I don’t play golf. I had to explain that a few times because it seems the biggest draw to Cheraw State Park is the golf course. But during my two nights in a rustic cabin, I discovered hiking trails, kayaking on the lake, and everything you would need to have a comfortable weekend at this South Carolina state park.
Cheraw State Park
Located around the 300-acre manmade Lake Juniper, Cheraw State Park is a peaceful retreat with rustic cabins, small campground, hiking trails, and an 18-hole championship golf course. At this remote state park, days are spent fishing, kayaking, or golfing, while nights are spent around cozy campfires or screened-in porches.
The land of Cheraw State Park was the first in South Carolina to be set aside for the development of a state park. In 1934, after a local movement by children in nearby Cheraw collecting pennies, a total of 7,361 acres were purchased and donated to the state. A few years later, construction of the lake and many park buildings began with the Civilian Conservation Corps.
100 State Park Road, Cheraw, SC | 843-537-9656 | southcarolinaparks.com/cheraw
Cheraw State Park Golf Course
The long driveway into Cheraw State Park offers glimpses of the golf course between the longleaf pine trees. It’s one of just two golf courses in a South Carolina state park, the other one located at Hickory Knob State Resort Park.
A round of golf at Cheraw State Park includes a few hours on a course with rolling hills, sand traps, and occasionally a peaceful view of Lake Juniper. The towering longleaf pines create a natural barrier around the course that has been known to showcase wildlife from time to time; the course is a certified Audubon International Wildlife Sanctuary.
The comfortable clubhouse has a refreshment lounge with a view of the course, pro shop with a small selection of equipment and clothing, golf cart rentals, and a short driving range. The 18-hole course features a par 72, Tifdwarf Bermuda turf, and a pro rating of 73.4. A round of golf costs $25-$45, including golf cart rental.
I love anything to do with water, so you can imagine how thrilled I was to discover Lake Juniper. The 360-acre lake was a product of the Civilian Conservation Corps during the park’s construction in the 1930s. It’s a small lake, but without a marina pushing boats into the water like dogs at a swimming pool that lake felt enormous and serene.
Shortly after unloading at the cabin, I went back to the park office to visit the beach. Yes, Lake Juniper has a sandy beach. I say “sandy” because I want to note it’s not rocky, pebbles, or patches of grass and mud, but rather an actual sandy beach.
A line of picnic tables with large umbrellas was an inviting place to watch the setting sun. The day trip visitors were long gone, and I had the entire beach to myself. The sun was getting low, the shadows long, and a gentle breeze gave me goosebumps from excitement. Could this state park be any more peaceful?
A stack of kayaks and canoes at the edge of the beach caught my attention. Visitors can rent them for $10 per hour or $30 per day. The only motorboats allowed on Lake Juniper are tiny fishing boats with 10hp engines, so kayaking through the cypress trees would be a fantastic experience. I had already discovered a reason to come back someday.
Hiking and Biking Trails
There were only two hiking trails in Cheraw State Park and a single mountain biking trail. I’m all for getting on a bicycle, but I’m more for rail-trails than rough and challenging mountain biking trails.
The 0.5-mile Boardwalk Trail was one of my favorite places I spent sunset all year. The trail connects the park office with the campground with a wooden boardwalk along the edge of the lake. A slight bend in the boardwalk puts visitors into the corner of the lake and out of sight of anything manmade, other than the lake. The trail also crosses the small dam on a gorgeous footbridge.
The 4.5-mile Cheraw Nature and Turkey Oak Trail was a casual walk in the woods. I took a shortcut about midway through the trail, cutting it down to just a 2-mile loop, but that was enough to enjoy the walk through the longleaf pine forest.
The 9-mile Cheraw Mountain Bike Trail is not technically challenging but instead built for speed. The sandy trail doesn’t have many hills or inclines. Riders on the trail will enjoy an escape into the forest, along with several twists and turns.
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When I parked in front of the rustic cabin where I would spend the next two nights, I let loose one of those profoundly satisfying sighs. Two aidrondack chairs flanked a picnic table, and a rocking chair sat in the corner of the screened-in porch. It was perfect.
Inside, however, I realized the 1930s-era cabin built by the CCC could use some updating. A mission style futon was the only seating in the living room, and a television hung awkwardly in front of the large windows. The kitchen was compact, and the bathroom reminded me of that time I toured a WWII aircraft carrier.
The sleeping arrangement was a bit weird. The one-bedroom cabin came with two twin beds in the bedroom and a murphy queen bed in the living room. After spending the first night nearly falling out of the twin bed several times, I spent the second night on the futon. I should have given the murphy bed a try, but the futon was actually rather comfortable.
The cabins are very rustic, but they were still comfortable. Climate control worked perfectly, the kitchen had all the appliances and accessories for cooking meals, and the bedding was comfy. It’s the kind of cabin that would make a lovely retreat for a couple or solo travelers who want to spend more time exploring than sitting around all day.
There are eight one-bedroom cabins at Cheraw State Park and a single four-bedroom villa. The four-bedroom villa, Cabin #9, includes five twin beds, one twin bunk bed, and a queen bed. It’s the only accessible cabin in the park. All the cabins included linens, towels, and cooking accessories.
The campground at Cheraw State Park is located on the opposite side of Lake Juniper from the park office and accessed via a separate entrance road. The small campground only includes 16 campsites with a single accessible site.
The campsites are packed gravel and do not include tent pads. Most of the sites can accommodate RVs up to 40’. The restroom and shower facilities are centrally located in the campground loop, and trash collection and a dump station are located near the entrance.
Favorite Campsite at Cheraw State Park
Campsites #6-#12 are waterfront. Many years ago, I spent a night at Campsite #11. It’s the smallest of all the sites and was perfect for my small dome tent. I watched the sunset across Lake Juniper that night while cooking my dinner on a campfire and sipping hot apple cider.
Campsite #11 is my favorite in the small state park campground.