Congaree National Park, located in the middle of South Carolina, is a secret treasure for admiring the beauty of fall colors. Compared to many other parks, it is still relatively unexplored and attracts far fewer tourists. Only a little over 200,000 people visited the park in 2022, compared to over 4 million at Acadia National Park in Maine, a popular destination for those who love to see fall colors. Congaree National Park offers a beautiful and quiet fall experience away from the hustle and bustle of visitors.
Congaree National Park is pleased to have the largest intact old-growth hardwood bottomland forest in the southeastern United States, although it may not be as well known. Imagine imposing cypress trees dropping their rust-colored leaves gracefully into the marshy waters below, or vibrant tupelo trees forming magnificent streaks of crimson and gold.
The fall foliage season in Congaree begins later than in most of New England, as fall colors in the region peak in late October or early November. Unlike the Northeast, the fall season in this South Carolina park is pleasant. Daytime high temperatures for tourists are about 70 degrees Fahrenheit.
Going kayaking or canoeing in the park is a great option in the fall. One of the most popular activities in Congaree is sailing. A day trip or overnight backpacking trip is also available. Enjoy the fall foliage as you paddle through the forest and past the towering, beautifully colored trees that line the river.
You’ll like some of the many hiking paths that Congaree National Park has to offer if you prefer more traditional adventure activities. Try the Boardwalk Loop Trail for a short trip that passes a wide variety of trees that are illuminated in the fall.
Along a sloping ridge, many oak trees line the Oakridge Trail, which is more difficult. On this walk, you might also see some of the park’s wildlife, like deer and wild turkey. With little elevation gain, the majority of the paths are rather flat.
There are two front-country campgrounds in the park where you can stay overnight if one day is not enough for you. Both require reservations and are available year-round. These campgrounds charge only $10 to $15 per night for campsites. For a true wilderness experience, you can also camp in the backcountry with a valid permit. South Carolina’s state capital, Columbia, is only a 25-minute drive from Congaree, so you can easily combine your stay with a city experience. You can combine leaf picking in the park with a trip to a corn maze or one of the other historic haunted buildings if you’re in the area around Halloween.
If you would like to stay in the park, close to nature you can check out #congaree Cottage Tree House B&B, Saint Matthews Outlaw Gameroom with Fire Pit!, Cheery Swansea Home on Calmont Pond with Dock! or Gypsy Camper which has a bunch of cozy cabins.
Some Other Activities You Can Do Around The Congaree National Park In The Fall:
Columbia Riverbanks Zoo: Located in nearby Columbia, the Riverbanks Zoo offers a chance to see a variety of animals and enjoy seasonal events. Fall can be an excellent time to visit with cooler weather and fewer crowds.
Historical Sites: Explore the rich history of the region by visiting nearby historical sites and museums. The South Carolina State Museum in Columbia and the Lexington County Museum are great options.
Outdoor Recreation: The fall weather is ideal for outdoor activities like hiking, biking, and kayaking in the nearby rivers and lakes. You can find several state parks and recreational areas within a short drive.
Fishing: Fishing enthusiasts can cast their lines in the Congaree River or nearby Lake Murray, known for its excellent fishing opportunities. The fall season can be particularly rewarding for anglers.
Fall Festivals: Check out local fall festivals and events that often take place in the Columbia area. You might find events celebrating the harvest season, arts and crafts fairs, and more.
Birdwatching: Fall is a great time for birdwatching in the region. The diverse habitats around Congaree National Park attract various bird species, making it a birdwatcher’s paradise.
Stargazing: The clear fall nights offer excellent stargazing opportunities. Consider bringing a telescope or simply lay back and gaze at the night sky, away from city lights.