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Capital Area & Central Parks

The Great Outdoors in the Heart of South Carolina

Nearly two-dozen South Carolina state parks are located in the central region of the Palmetto State between Interstate 85 and Interstate 95.

Several parks encircle the Columbia metropolitan area. Sesquicentennial State Park – actually set right in Capital City – features ball fields, trails, fishing, and a dog park in northeastern Columbia. Several day-trip worthy parks surround Cola, including Poinsett State Park, Goodale State Park, Lake Wateree State Park, Dreher Island State Park, and Aiken State Park.

More parks with ideal hiking, fishing, nature viewing, and history are west of Interstate 20. Make the trip to Chester State Park, Rose Hill Plantation State Historic Site, Musgrove Mill State Historic Site, Lake Greenwood State Park, Calhoun Falls State Park, Baker Creek State Park, and Hamilton Branch State Park. This area is also home to Hickory Knob State Resort Park and its 18-hole championship golf course.

Additional parks are located throughout inland South Carolina south of I-20. Check out Barnwell State Park, and the Rivers Bridge State Historic Site.

Walterboro and Ridgeland feature state park getaways like Redcliffe Plantation State Historic Site, Lake Warren State Park, Givhans Ferry State Park, Colleton State Park, and the Colonial Dorchester State Historic Site.

Santee features Santee State Park, while Woods Bay State Park sits just northeast near Florence – and Latta neighbors Little Pee Dee State Park.

Take A Tour Of South Carolina’s Santee State Park

Explore South Carolina’s Santee State Park in the Sandhills region. Situated a short drive from Columbia and Charleston, the park offers easy access to Lake Marion. Try your luck fishing for catfish, bream, and bass. The 100,000-acre lake is popular for swimming, boating, and kayaking. Take a pontoon boat tour to get a more comprehensive view of the scenic area. Birdwatchers flock to the park for the Santee Birding & Nature Festival in spring. Casual hikers enjoy the short Limestone Nature Trail and Sinkhole Pond Nature Trail. For a more vigorous workout the Santee Hiking & Mountain Biking Trail offers eight miles of challenges for hikers and mountain bikers.

Aiken State Park

As you travel through South Carolina, make some time to explore Aiken State Park. Make the drive in from Columbia or other area cities and check out all there is to do at Aiken State Park. Because Aiken State Park is found along the South Edisto River, there's a wealth of charming and visually appealing activities. Fish, swim, skip rocks, bird watch, and hike to your pleasure.

Many Aiken State Park guests also enjoy the 1.7-mile canoe or kayak ride along South Fork. Anglers enjoy landing nice hauls of bass and catfish, but you will need a valid South Carolina fishing license. Head for the state park boat landing and launch your boat for a day on the water, or hike the Jungle Trail – three miles of scenic SC woodland.

Baker Creek State Park

A top outdoor destination in McCormick, Baker Creek State Park is an ideal place to visit in South Carolina. West of Columbia, Baker Creek State Park opens to the public on March 1st; it stays open until September 30th. The main attraction at Baker Creek State Park is Lake Thurmond.

Lake Thurmond is more than 71,000 acres in size, yielding a bounty of exciting aquatic adventures like fishing, boating, and lots of birding. As you explore Baker Creek State Park, be sure to also venture through the more than 10 miles of trails for bikes and hikes.

Barnwell State Park

Be sure to plan a day trip to Barnwell State Park on your next visit to South Carolina. Found in the city of Blackville, Barnwell State Park is open year round, and it's a short drive away from Walterboro. Created in 1937, Barnewell State Park is one of 16 South Carolina state parks built by the Civilian Conservation Corps.

Feel free to bring your pets to Barnwell State Park, nearly all of the outdoor areas are pet-friendly. Anglers of all generations enjoy the fantastic fishing at Barnwell State Park – many are known to land impressive hauls of bass and catfish. With a total area of 307 acres, Barnweel State Park provides plenty of fun for all – don't miss the 1.5-mile long Dogwood Interpretive Trail, great for hikes.

Calhoun Falls State Park

Calhoun State Park is a premier outdoor destination in South Carolina's Upcountry. At 318 acres in size, Calhoun State Park has plenty of room for an array of visiting families and other outdoor enthusiasts. Make a day of it and drive in from Piedmont – explore the many recreation options at Calhoun State Park.

Open year round, Calhoun State Park features exceptional fishing chances – head for Lake Russell where you can cast from the shore, or head out onto the lake on your boat. There's a playground for the kids, a slew of picnic shelters, and don't miss out on hiking the Cedar Bluff Nature Trail – 1.75 miles of scenic beauty.

Chester State Park

Created in 1935, Chester State Park stretches across 523 sterling acres in Upcountry South Carolina. Drive in from Fort Mill and experience a bit of the charm and outdoor fun of small town South Carolina. You'll find Chester State Park in the town of Chester, just along Hwy 321, west of I-77.

Open year round, Chester State Park features disc golf, hiking and biking trails, fishing at Chester State Park Lake, and a wealth of picnic shelters. Plen your next South Carolina adventure and be sure to include some time for a visit to Chester State Park.

Colleton State Park

Created in 1944, Colleton State Park is an ideal destination when visiting Walterboro near the coast of South Carolina. While it's not enormous – only measuring in at 35 acres – Colleton State Park features plenty to see and do. Operated by the South Carolina Department of Parks, Recreation, and Tourism, Colleton State Park is open year round.

At Colleton State Park, you'll find easy access to the Givhans Ferry State Park as you canoe or kayak 21 miles of blackwater river. Another river connected to Colleton State Park is the Edisto River. In fact, Colleton State Park is the headquarters for the Edisto River Canoe and Kayak Trail.

Dreher Island State Park

Created in 1990, Dreher State Park is just west of downtown Columbia in the capital city region of South Carolina. With nearly 350 acres of land to explore at Dreher Island State Park, you'll find a wealth of fun outdoor activities in which to partake. Fishing, boating, swimming, kayaking, and bird watching are just a selection of what you can do at Dreher Island State Park.

Because Dreher Island State Park is situated, basically, on Lake Murray, you'll have miles of shoreline to explore – anglers, from the novice to the veteran, often land large hauls of striped and large-mouth bass. Dreher Island State Park is pet-friendly, and it's open year round, with a small entrance fee.

Givhans Ferry State Park

With 988 of the most charming and pristine acres in South Carolina, Givhans Ferry State Park is a premier destination for visitors. Found in Ridgeville, a pleasant city just north of Charleston, Givhans Ferry State Park was one of the original parks built by the Civilian Conservation Corps.

Named in honor of Phillip Givhan, a former Edisto River ferry operator, Givhans Ferry State Park is home to the 1.5-mile long River Bluff Nature Trail. Givhans Ferry State Park is open year round with varying times of operation depending on the season. The majority of parkland at Givhans Ferry is pet friendly, so fee free to bring your little critters – and your pets, too.

Goodale State Park

Explore the 763 acres at Goodale State Park on your next visit to central South Carolina. Not far outside of Columbia, Goodale State Park can be found in Camden, and is open year round from mid-March through the end of November; Friday through Sunday from December 1 through March 14.

A pet-friendly park in South Carolina, Goodale State Park was created in 1973 – it's named for N. R. Goodale, a local man who helped in the initial creation of the park. Be sure to enjoy your time at Goodale State Park with a wilderness canoe trip, a pleasant hike, or some bird watching.

Hamilton Branch State Park

Entrenched along the Savannah River in western South Carolina, the Hamilton Branch State Park offers a variety of outdoor and aquatic recreation to visitors years round. Sitting on a peninsula, the 731-acre park joined the State Park Service in 1972, and has been a delight to outdoor enthusiasts ever since.

Just west of Columbia, you'll find no shortage of pristine, beautiful waters, ideal for on-the-lake family adventures. Take the boat out on the 70,000-acre Strom Thurmond Lake for seemingly endless bass, crappie, catfish, striper, and bream fishing.

Onshore, be sure to pack a lunch and utilize one of many picnic shelters or explore the wooded regions via the short biking trail. Let the kids burn off some extra steam on the playground equipment and visit the gift shop to take a piece of Hamilton Branch State Park home with you.

Hickory Knob State Resort Park

Tucked away inside of western South Carolina's pine woods, Hickory Knob State Resort Park offers an ideal get away for golfers and vacationers looking for an outdoor retreat. The park's primary attraction is the 18-hole, championship layout golf course along the Strom Thurmond Reservoir – located due west of Columbia. The course is open to the public and accommodates all levels of play – complete with driving range, clubhouse, practice green, and lounge.

Aside from world-class golf, the park offers so much more to its visitors. Other sporting activities include an archery range and skeet shooting, as well as boating and fishing on Lake Thurmond. Better yet, stay on land and explore the lush biking/hiking trails. You're sure to find something for everyone at Hickory Knob State Resort Park.

Lake Greenwood State Park

Known locally as the host of the South Carolina Festival of Flowers Triathlon, Lake Greenwood State Park also offers a variety of marine and outdoor recreational activities to its visitors year round. Given its namesake, vacationers travel to the park to enjoy Lake Greenwood – over 11,000 acres of beautiful, central South Carolina waters.

Just outside of Columbia, experience the adventurous fishing and boating, but don't forget that the park boasts outstanding recreation onshore as well. Complete with fishing from the pier, nature trails, picnic areas, and nearly 1,000 acres of parkland, outdoor enthusiasts are sure to feel right at home.

Lake Warren State Park

Outdoor aficionados, visit Lake Warren State Park near Walterboro and take in the one-of-a-kind recreation on Lake Warren's 200 acres of pristine waters. Bring the boat out on the lake and try your hand at some of the best freshwater fishing central South Carolina has to offer. Don't forget, boat and boating equipment rentals are available as well.

For those who may not feel the need to get out on the water, Lake Warren State Park hasn't forgotten about you. Take in the scenic shorelines first hand on the Yemassee Nature Trail or pack a lunch, enjoy the comfort of one of many picnic shelters, or grab a pole and fish from the pier. Let the kids release that pent-up energy on the playground equipment.

Lake Wateree State Park

Ideally entrenched along the shores of Lake Wateree, this state park is a dream-like retreat for vacationers looking to experience the great outdoors of central South Carolina. Take in the great deal of fishing and boating opportunities along Lake Wateree – complete with boating ramp, tackle shop, and refuel center.

Lake Wateree State Park is great for the entire family as well. Enjoy an adventurous day using the designated swimming areas, picnic shelters, and numerous hiking and mountain biking trails that wind through the parks beautiful wooded scenery.

Little Pee Dee State Park

Conveniently located in the coastal/sandhills region, Little Pee Dee State Park is an ideal getaway for outdoor aficionados. Adjacent to the park you'll find Lake Norton – 54 acres of impeccable waters perfect for fishing and boating – with canoe/kayak rentals available and a 54-foot pier extending over the lake as well.

The park is great stop for vacationers and families near Florence and Latta. The park houses a wide selection of picnic shelters, a full playground, hiking trails, and a gift shop so you can take a piece of Little Pee Dee home with you.

Poinsett State Park

Dubbed as the "mountains of the midlands," Poinsett State Park covers over 1,000 acres of the South Carolina coastal region. Located just outside of Columbia and northwest of North Charleston, the park is an ideal destination for outdoor enthusiasts year round.

Poinsett State Park was established in 1934, and has since become a prime location for hiking, biking, fishing, and boating along the coast. The park is surrounded by the Manchester State Forest, lending to the natural beauty and wildlife. The park also houses amenities like wireless internet, a gift shop, and picnic shelters.

Sesquicentennial State Park

Created in 1937, Sesquicentennial State Park covers 1,419 acres in scenic, central South Carolina, just northeast of Columbia.

Due to its convenient location to Columbia, "Sesqui," as it's affectionately known as, offers a retreat from the hustle and bustle of big city life.

Explore the luscious hiking and mountain biking trails or rent a kayak/canoe and take it out on the pristine waters. This park is nearly 100 percent pet friendly, making it an ideal destination for traveling families.

The park frequently hosts events as well – National Trails Day Hike, Family Fishing Clinic, Movie Night, and much more.

Woods Bay State Park

Spread across 1,590 acres of central Carolina scenery, Woods Bay State Park is a prime destination for travelers looking to experience the great outdoors in the southern United States and mid-Atlantic coastal region. Explore the wide range of habitats including marshes, sandhills, oak-hickory forest, and shrub bogs, and of course be on the look-out for native wildlife as well.

You'll find the park in the town Olanta, which is just south of Florence. Things to do while traversing the grounds include picnicking, fishing, and boating – Woods Bay State Park featuers a canoe trail that is perfect for canoe and kayak exploration – both are available for rent.

Finlay Park Fountain

Enjoy time outdoors while visiting South Carolina's capital city of Columbia. This vibrant city is home to several wonderful parks, including Memorial Park, Granby Park, and Martin Luther King Jr. Make the most of your time in the capital city region of SC.

Make your way to downtown Columbia for a day of fun in the 18-acre Finlay Park, named after former city mayor Kirkman Finlay.

The park was established as Sidney Park in 1859 and renovated in 1990. One of the more prominent features of the park, is the beautiful, spiral waterfall Finlay Park Fountain.

Throughout the years, Finlay Park has become a popular location for many city special events, festivals, concerts and gatherings. Stroll through the park grounds for a relaxing day outside, while listening to the water cascade off the fountain, into the lake.

Bring your baseball for a family baseball game on the playing field, watch the kids play on one of the park's playgrounds and enjoy a picnic lunch on a park picnic table. While in the area, schedule time to visit Congaree National Park, a 22,200-acre park located south of the city.

H. Cooper Black Jr. Memorial Field Trial & Recreation Area

On your next stay in Cheraw, the charming and quaint South Carolina town northwest of Latta, be sure to explore the H. Cooper Black Jr. Memorial Field Trial & Recreation Area. More commonly known to locals as the H. Cooper Black Recreation Area, the park opened in 1994 and is a top destination for travelers heading through central South Carolina.

H. Cooper Black Recreation Area is known to be the only state park in SC available for retriever competitions. The park is named in memory of Dr. H. Coopper Black, Jr., a local of Columbia, SC. It's also one of the biggest state parks in SC, stretching across more than 7,000 acres of pristine central SC parkland.

Lee State Park

Plan your next visit to South Carolina, and enjoy a day at Lee State Park. A riverside recreational area, Lee State Park is located just west of Florence in central South Carolina. Travelers enjoy the seemingly endless amounts of fishing and boating on the shores of Lynches River and nearby Artesian Lake.

Outdoor devotees will want to take advantage of the almost 3,000 acres of natural, wooded scenery set up for year round activities. Traverse the two, half-mile walking trails, mountain biking, designated swimming area, and full equestrian services and facilities. Don't forget to pack a lunch – Lee State Park has multiple picnic shelters located throughout the property.