South Carolina is best known for its beaches, but its national park sites should not be overlooked. Civil War and Revolutionary War sites, forts, hiking trails, and history can be explored at the 7 national park sites of South Carolina.
It took a few years, but I was finally able to visit all seven of these sites. I have taken guided tours, explored self-guided trails, and spent days exploring these historical sites across the state. Which of these is your favorite? Or the next on your list to visit?
Charles Pinckney National Historic Site
Charles Pinckney National Historic Site was formerly Snee Farm, a working plantation once owned by Charles Pinckney. Pinckney was a governor of South Carolina, a United States Senator and Representative, and one of the signers of the Constitution.
This site features a plantation house built after Pinckney’s tenure here that is used as the visitor center, gift shop, and museum today. The park explains the vast genealogy of the Pinckney family and how this particular Pinckney drafted an early version of the Constitution.
The historic site includes the plantation house museum, a covered picnic shelter, and a hiking trail along the edge of the property.
1254 Long Point Road, Mount Pleasant, SC | 843-881-5516 | www.nps.gov/chpi/index.htm
Congaree National Park
Congaree National Park features more trees per acre than any other acre in the country. The Congaree River runs along the edge of the park creating several swamps along the way. The park features several hiking trails including the popular Boardwalk Loop Trail, a 2.5-mile trail through a beautiful section of the old growth hardwood forest.
But the hiking doesn’t end there. This national park has dozens of miles of trails throughout the park including the popular 4.4-mile Weston Lake Loop Trail and 10-mile River Trail. If you’re more keen to get on the water the 15-mile Cedar Creek Canoe Trail is a popular choice. Cedar Creek cuts through the park and eventually leads back to the Congaree River.
100 National Park Road, Hopkins, SC | 803-776-4396 | www.nps.gov/cong/index.htm
Cowpens National Battlefield
At this national battlefield you will see the words “double envelopment” a lot. Not sure what that is? You should visit this park to find out. The park is the location where Daniel Morgan turned the flanks of British Colonel Banastre Tarleton in a decided victory for the colonials.
Similar to most other national battlefields, Cowpens features a one-lane, one-way loop road around the battlefield for easy access. The Battlefield Trail from the visitor center is a great way to get out for a short and easy hike to see some outdoor exhibits and moments from the battle.
4001 Chesnee Highway, Gaffney, SC | 864-461-2828 | www.nps.gov/cowp/index.htm
Fort Sumter and Fort Moultrie National Historical Park
On April 12, 1861 the first shots of the Civil War were fired from several locations including Fort Moultrie, exploding over Fort Sumter. By 1948 both of these historic sites became property of the National Park Service. For years the site was operated as Fort Sumter National Monument leaving the other fort out of the limelight, until just recently being renamed the Fort Sumter and Fort Moultrie National Historical Park.
Visitors to Fort Sumter can board a ferry boat at Liberty Square in Charleston or Patriots Point Naval & Maritime Museum in Mt. Pleasant. The tour includes a one hour round trip boat ride with historical narration and about forty minutes to explore the fort.
Fort Moultrie is far more accessible with a short drive to Sullivan’s Island. Visitors can explore powder storage rooms beneath the earthen fort, get a view of Fort Sumter from an observation tower, and walk along the perimeter of the fort.
340 Concord Street, Charleston, SC | 843-883-3123 | www.nps.gov/fosu/index.htm
Kings Mountain National Military Park
The Battle of Kings Mountain was one of the most important victories for the patriots during the Revolutionary War. It was the first major victory since the Fall of Charleston just a few months earlier and turned the tide of the war.
Today the park features several hiking and horseback riding trails around the visitor center. One of those trails is the 330-mile Overmountain Victory Trail that retraces the path of two groups of patriots who fought in the battle from North Carolina, Virginia, and Tennessee.
2625 Park Road, Blacksburg, SC | 864-936-7921 | www.nps.gov/kimo/index.htm
Ninety Six National Historic Site
This small national historic site is one not to be missed. Two battles were fought here during the Revolutionary War. As a result of the last battle the British burned the forest to prevent locals from rebuilding. That burn is still evident today as you walk the loop trail through the park past the old fort and location of the former town. It’s a short walk and a short visit, but still beautiful to see.
1103 SC-248, Ninety Six, SC | 864-543-4068 | www.nps.gov/nisi/index.htm
Reconstruction Era National Historical Park
The post-Civil War Reconstruction Era was a turbulent time of change, progress, and rebuilding, especially around Beaufort, South Carolina. The Reconstruction Era National Monument is a relatively new unit of the National Park Service, but it’s growing.
Visitors can tour the Penn Center and Beaufort History Museum to learn about the local history before, during, and after Reconstruction, nearby Mitchelville on Hilton Head Island, and see the remains of Fort Howell.
404-507-5868 | www.nps.gov/reer/index.htm