Congaree National Park Hiking Trails: Our Top 5 Favorite Hikes

The Congaree National Park, created in 1976, is located on the Congaree River and is home to the largest stretch of ancient-growth floodplain forest in North America. 

This area used to be home to extensive marshes, which formed part of a huge system of floodplain, swamp forest, bottomland hardwood forest, and oxbow lakes. 

So, whether it's your next hike, bike ride, canoeing excursion, or fishing trip, this park has something for everyone in the family!

Hike #1: Boardwalk Loop Trail

The Boardwalk Loop is a short trail that offers the chance to experience hardwood forest, swamps, meadows, and floodplain forest with its elevated boardwalks. 

The trail starts near the edge of the Visitor Center parking lot and passes through a grove of cypress trees, before reaching a platform overlooking the Congaree River.

From here, you can see an open meadow in the distance, known as 100-Acre or Harry Hampton Memorial Wildlife Management Area. 

The Boardwalk Loop Trail then crosses over Cedar Creek, where you will find the other end of the Congaree Bluff Trail!

The full loop is 2 miles long, making the path easy to travel with children and those who may not be as mobile. 

  • Total Distance: 2.0 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 9 feet
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Route Type: Loop 
  • Other Info: 
  • Navigable for most wheelchairs and mobility equipment or stroller users.
  • Dogs on a leash are permitted 
  • Hike #2: Weston Lake Loop Trail

    The Weston Lake Loop Trail is one of the most scenic trails in the park.

    The trail starts with a short uphill climb through the Cypress swamp, and then rises on higher ground, where wildflowers abound! 

    The route continues along a level path through bottomland hardwood forest and over marshy ground to the edge of Douglas Swamp, where you can follow the swamp's shoreline and take in the breathtaking sights.

    The trail then follows an elevated boardwalk that takes you across the swamp, where you'll have an unforgettable view of the Congaree River. 

    This is a beautiful place to be on an early morning or evening when you can catch some amazing wildlife in this quiet area. 

    • Total Distance: 4.6 miles
    • Elevation Gain: 16 feet
    • Difficulty: Easy
    • Route Type: Loop 
    • Other Info: 
  • This trail may be closed depending on flooding conditions. 
  • Pets on a leash are permitted 
  • Hike #3: Oakridge Trail

    The Oakridge Trail is a stretch of unpaved roads that run along the Congaree River.

    This is yet another excellent choice for visitors who wish to see the park's beauty without having to go on a long trek.

    Go toward the Weston Lake Loop, once you are at the fork in the boardwalk. The Oakridge Loop Trail begins at the Cedar Creek footbridge. 

    When you start on this trail, there is a marker about every quarter mile to make traveling easy and to know how far you've gone. 

    This path also crosses through various ecosystems, including woodpecker-infested woods, barred owl-filled marshes, great blue heron habitats, and other migratory songbird meadows.

    So make sure you are prepared with your phone to take pictures, because once you see them, they will be gone in an instant!

    If you want to see the beauty of this place, you definitely won't forget it.

    • Total Distance: 6.3 miles
    • Elevation Gain: 19 feet
    • Difficulty: Easy
    • Route Type: Loop 
    • Other Info: 
  • Pets on a leash are permitted, but not on the boardwalk
  • Hike #4: River Trail

    The River Trail follows Cedar Creek through the forest. Although hikers mainly used it, the River Trail can also be accessed via bikes.

    Some highlights of the park include a trek through the park's forest, a stroll along Boggy Gut, where there is a famous haunt tale, and a trip along Duck Pond, which is home to beautiful Tupelo-Cypress marshes.

    The River Trail is the perfect walk for people looking to explore its natural beauty. 

    Because the trail is so long, numerous species of animals may be seen on it, including alligators and turtles basking on the bank are likely, as well as larger creatures such as white-tailed deer and river otters!

    • Total Distance: 9.9 miles
    • Elevation Gain: 52 feet
    • Difficulty: Moderate
    • Route Type: Loop 
    • Other Info: 
  • Pets on a leash are permitted 
  • Hike #5: Kingsnake Trail

    The King Snake Trail takes visitors through some of the wildest areas in the park.

    The best part about this hike is that there are no marked stops. You are free to be creative with your own adventure! 

    This trail takes visitors along narrow crowder pea-filled trails surrounded by longleaf pines and baby blue-eyed grasses, which are great for bird watching.

    There is a lot you can do on this hike, such as seeing the large trees that line this area, spotting wildlife like white-tailed deer and various birds native to the park, and exploring some areas with dense forestation without staying on marked trails.

    As long as you are prepared for this adventure, you will have a great time exploring the Kingsnake Trail at Congaree National Park!

    • Total Distance: 7.8 miles
    • Elevation Gain: 22 feet
    • Difficulty: Moderate
    • Route Type: Out & back 
    • Other Info: 
  • Regularly washed out from flooding rivers—best used from September until May
  • Pets on a leash are permitted
  • For More Information Visit All Trails.

    Congaree National Park is open daily from 7:00 am - 5:00 pm. The park office hours are 8:30 am to 5:00 pm, Monday through Friday.

    Park visitors must exit the park by 6 p.m. (gates close at all times).

    The Harry Hampton Visitor Center is located on State Route 601, about seven miles from downtown Columbia.

    Visitors may also pick up a free map of the park's trails at the Harry Hampton Visitor Center or at the park entrance station.