22 Best SC State Parks for Outdoor Adventurers and Nature Enthusiasts

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Are you planning to visit the state parks of South Carolina?

With around 47 of them spanning from the mountains in the northern region to the inviting Atlantic coastline in the south, these destinations provide unique experiences you won’t want to miss!

In this guide, we’ll take you through the best SC state parks, offering a diverse array of natural beauty and outdoor recreation.

If you’re into hiking, you can explore trails that wind through lush forests to waterfalls, and seek out rare flora and captivating wildlife.

Several of these parks also boast serene lakes, rivers, and coastal waters for boating, fishing, swimming, and more.

History also comes to life through historic sites and preserved structures within some parks, providing a glimpse into South Carolina’s past. 

Camping options range from tent sites to cabin rentals, offering a chance to connect with nature overnight.

You may also like our SC bucket list guide for even more adventures in the Palmetto State.

Best State Parks in South Carolina

To make it easier for you to plan your trip, our list of South Carolina state parks begins from the southeast and concludes in the northwestern region of the state.

Hunting Island State Park

Hunting Island State Park is a 5,000-acre park on the Atlantic Ocean that offers five miles of beach on the sandy Hunting Island.

One of the most popular attractions in the park is the Hunting Island Lighthouse, the only publicly accessible lighthouse in South Carolina.

The Harbor River behind the park is home to a boat ramp and a large saltwater marsh for paddlers and boaters alike.

Over 100 campsites inhabit the campground, and another 25 tent sites are also available at this park.

This is one of the state parks near Hilton Head, just over an hour’s drive from the popular beach destination.

Hunting Island State Park lighthouse South Carolina

Lake Warren State Park

On a remote lake 80 miles from the coast, Lake Warren State Park is a hidden gem for folks who like fishing and for all outdoors lovers.

The 200-acre man-made lake is perfect for fishing in South Carolina’s lowlands; it also has a sheltered fishing pier in the park.

Three trails snake through the wetlands on the southeast side of the park allowing visitors to view the many types of wildlife that may use the lake as a food source.

The park also has rental fishing boats that visitors can use during the day to fish on the lake.

Colleton State Park

Located south of St. George, Colleton State Park occupies a small patch of land along the Edisto River.

A popular place for kayakers, the park is a base camp for many adventures on the Edisto River.

With 25 campsites, exploring the river can even be a multi-day activity.

A ball field and volleyball court also lie in the center of the park for organized games.

This is also one of the state parks near Charleston; check out our other suggestions for budget-friendly things to do there.

Woods Bay State Park

A remote park in South Carolina’s lowlands is Woods Bay State Park, which encompasses 1,590 acres just west of Olanta.

With a kayak trail, boardwalk, and picnic shelter, Woods Bay is an elliptical-shaped depression in the ground filled by a swamp.

A fantastic place to observe over 100 species of birds, this SC state park takes visitors on a remote trip through the swampland.

As a day-use-only park, it gets fewer visitors, allowing those who do show up to have a pristine natural experience.

Myrtle Beach State Park

Looking for state parks in South Carolina with beaches?

The oldest state park in the South Carolina system is Myrtle Beach State Park.

A popular place for families staying in the Myrtle Beach area, the park prepares for busy tourism seasons with over 300 campsites in their campground.

The boardwalk provides easy access to the beach from the campground, and the fishing pier is a perfect place to fish or view some of the area’s marine life.

Multiple gift shops exist in the park, catering to the many people who vacation in the area.

Check out all of our helpful insights to make the most of your visit to MB…

An aerial view of Myrtle Beach South Carolina

Lee State Park

Many of the lowland parks in South Carolina lie along rivers and contain boardwalks.

Lee State Park sits on the Lynches River west of Florence and contains regular and equestrian campsites.

One of the most well-known parks for horseback riding, Lee has 12 miles of trails that weave through the bottomlands along the river.

At over 2,800 acres, the park also contains four artesian wells that are always flowing and accessible.

Sesquicentennial State Park

Residents of Columbia regularly enjoy Sesquicentennial State Park, which lies just 15 miles from the city center.

Families enjoy the park’s many amenities, including the only splash pad in the South Carolina system.

With 12 miles of trails weaving through the gently rolling hills of the park and around Sesquicentennial Lake, this is a popular place for hiking as well as paddling and fishing.

This state park near Columbia is also well-known for its dog park, beach, and bike trail.

Dreher Island State Park

The large man-made Lake Murray lies just west of Columbia and contains many water recreation opportunities.

Nowhere is a more central location for these opportunities than Dreher Island State Park, sitting 16 miles from the dam and 21 miles from the feeder streams.

This state park on Lake Murray is composed of three islands: one for a campground, one for boaters’ use, and one for the rest of the park’s amenities.

Multiple playgrounds exist within the park for the many families that visit during the summer and on weekends.

Paddlers enjoy venturing out to Long Island, which is completely disconnected from the mainland.

Lake Murray on the South Carolina coast

Lake Greenwood State Park

A large lake made out of the Saluda River is the site of Lake Greenwood State Park, which encompasses 914 acres.

The lake has over 11,400 acres of surface area, making it great for boats of all sizes.

There are 125 campsites inhabiting two peninsulas on the shore of the lake, with a conference center and boat ramp occupying the other two.

While the park is mostly known for its water recreation, it also has a one-mile trail for hiking.

Hamilton Branch State Park

Over on the Georgia border sits Clarks Hill Lake, which is made out of the Savanna River.

On its northeastern shore is Hamilton Branch State Park with its 731 acres of pine forests on the lake.

A short trail loop exists on the inner edge of the park, but the park’s main focuses are on camping and water recreation.

There are 200 campsites inhabiting 9 different camping areas throughout the park, allowing visitors to pick where they stay.

Many small islands may entice paddlers who visit the park and a boat ramp onto the lake is at the west end of the park.

Check out our guide to the best Georgia state parks if you’re in the area!

Croft State Park

Another 7,000-acre park is Croft State Park, which lies just southeast of Spartanburg.

A unique thing about this park is that it is a popular venue for equestrian events, with a horse show ring located in the park.

Nearly 23 miles of trails exist in the park and almost all of them are multi-use between hiking and biking.

Another park for history buffs, the land was formerly several homesteads and also a WWII training camp before it became a state park.

Calhoun Falls State Park

Despite its name, Calhoun Falls does not have any waterfalls in the park.

The park is instead named for the town it sits near: Calhoun Falls.

Spanning 318 acres on Lake Russell on the Georgia border, there are many water recreation and camping opportunities to be found.

As one of the less popular state parks in South Carolina’s system, one can expect a quieter camping experience.

Tennis and basketball courts exist within the park for guests to use as well.

Check out our Georgia bucket list for even more local adventures!

Chester State Park

Chester State Park surrounds a small man-made lake south of the city of Chester.

Perhaps the park’s most impressive feature is the 472-foot bridge over one of the lake’s arms, allowing for fishing and great views of the lake.

Two camper cabins sit on the lake’s north shore near the 25-site campground.

Rounding out the park’s activities are a 1.3-mile trail along the lake shore and an 18-hole disc golf course.

Kings Mountain State Park

One of South Carolina’s largest state parks, Kings Mountain State Park is nearly 7,000 acres on the North Carolina Border.

More than 20 miles of hiking trails crisscross the park, plus a further 30 miles of equestrian trails as well.

Lake York and Lake Crawford provide small-scale water recreation in the park, with fishing and paddling available on both lakes.

The park’s trail system connects with Kings Mountain National Military Park, which focuses on the site’s Revolutionary War significance.

As one begins to venture into the mountains of the Carolinas, Kings Mountain is one of the first major points of prominence they will stumble across.

Kings Mountain National Military Park entrance sign in South Carolina

Paris Mountain State Park

In the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains just north of Greenville, Paris Mountain State Park offers a lighter hiking experience compared to the mountainous terrain to its north.

Four small lakes exist within the park for fishing and some for paddling.

While the summit of Paris Mountain does not lie within the park, several of its northeastern ridges offer amazing views of the mountains in the distance.

The rocky Lake Placid is the largest lake in the park and offers a beach and a large shelter for hosting events.

Just less than a 20-minute drive, this is one of the state parks near Greenville that is perfect for those looking for an outdoor destination right outside the city.

Lake Hartwell State Park

Lake Hartwell State Park is another park on one of the many lakes that make up the Georgia-South Carolina border.

Fishing and boating are this park’s main attractions with the 56,000-acre Lake Hartwell surrounding the park.

A long fishing pier lies near the south end of the park with one of the two boat ramps.

The other boat ramp lies near the campground and is designated for campers’ use only.

Located just off I-85, this is a perfect stopping-over point for a road trip through South Carolina.

Oconee State Park

Looking for state parks in Oconee County?

Finally entering South Carolina’s mountains, Oconee State Park sits at roughly 1,800 feet above sea level just five miles from the Georgia border.

Centered around two lakes in the hills, the park is nearly 1,200 acres and contains both campsites and cabins.

There are 19 cabins, all reservable, that lie near the lakes, and a large trail system extends beyond the park’s boundaries.

The two main features of this trail system are Tamassee Knob, which overlooks the lowlands to the east, and Station Cove Falls, which is a seven-mile round trip hike from the park.

Devils Fork State Park

The crystal clear Lake Jocassee straddles the border between the two Carolinas.

Devils Fork State Park offers the only public access to the 7,500-acre lake.

A large campground and 20 villas inhabit most of the park; some villas are two-bedroom and some are three.

Tours of Lake Jocassee are also conducted from within the park and offer great information and mountain views from the lake.

Keowee-Toxaway State Park

Just three miles away on Lake Keowee is Keowee-Toxaway State Park, with its 1,000 acres on Keowee-Lake.

A small 20-site campground exists in the park, including 10 tent sites and 10 camper sites.

There is also a six-mile trail system that winds through the area along the lake north of the road, while the main attraction south of the road is the Upstate Zipline.

Comprising ten lines and a swinging bridge, totaling a distance of 1.5 miles, this zipline system stands as one of South Carolina’s premier attractions, enticing adventure-seeking visitors with an irresistible opportunity.

Table Rock State Park

A small lake in South Carolina’s upcountry is one of the main features of Table Rock State Park in Pickens County near the city of Greenville.

Lake Oolenoy is perfect for fishing in the hills of South Carolina and getting away from the rest of Table Rock State Park’s traffic.

North of State Highway 11 is the other main feature of the park: a long trail system that takes hikers along a ridge known as Table Rock.

Reaching heights of over 3,100 feet above sea level, Table Rock marks some of the highest points in South Carolina’s State Parks.

The other peak in the park, Pinnacle Mountain, even reaches over 3,400 feet above sea level, providing fantastic views of the mountains of the Carolinas.

Evening reflections at Lake Oolenoy in Table Rock State Park, South Carolina

Caesars Head State Park

Probably the most well-known of the South Carolina mountain parks, Caesars Head State Park is home to South Carolina’s second-highest peak.

With more than 60 miles of hiking trails, the park’s mountain landscape lends itself well to these trails.

Other than the trails and mountain scenery, the park also has six waterfalls, including the 420-foot Raven Cliff Falls, one of the tallest waterfalls on the East Coast.

Caesars Head is part of the Mountain Bridge Wilderness area, along with Jones Gap State Park.

Caesars Head State Park in upstate South Carolina during the fall with a telescope to view the counties of Greenville and Pickens and Table Rock Mountain

Jones Gap State Park

Sharing the Mountain Bridge Wilderness Area with Caesar’s Head is Jones Gap State Park.

Jones Gap is the valley of Caesars Head’s mountain and contains two waterfalls of its own.

Backcountry campsites dot the Middle Saluda River Valley, where the park’s centerpieces are.

Since the park is a wilderness area, all hikers must fill out a free form verifying they were hiking there before starting.

Final Thoughts

We hope this list of SC state parks gives you the information you need to visit some of these natural wonders.

And don’t forget to share your experiences in the comments below!

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