit the web site for more information on that. Other activities include fishing, swimming, and biking, hiking, and horse riding on their extensive trail system. One bike trail is nine miles long.
The walking trails include the Turkey Oak Trail, a 4.5-mile loops, with a shorter 1.9 mile loop, and the Boardwalk Trail. Besides running along the lake it crosses the dam spillway. Walk with care and you can spot turtles sunning themselves.
How to Get There:
As said there are several ways to get there. One can use US1 from Columbia. If you are traveling via I95, take exit 164 and take US52 toward Darlington and on toward Cheraw.
What’s Close by:
Sand Hills State Forest is right next to the park as is H. Cooper Black Jr. Recreation Area, a place more equestrians.
Carolina Sandhills NWR. This is a must see.
I visited the park in the fall, wanting to see the leaves in color. Skirting the lake, I ended up on the Disc Golf course. Fortunately no one was playing or I might have gotten beaned and it would have been my fault for not paying attention. I did manage to find the real trail, The Caney Fork Creek Nature trail, later on and made my away around the lake, stopping at the boat house and partaking in the floating docks to take pictures. On the way back to the car I shuffled through the leaves carpeting the ground.
Chester State Park is located close to the town of Chester, in Chester Country. Besides hiking and disc golf, one can picnic, rent a boat (or bring your own) and/or go fishing. There are camping facilities too. From what I saw it looked quite nice. If you visit in spring you might be lucky and see bald eagles.
For those who like to play disc course there’s an 18-hole course and a 9-hole course. It’s the first SC State Park sanctioned course and alternative tee’s for those who play at different levels.
On the 160 acre lake there’s a 450 foot long fishing pier/pedestrian bridge that connects one side to another. They were building that when I visited and I need to go back so I can walk on it.
The 523 acre park was developed by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930’s after the land was purchases in 1935. A number of buildings built by the CCC are still in use and one can see the spillway and waterfall along the trail.
How To Get There:
The park is located off SC72/SC121 southwest of the town of Chester. Exits 55 and 65 off I77 will get you there. Just head toward Chester. If you want a more scenic route, there’s US321.
Cester State Park
What’s Near By:
The town of Chester
Sumter National Forest
Landsford Canal S.P.
I have to admit I ended up at this park due to a missed turn, but no problem. I was here, I had time so I visited it. The downside was I didn’t have a map and couldn’t find the start of the trail I knew existed and the ranger was elsewhere. I missed the cemetery too, but that gives me a reason to visit again.
The park straddles the Edisto River whose riverbanks are protected as a Heritage Trust Site. It is the longest free flowing blackwater river in North America. From here you can go kayaking and canoeing There’s a boat landing right by the visitor center. It offers a nice view of the river.
The park is named after Phillip Givhan who was the ferry master here in the latter part of the 18th century. His granddaughter, Mary Ford, is buried in the park. The ferry sat at the point, called the Charleston to Augusta/Savannah pass, where one could cross the Edisto river and continue on the road from Charleston to Augusta.
Givhans Ferry State Park is one of the parks in South Carolina developed by the CCC, the Civilian Conservation Corps, a New Deal program created by Presdient F. D. Roosevelt. It was donated in 1934 by the City of Charleston.
I managed to find the trail, the River Bluff Nature Trail. The website says it’s a multipurpose trail for hiking and biking, but when I walked it, I found it a bit rough so if you take your little ones, make sure to hold their hands so they don’t tumble into the river. It might be better now. The bluff is made of limestone and it is due to the limestone that there are a number of sinkholes in the park, sinkholes created by underground streams eating away at the soft rock.
As for the cemetery, the only remaining tombstone is that of Phillip Givhan’s granddaughter.
How to Get There:
The park is located on Givhans Ferry Road off SC 61 and is in both Dorchester and Colleton counties.
Givhans ferry State Park
Givhans Ferry ST Video
Colleton State Park
Francis Beidler Forest
Old Dorchester State Park
I visited the park in Fall so the swimming pool wasn’t open, but that didn’t distract from my trip. I took a walk from the picnic parking lot that took me down the boardwalk. From there I toured the ponds, which turned out to be the Artesian Trail, named, I would guess from the two artesian springs located near the pools. These were made when the CCC, drilled down into one of the aquifers, a confined aquifer. Since the water is under pressure, it is pushed upward to the surface allowed the water to flow constantly.
Lee State Park, created in 1935, is one of the Civilian Conservation Corp parks in the state and one of the even fewer parks to boast the structures they built. They made the park to provide recreational opportunities for the people of Lee County. It’s located along the Lynches River. Besides hiking, swimming, and fishing, one can kayak or canoe through the park’s floodplain. There are also equestrian opportunities.
The Lynches River is a state-designated State Scenic River and has been since 1994. One can drive down to the banks of the river via the Loop Road, if it is open when you visit. Among the wildlife one might encounter are marsh rabbits, fox squirrels, gray foxes, beavers and river otters to name a few. Birders will appreciate the great-horned, barred, and screech owl as well as the yellow-billed cuckoo.
On my trip, I only saw a few frogs and a turtle, which means I either didn’t look hard enough or I make too much noise.
From I20, take exit 123 and follow the signs.
Carolina Sandhills NWR
Woods Bay S.P.
Sitting at the edge of the Blue Ridge, Table Rock State Park is a popular place to visit and stay. Besides having a campground there are cabins to rent. I’ve stayed twice in the cabins and have fond memories of those weeks. The rock faced Table Rock Mountain gives the park its name and is a feature one can’t miss driving along SC Highway 11.
The park consists of 3,000 acres and has two lakes, creeks, and waterfalls. One can access the 80-mile Foothills Trail or hike to other near by state parks, but for those, like me, who wish a shorter hike, there are several available ranging from .7 miles (Mill Creek Pass) to 4.1 miles (Pinnacle Mountain). A trail even leads to the summit of Table Rock. The last time I went, I took a walk along the roads every morning. My favorite hike was Carrick Creek Trail which went along the creek and featured several waterfalls. When hiking, you must complete a trail registration form at the kiosk by the nature center. Note that the the trails close ½ hour before dark.
Besides nature, there are historical structures in the park, buildings on the National Register of Historic Places. The CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps) built many of the cabins and other structures as well as the pond.
Table Rock features two lakes. One can rent paddle boats and kayaks and there’s seasonal swimming. When visiting check out the programs being offered especially if you stay a few days and you should because there’s so much to do and see. We’ve been a kayak tour around the lake, learned what to do in case we got lost, did a scavenger hunt, played bingo (and won!), went on a guided nature walk, plus more. There are picnic shelters and a playground.
Table Rock and its surroundings was once part of the Lower Cherokee Nation. Europeans came, settling in Pumpkintown a few miles away. The town is so named for the large pumpkins grown in the area. Around 1840 a hotel got built to serve the tourists. In 1935, Pickens and Greenville Counties donated land for the park. The CCC went to work building a dam, a lodge, an office, roads, and shelters. They also landscaped the park. The park opened in 1940.
There is a fee to enter park.
Table Rock is located in Pickens County along the scenic route SC Highway 11. the Cherokee Foothills National Scenic Highway.
What’s close by:
SC11 Cherokee Foothills Scenic Highway
Caesar’s Head State Park
Jones Gap State Park
Jocassee Gorge Management Area
Keowee-Toxaway State Park
Campbell’s Covered Bridge
Poinsett Bridge in Poinsett Bridge Heritage Preserve