Parks in the Columbia Area
The capital city of South Carolina does not lack for outdoor spaces. You will find parks ranging from as large as a national park to a small local neighborhood park. It will all depend on what you wish to do, but the larger parks are the ones we will address here.
A local favorite would certainly be the Congaree National Park with over 26,000 acres of land preserving the largest old growth bottomland hardwood forest in the southeast. The park rests along the Congaree River and has 6 primary trails ranging from 0.7 miles to over 11 miles, one which is a boardwalk. There is also a marked canoe trail that allows visitors to get a true feel for the beauty of the park and some of its hidden treasures. Primitive camping is allowed in designated areas although a permit is required. During the warmer weather, the park offers specialty events and activities. This is truly a special place, so be sure to stop by, but also be sure to bring some mosquito repellant during warm, wet weather as this is prime mosquito habitat.
Also favorites of locals are the two local State parks. Sesquicentennial State Park is located on the northeast side of Columbia off of Two Notch Road. This park includes a beautiful, but small lake which can be used for fishing, canoeing/kayaking and includes a swimming area that is open during the summer months. The park has a rather lengthy trail system that is a favorite of hikers and mountain bikers alike. Campsites are also available for those who enjoy camping and the park also houses a conference center with lodging. The second of the local State parks is Dreher Island State Park located on Lake Murray in the Lexington area. Due to the smallness of the island, the trail system is not as extensive, but it does provide a look at the entire island. Camping is also available here and this park has 5 cabins along the lake that are for rent. The park has 3 boat ramps providing access to the lake for those interested in a day of playing or fishing on the lake. Both of our local State parks has something unique and special to offer residents and visitors of the Columbia and Lexington areas.
In downtown Columbia you will find Finlay Park, a really beautiful addition to the downtown area. Pay a visit to the park just for the view from the top of the water fountain by sitting along the edge of the fountain or by sitting in a swing. Follow the waterfall to the bottom and enjoy the are below that has a lovely pond and a vast green space that can be used to throw a Frisbee or read a book in the sun. Throughout the year, a variety of events are held in this park to include a concert series held every Saturday evening throughout the summer. This is truly one of Columbia’s most enjoyable and picturesque parks to visit any time of the year.
Another terrific park on the northeast side of Columbia is the Carolina Children’s Garden on the Clemson University and Sandhills campus. These gardens offer a wonderful array of teaching environments for children in a natural, park-like setting. There is plenty of space for children to run and play as well as activities that allow them to learning about the natural environment around them. This is a favorite place of many parents for birthday parties. Children of all ages will enjoy this two acre natural oasis in the middle of a busy urban residential area.
In the Lexington area on Old Broad River Road is another of the areas terrific parks. Saluda Shoals Park is located along the Saluda River, which is a great river to canoe or kayak one. The park even has kayaks for rent and frequently offers scheduled trips and a shuttle for the return trip to the park. The park is also a favorite of local fisherman who enjoy fishing for striped bass. In addition to the river activities, the park itself has both paved and woodland trails for hiking and biking. There is even a trail established for individuals who wish to bring their horses to ride. The park also has a beautiful Environmental Education Center where young and old alike can learn about the history of the Lake Murray Dam, which resides upstream from the park, as well as displays teaching about the Native American History and the natural ecology of the area. Included in the building is an auditorium, classrooms, and a room available for conferences. In addition, Saluda Shoals Park has a variety of specialty events that are offered throughout the year, with an annual favorite being the Holiday Lights on the River during the Christmas holiday. This is truly one of the areas nicest parks in the area, so be sure to stop by for a day and bring a picnic basket along.
This is a highlight to the largest of the parks in the area, but is in no way a comprehensive list of all the parks in Richland and Lexington County. There are many smaller parks, primarily community and neighborhood parks, scattered throughout both counties with some including a community center that offers locals activities to participate in. Be sure to pick up a local map of the area to locate some of these parks. With all of the parks in the Columbia and Lexington areas, residents will never lack for an exciting place to go to enjoy the natural environment of central South Carolina.