Just because a couple hours’ drive can get you to the mountains or beaches doesn’t mean you have to leave the Columbia area for a good ol’ outdoor adventure.
At Congaree National Swamp, the nation’s largest intact tract of old-growth bottomland hardwood forest, you’ll find some of the tallest trees in eastern North America. Take in the 26,000-acre national park by trekking parts of over 25 miles of hiking trails and 2.4 miles of boardwalk. Bring your own canoes and explore Cedar Creek on a marked canoe trail. Camp, fish or take part in a number of guided programs offered throughout the year.
Just a 15-minute drive from downtown, Harbison State Forest offers more than 2,000 acres of forestland with more than 31 miles of roads and trails weaving through the pine and hardwood forest. Walkers, joggers, hikers, cyclists, kayakers and canoers frequent the park, which makes for an easy day-trip for urbanites and suburban dwellers alike in the Columbia area.
Sesquicentennial State Park near Sandhills lets you hike, bike, fish, canoe, kayak, paddleboard, camp and even hold overnight group gatherings at its retreat center. You’ll find 12 miles of trails, a 30-acre lake, five picnic shelters and a two-acre fenced dog park encompassed by the 1,400-acre park.
Fun fact: Congaree is one of only a handful of known locations in the country to witness the annual light show put on by synchronous fireflies. For a couple weeks around early June each year, hundreds of fireflies mysteriously sync their flashing in a display that draws numerous spectators.