SC State Parks of the Lowcountry

The view from Hunting Island’s lighthouse is breathtaking. Photo from subaruoutback.org.

South Carolina is a beautiful state. Our landscape includes beaches, mountains, and everything in between. Much of our natural beauty is preserved in state parks. These destinations are meticulously maintained for your enjoyment. Whether your visit is for a day, or an extended holiday, the SC Lowcountry has five state parks that each hold special treasures.

Hunting Island State Park

Hunting Island State Park is the most popular park in the state. Over one million visitors visit each year. The Lowcountry barrier island contains five miles of beautiful beaches, a saltwater lagoon along with 5,000 acres of maritime forest and marsh. Hunting Island is also home to the state’s only publicly accessible lighthouse. Visitors are encouraged to climb the 167 steps to the top and observe the breath-taking views of the maritime forest and beach from 130 feet above.

Hunting Island camping photo from the Dyrt.

Hunting Island State park also has a 100-site campground that sits directly on the beach. Amenities include water and electrical hookups, shower and restroom facilities, beach walkways and a playground. There is also one cabin near the lighthouse. Visiting the park’s nature center should be on your list of things to do. There you can see interesting creatures and regularly scheduled programs for you to enjoy.

Every time you visit Hunting Island, visitors notice change. This barrier island is a temporary stop for many migrating birds as well as those who stick around all year. The ocean forces have been known to wreak havoc on the coastline, which is ever-changing. The saltwater lagoon was created by sand dredging in 1968. This beautiful waterway is a great area for kayaking, crabbing and fishing. Seahorses and barracuda have also been spotted in the lagoon. This area is also a great backdrop for a picnic on a sunny day.

The maritime forest of Hunting Island was used in the films Forrest Gump and Jungle Book.
Photo found on Trip Advisor.

Higher inland areas of the park contain some of the state’s best examples of semi-tropical maritime forest and ancient sand dunes. The dunes are now covered in slash pines, cabbage palmetto and live oaks. Nature trails are interwoven throughout this area for closer inspection. Look for deer and raccoons when traveling through the forest. Alligators can be spotted in the freshwater ponds. The island is also a great spot for bird watching. Painted buntings, tanagers and orioles can be spotted in the trees. Pelicans, oystercatchers, skimmers, terns, herons, egrets and wood storks can be seen along the shores and in the sky.

The beaches on Hunting Island are important habitat for shorebirds and sea birds. They use the beach to feed, and nest. Migrating birds use the beach as well.  Some areas of the beach designated for birds only. Guests are always encouraged to keep out of posted areas and keep dogs on a leash to protect these important birding grounds. The beaches of Hunting Island are also important nesting areas for loggerhead sea turtles during the summer months.

The Marsh Boardwalk photo by Carmen Pinckney.

The park has several hiking trails that make their way across the island. These trails are easy and can be combined to lengthen the experience. The trails wind along the lagoon and through the maritime forest through various wildlife habitats. They can also take you deep into the interior of the maritime forest where the habitat supports a population of deer, raccoon, owls, hawks and squirrels. The Marsh Boardwalk Trail is a designated National Recreational Trail. It is a wooden boardwalk that leads to a dock that provides a great area for viewing life in the salt marsh. The dock is also the perfect spot for observing beautiful sunsets. There is even a hiking trail from the campground to the lighthouse so campers can walk to the iconic landmark without getting into traffic or dealing with the effects of high tide. More experienced hikers will enjoy the Diamondback Rattlesnake Trail. This moderately strenuous trail is for experienced hikers and mountain bikers only.

Hunting Island lighthouse image found on the State Parks website.

Climbing to the top of the historic Hunting Island Lighthouse should be on the bucket list of anyone visiting the island. Anyone over the height of 44” can climb the 167 steps to the top where the views are worth the trip. From the top you can see a panoramic view of the maritime forest and Atlantic Ocean. The lighthouse is open daily, except for Christmas day and in the event of inclement weather. The original lighthouse was built in 1859. It was destroyed during the Civil War, then rebuilt in 1875. It was built of interchangeable cast-iron sections so it could be dismantled if it ever needs to be moved. This proved beneficial because that is exactly what happened in 1889. The lighthouse was moved 1.3 miles inland due to beach erosion. In 2003 cracks were discovered in several of the cast iron steps leading up.  A crew spent more than 18 months making repairs and installing steel braces beneath the stairs for reinforcement. The braces were left unpainted, which creates a contrast with the original structure which protects the lighthouse’s historic integrity.

If you haven’t already, make plans to visit Hunting Island State Park. Climb to the top of the lighthouse. Enjoy the sunrise as you walk along the beach. Search for shells and shark’s teeth along the surf. Stop at the nature center and view the alligators. Experience the sunset from the Marsh Boardwalk and explore the eight miles of walking and biking trails. Come to the place where time stands still, and memories last a lifetime.

Hunting Island State Park
2555 Sea Island Pkwy
Hunting Island, SC 29920
843-838-2011

For more information on this and other SC Lowcountry state parks visit https://southcarolinalowcountry.com/state-parks/

For more information on other Beaufort County attractions visit https://southcarolinalowcountry.com/beaufort-port-royal-area/

Edisto Beach State Park

If you are in search of a great oceanfront campground, look no further than Edisto Beach State Park. The park is rich in Native American history, wildlife, hiking and biking opportunities, as well as two campgrounds, cabins and 1.5 miles of pristine shell-covered beachfront. The park is made up of 1,255 acres of maritime forest along the beautiful SC coastline. There you will find the environmental learning center, ranger station, and welcome station.

Seashells are abundant at Edisto Island State Park. Photo by Danie Becknell.

Edisto Beach, along with its neighboring Botany Bay, is famous for its seashells. While Botany Bay does not allow the collection of shells, Edisto Beach State Park does. The Edisto Beach State Park also has 4 miles of ADA accessible trails for hiking and biking. These trails take you through maritime forest, historic monuments, and a Native American shell mound. These trails are also great for bird watching. Many shore and wading birds can be seen here.  The park is a nesting area for loggerhead sea turtles. You can also spot white-tailed deer, raccoons, alligators, bobcats, and opossums.

Furnished cabins sit nestled in the woods, and campsites can be found along the Edisto Island oceanfront or in the shaded maritime forest. There are 120 campsites that accommodate RVs or tents. There are seven cabins located on the salt marsh.

Campsites are only steps away from the ocean at Edisto Beach State Park.
Photo by Trina Truong.

While visiting the environmental learning center you can learn about the ACE Basin and more, featuring interactive displays including a touch tank. The ACE Basin is an estuary that is made from the Ashepoo, Combahee and Edisto Rivers. This is the largest undeveloped estuary along the Atlantic Coast. Mornings at Edisto State Park can be spent hunting for turtle tracks. You can also cast a line and enjoy some of the island’s best fishing in Scott Creek Inlet.  If you’re a boater, launch into Big Bay Creek and enjoy a day of fishing or exploring the waters of the ACE Basin.

Relax and breath in the salt air at Edisto Beach State Park.
Photo by Barbara Hatlaban.

The park also includes picnic shelters and a park store. The park offers a mile and a half of beach where surf fishing is allowed.
Other locations include Steamboat Landing, Old bridge replaced by the McKinley Washington Bridge, and along the banks of Scott’s Creek along the Spanish Mount trail. There is also a small dock in the cabin area for cabin guests only. 

Hike the trails at Edisto Beach State Park.
Photo by Elizabeth Faulkner.

For more information on the park and other fun things to do in the Edisto Beach area visit southcarolinalowcountry.com/edisto-beach/. For day trip ideas visit southcarolinalowcountry.com/edisto-beach/day-trips.

Edisto Beach State Park
8377 State Cabin Rd
Edisto Island, SC 29438
843-869-2156

Lake Warren State Park

Sunsets at Lake Warren State Park are remarkable. Photo by
LennyDrew Armstrong.

Lake Warren State Park is located just outside Hampton. The park provides many opportunities for outdoor recreation. A wide variety of wildlife can be found in the floodplain forest, wetlands and woodlands of the park. While walking in the park look for deer, armadillo, turtles, raccoons, squirrels… Be on the lookout for alligators, snakes and birds along the shores of the lake. The 200-acre lake is perfect for freshwater fishing and boating. The park also has a 2-acre fishing pond. There are two boat ramps that provide access to the lake. Motors are limited to 10-horsepower. Jon boats are also available for rent.

Fish or sightsee from the pier at Lake Warren State Park.
Photo by SC Lowcountry Tourism Commission.

If you enjoy hiking, the park has three nature trails. Trail locations can be found on the park MAP. The Nature Trail is a 1.25-mile loop that travels through the woods and ends at the fishing pond. Interpretive signs are placed along this trail to increase your knowledge of local wildlife. The Fit Trail has 10 exercise stations. This .0-mile loop is located among the wildlife in a mixed pine forest. The Yemassee Trail skirts along the bank of Lake Warren. Watch for birds and other wildlife including snakes and alligators.

Take a break from hiking on this dock at Lake Warren State Park.
Photo by Jennifer Mohorovic.

Pets are welcome at the park. The trails are a great place to walk your dog. Dogs must always be kept under physical restraint or on a leash. The park also has picnic shelters and a playground. It’s a great place to spend a sunny day. If you’re looking to fish, hike, play or relax, Lake Warren State Park is the perfect destination for you.

Lake Warren State Park is a great spot for photographers. Photo by Bruce Fisher.

For more ideas visit https://southcarolinalowcountry.com/hampton-brunson-estill-day-trips/

Lake Warren State Park
1079 Lake Warren Road
Hampton, SC 29924
803-943-5051

Colleton State Park

Canoeing and kayaking on the Edisto River is a fun pastime for visitors at the Colleton State Park.
Photo by southcarolinaparks.com.

The Colleton State Park is a paddlers paradise. The 35-acre park is conveniently located off I-95 at Exit 68. The park provides easy access to the Edisto River, one of the longest free-flowing, blackwater rivers in the country, and serves as the headquarters for the Edisto River Canoe and Kayak Trail. Although it is the smallest of South Carolina’s state parks, it connects to Givhans Ferry State Park 23 miles away via the Edisto River.

Campsites overlook the river at Colleton State Park. Photo by Jason P.

If you are interested in camping, fishing, picnicking, boating, canoeing, kayaking, swimming, birdwatching, geocaching or biking, this park is perfect for you. Other amenities at Colleton include an easy nature trail, a campground, picnic shelters and ballfields. There is also an air-conditioned cabin that is available that overlooks the Edisto River. This rustic cabin sleeps six and includes two sets of bunk beds, heating and air conditioning, a fireplace, indoor lights, electrical outlets small refrigerator and microwave. The 25 campsites come complete with water and electricity.

Hike the trails at Colleton State Park. Photo by Maryann F.

The Cypress Swamp Nature Trail runs along the bank of the Edisto River. This easy trail has a self-guided nature brochure, and the trail has numbered signs to help identify a variety of trees and plants including cypress, poplar, hickory, sweetgum, maple, dogwood, birch, and magnolia. You can follow the canoe dock boardwalk spur trail to the dark water of Edisto River. Watch for a variety of birds, deer, turtles, snakes, and other wildlife.

The Colleton State Park borders the Edisto River. Photo by Jon Lugoff.

Pets are allowed in most outdoor areas provided they are kept under physical restraint or on a leash not longer than six feet. Owners will be asked to remove noisy or dangerous pets or pets that threaten or harass wildlife. Pets are not allowed in or around lodging facilities.

Whether it’s boating, fresh-water fishing or just sharing stories around the campfire, you’ll find everything you need to at Colleton State Park.

Colleton State Park
147 Wayside Ln
Walterboro, SC 29488
843-538-8206

Givhans Ferry State Park

Givhans Ferry State Park is nestled along the Edisto River. It’s the perfect place to get away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Camping spots and cabins are available for rent. Four cabins with screened back porches overlook the river. Separate sites are available for tent, RV and primitive camping. There’s even a riverfront hall that’s available for events. The hall was built during the Roosevelt administration during the Great Depression as a part of the New Deal Program. As a matter of fact, the entire park was created by the Civilian Conservation Corps, which provided jobs during the 1930’s which addressed the need for the country to conserve natural beauty and create recreational spots to enjoy nature.

Givhans Ferry State Park also borders the Edisto River. Photo by Trinity Ford.

Once upon a time, this site was the crossing point for a ferry to move travelers across the Edisto River on the road from Augusta to Charleston. It was named after Phillip Givhan, the area ferry master during the late 1700’s. His granddaughter’s burial site is located on park property. The park’s riverbanks are protected as a Heritage Trust Site.

Givhans Ferry State Park is part of the Edisto River Canoe and Kayak Trail. Photo by Trinity Ford.

Givhans Ferry State Park is a part of the Edisto River Canoe and Kayak Trail. Bring your gear and have someone drop you off at the Colleton State Park for the 23-mile paddling adventure that will bring you back to the park. The Edisto River is the longest free-flowing blackwater river in North America. View rare plants that thrive along the limestone bluffs as you paddle along the riverbanks. Plan on this trip taking between seven and nine hours.

Hike through the forest at Givhans Ferry State Park. Photo by Trinity Ford.

A hike along the 1.5-mile River Bluff Nature Trail is another good way to see the flora and fauna found at Givhans Ferry State Park.  Hike across moderately steep slopes and a canal and overlook the river from the bluffs. View Cypress trees that grow majestically from the river floor. Don’t forget to look for local wildlife along the trail. The trail is an excellent spot for birdwatching.

If you enjoy casting a line, fishing gear can be obtained at the park office. The park participates in the Park Loaner Program sponsored by the SC Dept. of Natural Resources. A valid SC fishing license is required. Fish for flathead, catfish, red breast, channel catfish, largemouth bass, striped bass, shellcrackers, blue catfish and eels. Fish from the riverbank or bring along the boat. Access to a boat ramp can be found just a few miles away from the park.

Swimming is permitted at the park. No lifeguard is on duty and all swimming is at your own risk. Geocaching is also permitted. Several are located throughout the park. Souvenirs are available at the park store. There you will find t-shirts, caps, mugs, patches and other goodies.

RV and primitive campsites are available at Givhans Ferry State Park along with cabin rentals.
Photo by Gene Dennis.

The park encompasses 988 acres of natural habitat. Amenities include 35 campsites with electrical and water hook-up, four 2-bedroom cabins, and a site for primitive group camping. Two picnic shelters and a playground are also available. The park also has volleyball courts, horseshoe pits and games that are available for check-out at the park office. A Wi-Fi signal can be found at the park office. Make your reservations today to enjoy all that nature has to offer at the Givhan’s Ferry State Park.

Givhans Ferry State Park
746 Givhans Ferry Rd.
Ridgeville, SC 29472
843-873-0692

Reservations for all South Carolina State Park Campgrounds can be made by calling 1-866-345-7275. Visit the South Carolina State Parks Website for more information on these, and other parks in the Palmetto State.

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