Bugs! Snakes! Sweltering heat! Worst National Park in America, were some of the things that I read when looking into taking a day hike into Congaree National Park in Hopkins, South Carolina. I wondered if I was going to ruin my kids adventuring by throwing them into this SWAMP of a National Park. I considered the risks and decided to go for it! What could the worst thing out of this? A mosquito bite?
I have to tell you, Congaree National Park, is a hidden gem. I honestly had never heard of this national park until I started learning and researching parks for our family’s coming summer backcountry hiking adventure. It has such a diverse ecosystem that I wanted my kids to see how the water ebb and flow with precipitation.
We stopped while in route to Florida. I knew this would be a short day trip into Congaree. The visitor center opens at 9am and we were there right at 9! The visitor center is very nice with bathrooms, gift shop and theater to view the video of the history and facts about Congaree National Park.
Because we were short on time we did the 2.4 mile boardwalk loop. I was not sure what to expect. We were pleasantly surprised to see a piliated woodpecker withing 10 min. of starting our hike. (I put a video of it on Instagram.) We were fascinated and watched him for at least 15 min. The noise from his pecking was engaging and just his tenacity for his job was amazing. We had never seen a piliated woodpecker so this was one of many highlights.
As we continued on, we came to the knees of the Cypress trees. This is an awe inspiring sight! We were so amazed by these roots. There were thousands of them and from what I read this area is just a small glimpse into what this amazing National Park has to offer. I think the coolest fact we learned was that they do know really know why this happens. I told the kids that this is a reason to get out and learn and investigate and maybe they would be the one to figure out why the Cypress trees have knees.
The birds were out everywhere and since we were there during winter they were easy to spot. We heard owls talking to each other, little birds flying about and the variety of woodpeckers were fascinating! I was wishing I had some binoculars and believe me this will be one of my purchases in the coming weeks.
Our hike was coming to an end when we heard crashing coming through the woods. Into view came a group of deer who were running and then grazing and running and grazing through the swampy area. The board walk is quite high off the ground where we saw the deer and they ran right underneath us! What a sight!
Whenever we get into nature we are captivated by the sights and sounds. There is so much diversity and life out in the woods. How can one not want to go there and rejuvenate and reconnect with themselves there?
I honestly can not tell you how much we enjoyed Congaree Nation Park! I would encourage you to go during December to April to go when the mosquitoes are not as bad.
**Side note, we stayed in Columbia, SC and it was a short 20 min drive from our hotel.**
SHOUT OUT to the back country hikers from Michigan we saw. Let us know how your trip into the GSMNP went. We’d love to hear from you.