This year, in August, the National Park Service is celebrating 100 years. This centennial is an excuse to try and visit as many National Parks this year as we possibly can. In South Carolina, that meant that we got to spend a day hiking at Congaree National Park.
Congaree National Park the “Home of Champions” and is the largest intact expanse of old growth bottomland hardwood forest remaining in the southeastern United States. Waters from the Congaree and Wateree Rivers sweep through the floodplain, carrying nutrients and sediments that nourish and rejuvenate this ecosystem and support the growth of national and state champion trees. Congaree National Park | NPS
Congaree is hot, humid, and just all around a moist and sticky place. I am incredibly allergic to mosquito bites so I was a bit nervous heading out into forest, but felt slightly more at-ease when I saw their Mosquito Meter set to a bearable low level. Thankfully, I am happy to report that I left Congaree National Park with exactly zero bug bites.
All the trails begin along this boardwalk. The path then branches out so you can head in the direction of the trail of your choice. Austin and I opted for the River Trail. Congaree’s River Trail is a moderately difficult 10 mile loop.
This trail leads to the Congaree River, the lifeblood of the park’s great natural diversity. Approximately ten times a year, the river overflows its banks and pulses water throughout the bottomland forest. When the river is low, a large sandbar may be visible. Much of the forest along the river was logged prior to the park’s establishment and vegetation here is notably denser than that of other trails. Congaree Trail Guide | NPS
The foliage was so lush and green. After growing up in Southern California, I still find myself in awe and amazed by greenery and flourishing plant life.
Once the boardwalk ended, we felt like the hike had finally begun.
This way for the River Trail!
Narrow pathways and growth as high as my waist made this hike unlike any I had done before.
Not too long after exiting the boardwalk, we encountered this massive felled tree. All of the roots were exposed and it was definitely one of the most fascinating parts of the hike. I felt so incredibly tiny standing next to it.
Sunflower seeds have become our favorite hiking snack to much on while we walk.
When you’re on a 10 mile hike, you walk for a long time. Since it was mostly a flat, leisurely walk, Austin and I found a lot to talk about as we journeyed on. The conversations we have while we hike are some of my favorites and I am so happy to be married to my best friend who loves exploring the outdoors just as much as I do.
We finally made it to the Congaree River! For something called the River Trail, we had expected to see a lot more of the river, but this quick visit made us smile and was the perfect time to pause in the midst of the hike before the trail looped us back toward the Visitor’s Center.
The best hikes end with muddy knees. So either this was a fantastic hike or I just don’t know how to stay on my feet. Let’s go with both.
Once we had finished the hike we were tired, sweaty, and hungry. We washed the mud off our legs and went out for a late lunch. What is it about hiking that makes food taste so much more amazing after? Anyway, our day at Congaree National Park was a splendid adventure and we’re so glad that we were able to cross it off of our National Parks To Visit List. Excited to see which National Park is going to be next!
Have you been to Congaree National Park?
What National Parks will you be visiting this year?