The 13 Best State Parks in South Carolina

Table Rock State Park and Pinnacle Lake at Sunrise
Table Rock State Park and Pinnacle Lake at Sunrise. Kruck20 / Getty Images

Spanning the craggy mountain tops of the Upstate to the salty marshes of the Atlantic coast, South Carolina's state parks offer a variety of terrains, activities, and wildlife habitats for visitors to explore. Whether you want to hike to waterfalls and panoramic summits, paddle through maritime forest, or kayak on a lake, here are the can't-miss state parks in the Palmetto State.

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Table Rock State Park

Table Rock Mountain, South Carolina, USA
Sean Pavone / Getty Images
158 E Ellison Ln, Pickens, SC 29671-9524, USA
Phone +1 864-878-9813

One of the Upstate's most pristine outdoor playgrounds, Table Rock State Park offers over a dozen miles of hiking trails ranging from half-mile excursions to strenuous paths that wind all the way up to Table Rock Mountain's 3,124-foot summit. For an easy, family-friendly stroll, opt for the 1.9-mile Lakeside Trail, which offers views of the mountain and local wildlife. If you want to get out on the water, the park has two lakes with seasonal swimming access, fishing piers, and kayak, canoe, and pedal boat rentals. Plus, visitors can enjoy a playground, gift shop, and monthly Music on the Mountain" bluegrass jam sessions held at Table Rock Lodge. Guests wanting to stay overnight can book one of several fully furnished cabins or stay at one of two campsites.

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Jones Gap State Park

Jones Gap State Park
Dustin Ahrens / Getty Images
303 Jones Gap Rd, Marietta, SC 29661, USA
Phone +1 864-836-3647

Part of the Mountain Bridge Wilderness Area just 25 miles north of downtown Greenville, Jones Gap is a sprawling recreation area that hugs the North Carolina state border. Its 3,000 acres of woodlands are home to 60 miles of hiking trails, ranging from short, gentle strolls to lengthy, steep excursions. Opt for the moderate 4.3-mile out-and-back Rainbow Falls trail for bird watching, wildflower sightings, and views of one of the park's two waterfalls. Teeming with mountain trout, the Middle Saluda River is popular with local anglers. The park has a small gift shop with supplies as well as backcountry campsites.

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Caesars Head State Park

Caesars Head State Park
JillLang / Getty Images
8155 Geer Hwy, Cleveland, SC 29635-9428, USA
Phone +1 864-836-6115

Also part of the Mountain Bridge Wilderness Area, the 13,000-acre Caesars Head State Park offers waterfalls, bird watching, and 60 miles of stellar hiking trails. Try the 4-mile, out-and-back Raven Cliff Falls Trail, a moderately paced path that leads to a view overlooking the park's 420-foot namesake waterfall. For a more challenging trek, opt for the 6.6-mile Dismal Trail Loop, which crosses a suspension bridge at the top of the falls. During autumn, come not only for the vibrant foliage but also to watch hawks, bald eagles, falcons, and other bird species migrate south from the rocky peak of the Blue Ridge Escarpment.

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Hunting Island State Park

Coastal landscape - Hunting Island, South Carolina
peeterv / Getty Images
2555 Sea Island Pkwy, St Helena Island, SC 29920, USA
Phone +1 843-838-2011

With over a million visitors annually, this Beaufort County gem is South Carolina's most popular state park. Situated 15 miles east of Beaufort, the secluded barrier island contains more than 5,000 acres of undeveloped land, featuring pristine beachfront, saltwater lagoon, marshlands, and maritime forest. Start your trip by climbing the 167 steps to the top of the historic Hunting Island Lighthouse for sweeping views of the Atlantic Coach and lush forest. Then, hike the leafy, 2-mile Maritime Forest Trail to spot local wildlife like deer and hawks, or take a short walk along the Marsh Boardwalk Trail for views of aquatic life and postcard-perfect sunsets. The park also has a nature center with regular programming, a 100-site campground, and a fishing pier.

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Huntington Beach State Park

blue sky reflected in pond with yellow duckweed
patti white photography / Getty Images
16148 Ocean Hwy, Murrells Inlet, SC 29576, USA
Phone +1 843-237-4440

Just south of Myrtle Beach, the 2,500-acre Huntington Beach State Park boasts 3 miles of pristine coastline, a 2-mile hiking trail, a fishing pier, and 300 species of birds. While you're here, be sure to take a tour of the historic 1930s Atalaya Castle, the winter home of philanthropists Archer and Anna Huntington.

After your visit, consider checking out the adjacent Brookgreen Gardens. In addition to a butterfly garden and zoo, the 1,600-acre park houses the largest collection of figurative sculptures in the United States, with 2,000 works by 425 artists interspersed throughout the gardens and indoor gallery space.

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Edisto Beach State Park

Beach at Edisto State Park
mcteak / Getty Images
8377 State Cabin Rd, Edisto Island, SC 29438, USA
Phone +1 843-869-2156

One of the state's four oceanfront state parks, Edisto Beach has 4 miles of paved, ADA-accessible trails. For a closer look at stunning Indigenous shell mound sites—some of the state's oldest—take to the 1.7-mile Spanish Mount Trail. If you're looking for something quieter, try the easy, half-mile Forest Loop Trail, a soft-surface path that travels through the center of the park's maritime forest of Spanish moss, live oak, and palmetto trees. The park also has 1.5 miles of beachfront access, two oceanfront picnic shelters, an environmental learning center with hands-on exhibits, 120 RV and tent campsites, and furnished cabins.

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Myrtle Beach State Park

Myrtle Beach State Park, South Carolina
John Coletti / Getty Images
4401 S Kings Hwy, Myrtle Beach, SC 29575, USA
Phone +1 843-238-5325

Opened in 1936, this 312-acre green space in Horry County was South Carolina's first designated state park. Nestled along a mile of unspoiled coastland in Myrtle Beach, the quiet maritime forest is teeming with magnolias, live oaks, wax myrtles, and other lush vegetation. Hike short, gentle paths through woodlands and along pristine beachfront, or cast a pole from the iconic Myrtle Beach fishing pier. Swimming is permitted in the north end of the park, which also has restrooms, showers, and picnic facilities. Lifeguards are on duty from mid-May through mid-September, and umbrella and beach chair rentals are available seasonally for guests to soak in the Grand Strand surf and sun. Other amenities include shady 278 campsites—138 of which have electricity, water, and sewer hook-ups—and furnished cabins for overnight rental.

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Sesquicentennial State Park

Fall at Sesquicentennial State Park
Adam Powell / Getty Images
9564 Two Notch Rd, Columbia, SC 29223, USA
Phone +1 803-788-2706

Just 12 miles from downtown Columbia, this 1,400-acre green space is known to locals as "Sesqui." Cool off on a hot summer day at the 26-sprayer splash pad, cycle on the 6-mile mountain biking trail, spot wildflowers and local birds on the tree-lined 3.5-mile loop road trail, or walk to a tumbling waterfall on the short Jackson Creek Nature Trail. Fish for bass and bream, or rent a kayak or canoe to paddle through the serene, 30-acre lake. The park also has two playgrounds, overnight campsites, a sand volleyball court, basketball court, and a permit-only dog park.

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Poinsett State Park

Poinsett State Park

Courtesy of Poinsett State Park

6660 Poinsett Park Rd, Wedgefield, SC 29168-9440, USA
Phone +1 803-494-8177

Built during the heyday of the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s, the 1,000-acre Poinsett State Park in Sumter County is often called "the mountains of the midlands." Within its rugged setting, you'll find hardwood forests and flora and fauna that reflects the more mountainous Upstate. The park has more than 25 miles of hiking, mountain biking, and running trails, including the popular Wateree Passage. Part of the state's scenic Palmetto Trail, the 11-mile passage traverses along swamplands through dense forests lined with cypress and hardwood trees, and across several old railroad trestles to scenic views. Fish, swim, or boat in the 10-acre Levi Mill Lake, which offers kayak, stand-up paddleboards, canoes, and other seasonal rentals. Accommodations include over 50 wooded campsites and five rustic, furnished cabins.

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Charles Towne Landing State Historic Site

Charles Towne Landing

Courtesy of Charles Towne Landing 

1500 Old Towne Rd, Charleston, SC 29407, USA
Phone +1 843-852-4200

The site of the first English settlement in the Carolinas, Charles Towne is a great spot to learn more about the city's history. Stroll through 80 acres of manicured gardens lined with azaleas, camellias, and centuries-old live oaks, or stop into the Visitor Center for hands-on exhibits. Climb on-board the deck of the "Adventure," a 17th-century replica sailing ship, or wander through 7 miles of paved and unpaved interpretative trails. Consider walking the History Trail, which passes through reconstructed fortifications, or the Animal Forest Trail, which features a natural habitat zoo with bison, bears, and otters. Bike rentals are available for $8 an hour or $20 a day.

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Paris Mountain State Park

Paris Mountain State Park

 Courtesy of Paris Mountain State Park

2401 State Park Rd, Greenville, SC 29609, USA
Phone +1 864-244-5565

Paris Mountain is formed by a monadnock that towers above hardwood forest just 10 minutes from downtown Greenville. The surrounding 1,540-acre state park is one of the city's best recreation areas, with 15 miles of hiking and cycling trails, a summer swimming area with kayak and canoe rentals, four lakes, and access to the Prisma Health Swamp Rabbit Trail. Want to stay overnight? The grounds include 39 paved campsites.

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Lake Hartwell State Park

19138 SC-11, Fair Play, SC 29643, USA
Phone +1 864-972-3352

Anglers and water enthusiasts won't want to miss this park on the Georgia-South Carolina border, named for its massive, 56,000-acre lake. Renowned for its stock of freshwater largemouth, catfish, bream, crappie, and striped and hybrid bass, the park features a 140-foot fishing pier as well as two boat ramps and courtesy access. While swimming is permitted, there is no designated area or lifeguard on duty. The hilly, 1-mile dirt Beach Bluff Trail is ideal for bird watching, and winds through pine and oak forest dotted with wildflowers and leafy ferns. As you hike the trail, you'll pass a bubbling creek and steep ravine, which offers views of the lake and up-close encounters with wildlife like squirrels and foxes. Camp overnight in one of two rustic camper cabins, which have outdoor water spigots, fire rings, grills, and a bathhouse.

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Kings Mountain State Park

Kings Mountain State Park

Courtesy of Kings Mountain State Park

1277 Park Rd, Blacksburg, SC 29702-8381, USA
Phone +1 803-222-3209

Nestled along the South Carolina/North Carolina border 40 miles southwest of Charlotte, North Carolina, Kings Mountain is a family favorite. Explore local wildlife via the Kings Mountain Nature Trail, which begins at the picnic area and loops through 1.2 miles of leafy hardwood forest and lush vegetation. Along the way, hikers might be able to spot deer, birds, rabbits, and other woodland creatures. For those wanting a more challenging trek, opt for the 16-mile Kings Mountain Hiking Trail loop that winds through craggy granite outcrops and rolling hills. Rent a kayak or canoe to paddle the 13-acre Lake Crawford, and stop by the Living History Farm to see live demonstrations, a two-story farmhouse, blacksmith shop, and cotton gin. The park also has a 30-mile network of equestrian trails, a campground, and a playground.

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The 13 Best State Parks in South Carolina