An easy 2.4 mile loop trail through the beautiful old growth forest at Congaree National Park. A great hike for kids!
In the heart of Congaree National Park is the beautiful and popular boardwalk trail that provides a great overview of the unique characteristics of this relatively new national park. With virtually no elevation change this 2.4 mile trail, that is in exceptionally good condition, is very easy to walk and can be enjoyed by most everyone including those with strollers and wheelchairs. The park also provides self-guided tour brochures for the Boardwalk trail so that you can learn all about the natural and cultural history of the park.
The Boardwalk trail is located at the Harry Hampton Visitor Center at 100 National Park Road in Hopkins South Carolina. There is excellent signage leading to the park and more than ample parking. The visitor’s center is very nice with picnic tables and a gift shop where you can pick up any last minute items you may need. Be sure to check the Mosquito Meter and get some repellant if needed. Congaree National Park is about 30 minutes from Columbia South Carolina or 2 hours from Charleston South Carolina.
Before heading out to hike the boardwalk trail, be sure to check the trail conditions. Since most of the park is in a floodplain, there will be times when some portions of the trail may be underwater. This occurs approximately 10 times a year but could happen anytime. Visit the National Park website at www.nps.gov/cong for the latest trail conditions.
The trailhead starts at the back of the visitor center just past the restrooms and drinking fountains. Be sure to pick up a map and a self guided tour brochure before you head out. The tour brochure provides detailed historic, cultural, and biological information for a series of numbered stops along the path.
As you head out on the trail, you quickly distance yourself from the visitor’s center and are in the forest. There is good potential to see a lot of wildlife including a number of birds. Our suggestion is to not rush things and walk quietly. Take your time and enjoy everything the forest has to offer.
Shortly after starting the trail the return part of the loop intersects from the left but you will want to stay straight to continue on the trail. The trail makes a wide loop through the forest with several points of interest along the way. As you reach the far corner of the loop and the boardwalk trail turns left, there are a few other trails that continue straight including the Weston Lake Loop which, if you take, extends the loop out to Wise Lake and back around to Weston Lake before rejoining the Boardwalk Trail again. This addition if you chose to take it will make your total hike 4.4 miles.
Continuing on the Boardwalk trail you will crossover the Sims trail. This out and back trail offers another path to Wise Lake.
As you walk on the boardwalk past the Sims trail, look for the large loblolly pine at marker #10 of the guided tour. This former state champion is over 150ft tall and is an impressive pine.
As you near the far corner of the trail there is a short spur that takes you to a nice overlook of Weston Lake. This is a beautiful spot to visit and was the highlight of the trail for us. You are a little shy of the half way mark so take a rest at the long bench and enjoy the sights and sounds from the Boardwalk Trail at Congaree National Park. We loved observing the turtles at this overlook.
When you have finished enjoying the overlook, continue straight on the boardwalk as it loops back towards the visitor center. Take your time to examine and read about all of the marked points of interest along the trail. When you pass over the start of the Sims Trail, you only have about 1/2 to go until you complete the loop.
When you complete the loop, turn right to return to the visitor’s center to complete your hike along the Boardwalk trail at the Congaree National Park.