Moms Guide to State Parks Near Columbia


Moms Guide to State Parks Near ColumbiaSouth Carolina boasts 47 state parks and with the capital city being smack in the middle of the state, every one of them could be a day trip. When we polled our readers, we found Oconee and Edisto to be among the favorites for camping. But what if you were looking for a shorter morning or afternoon outdoor adventure with your littles? We’ve got EIGHTEEN suggestions for you that are 90 minutes drive or less from downtown. (Hey, that’s perfect timing for them to nap on the way home!) A few have particular historic significance, too!

Before you go:

  • Check your route (our drive times listed are from the State House and were checked on a weekday mid-morning)
  • Pack some snacks and water
  • Check your gas tank (some spots are a bit out of the way.)
  • Note any admission fee and prepare to use cash
  • Refresh your first aid kit (and have basics in a carry/backpack if you plan to hike)
  • Prepare for weather (dress in layers whether hot or cold, and consider sunscreen and bug spray)
  • Taking your dog? Plan to follow leash law. Some parks have dog park.
  • Reminder: 16 years and older need a fishing license.

Sesquicentennial State Park (25 minute drive)

Open daily, 8 a.m. – 6 p.m. $5 adults, $3 ages 6-15 years, under 5 is free.

Bring your dog. There’s a dog park! Splash pad, in season. Fishing boat, canoe, kayak, and pedal boat rentals. Two playgrounds, picnic areas. Sand volleyball court and softball field. Short nature trail and a six mile mountain bike trail. Nature backpacks can be checked out at the park office. Don’t miss this closest park to us. 

Dreher Island State Park (45 minute drive)

Open daily, dawn to dusk. $2 admission for adults, free for children 15 and under.

Popular for fishing, with Lake Murray access. This park has been used for many fishing tournaments and Moms Blog loves that even day trippers may enjoy the Tackle Loaner Program, for rods and reels, at the park store. Three playgrounds (located near visitor center, White Oak Lane, and camping area B.) 

Lake Wateree State Park (45 minute drive)

Open daily, 7 a.m. – 6 p.m. $2 adults, 15 and younger free.

Lake access for all water sports, swimming area. New playground with several slides and climbing activities near park store. Nature trail.

Goodale State Park (50 minute drive)

Open daily, 9 a.m. – 6 p.m. FREE admission.

Recommended by a Moms Blog reader who says, “This poor park has been forgotten, but has canoe and kayak rental for super cheap. You can paddle through the marsh. It’s beautiful and when we were there … we totally heard an alligator. At the time it seemed super cool. In retrospect that’s a bit scary and I’m thankful he wasn’t hungry?” Check site for boat rentals as staffing seems to be short on Tuesdays and Thursdays, but this is a great place to see tall cypress and walk a sandy hiking trail.

Aiken State Park (1 hour drive)

Open daily, 9 a.m. – 6 pm. $2 admission for adults, free for children 15 and under.

The Edisto River flows through the park and provides some great opportunity for animal sightings nearby and in it. Fishing rods and reels are available for loan. Fishing boats and canoes available for rent, $15. Moms Blog is particularly interested in the 1.7 mile canoe trail! Park also has four lakes and there is swimming, in season. Three mile loop trail for hiking. Playground and picnic shelter.

Lee State Park (1 hour drive)

Open daily, 9 a.m. to sunset. FREE admission.

Two easy hiking trails. Print out these self-led activities for some nature fun. Also available is a bird and mammal brochure. Park located on Lynches River, boat access limited inside park but available nearby. There is equestrian camping stables and trails, so you could get lucky and see horses.

Poinsett State Park (1 hour drive)

Open daily, 9 a.m. to dark. FREE admission.

Called “the mountains of the midlands,” you’ll see a variety of ecosystems. Ten acre lake, with swimming area. Jon boats, canoes, pedal boats, and paddleboards are available for rent, $10 hour. For this mom, just say pedal boat rental and I’m there! Several extensive hiking trails can be accessed from the park.

Musgrove Mill State Historic Site (1 hour, 10 minutes)

 Open daily, 9 a.m. – 6 p.m. FREE admission.

Revolutionary War site with interpretive signs at site’s center and all along a two mile trail. Small (handicap accessible) waterfall with unique story. Check site for regular guided tours. Boat access for canoes and kayaks along Enoree River. Picnic shelters.

Chester State Park (1 hour, 10 minutes)

Open daily, 9 a.m. – 6 p.m. $2 admission for adults, free for children 15 and under.

Large lake with neat spillway that looks like a waterfall. Tournament grade disc golf course. Two playgrounds. Hiking trail. Fishing boats for rent, $10/half day. Boathouse, described by some as very cool sits over the lake.  

Landsford Canal State Park (1 hour, 10 minutes)

Open daily, daylight to dark. $5 adults, $3, ages 6 – 15.

Located on the Catawba River, with boat access. Park contains ruins of old canal system and museum of a lock keeper’s home. There is a picnic shelter, playground, and trail. Many come for seasonal guided canoe and history tours. Check site for times. Check also for rocky spider lilies in bloom during May and June. Bald eagle sightings, particularly in early June.

Barnwell State Park (1 hour, 15 minutes)

Open daily, 9 a.m. to dark. FREE admission.

Three park lakes for fishing. Historic structures include tiered-spillway and old pumphouse. Hosts Picking at the Parka monthly jam session.

Redcliffe Plantation State Historic Site (1 hour, 20 minutes)

Open daily, 9 a.m. – 6 p.m. Park admission FREE. House tours $7.50 adults, $5 students, 5 and under free.

Guided tours of mansion are given at specific times. Historic garden with themes varying year to year. Multiple generations of multiple families enslaved here are interpreted at site. Two slave cabins on site. Civil war history. A must visit during black history month or any month!

Andrew Jackson State Park (1 hour, 20 minutes)

Open daily, 8 a.m. – 6 p.m./9 a.m. – 9 p.m. during DST. $2 adults, 15 and younger free.

This parks wins the How Have We Not Been Here prize! Presidential home place on site and museum of Andrew Jackson artifacts. Check park site for museum hours and special events relating to revolutionary period. Playground, lake fishing, and two hiking trails.

Lake Greenwood State Park (1 hour, 20 minutes)

Open daily, 6 a.m. – 6 p.m. $2 adults, 15 and younger free.

Interactive exhibit in Drummond Educational Center about this history of the Civilian Conservation Corps, a New Deal era program that built many of our parks. Two boat ramps, no swimming area. Two playgrounds located in Shelter #1 area, one suitable for younger and one for older children. 

Croft State Park (1 hour, 30 minutes)

Open daily, 7 a.m. – 6 p.m. $2 adults, 15 and younger free.

Over 45 miles of trails for hiking, biking, and horseback riding. Neat 65 foot expansion bridge over Palmetto Trail. Two lakes. Fishing boat/canoe/kayak day rentals. See site for specific times to rent. No swimming, but you may wade in the Fairforest Creek off one of the trails. Also watch park programs page for equestrian events in the show ring. 

Woods Bay State Park (1 hour, 30 minutes)

Open daily, 9 a.m. – 6 p.m. FREE admission.

Easy nature trail. 1150 foot boardwalk through a cypress tupelo swamp. Experience a carolina bay, an elliptical depression of unknown origin. 

Colleton State Park (1 hour, 20 minutes)

Open daily, 9 a.m. – 6 p.m. FREE admission. 

Headquarters of Edisto River Canoe and Kayak Trail and connects to Givhans Ferry State Park. (See info below.) Easy nature trail and ballfields. 

Givhans Ferry State Park (1 hour, 30 minutes)

Open daily, 9 a.m. – 6 p.m. $5 admission for adults, $3 children 6 – 15, free for 5 and under.

Though this is the farthest of our destinations listed, one of our readers specifically suggested it! She family camps there in the summer, but we think if you have older ones, you may particularly enjoy a long day trip (OK, really long.) We’re fascinated by a bit of the Edisto River history and that you can canoe from this park to another State Park. A canoe trail between Colleton and Givhans Ferry is 21 miles by river and 15 miles by highway. Seven to nine hours paddling time is required for the full distance depending on current. There are also two hiking trails, a longer and shorter one.

Which park is YOUR favorite? What would you add to the list?

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Melanie McGehee never knew she wanted to be a mom. Even marriage caught her somewhat by surprise, in spite of the fact that she met husband Andy through a matchmaking service. She thanked eharmony by writing about that experience for an anthology, A Cup of Comfort for Women in Love. Almost two years to the day after marrying him, she stared at two pink lines and wonder aloud, “Is this okay?” His response, “Kind of late to be asking that now.” It was a bit late – in life. But at the advanced maternal age of 35, she delivered by surprise at 35 weeks and an emergency C-section, a healthy bay boy. Ian, an only child like herself, is ten years old and unlike any of the children Melanie has tutored, substitute taught, or led in a variety of church activities. Together with him, Melanie has discovered Thomas, SpongeBob, youtube tech channels, Lemony Snicket, Kate DiCamillo, shirts with no tags, and tooth powder. You can follow Melanie’s personal adventures and her love of children and teaching at beingmissmelanie.


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