The Complete Guide to Camping in Congaree National Park

Congaree National Park

Are you planning a Congaree National Park camping trip?

With just two small tent campgrounds, both walk-up only, plus ample backcountry camping opportunities, Congaree National Park is a far cry from the hustle and bustle of America’s more popular national parks.

This South Carolinian wonderland protects a peaceful expanse of old growth bottomland hardwood forest, the largest still standing in the United States, and is rarely visited. It’s the ideal spot for quiet, secluded primitive camping with few neighbors around.

In addition to hiking, both fishing and canoeing are popular pastimes here thanks to the confluence of two rivers, the Congaree River and Wateree River, which also attribute to the park’s amazing biodiversity.

Here’s everything you need to know before camping in Congaree National Park.

Index

  1. Best Campgrounds
  2. Backcountry Camping
  3. Nearby Campgrounds
  4. Best Things to Do
  5. Plan Your Visit

Best Campgrounds in Congaree National Park

Boardwalk in Congaree National Park

Congaree National Park has just two small campgrounds. Neither allows RV camping and both are walk-up only. This ensures incredibly quiet, private, and peaceful campsites. If you prefer to drive into your campsite or camp in an RV, several other campgrounds are located just outside the park. 

Here are the best campgrounds in Congaree National Park:

Longleaf Campground

Longleaf Campground is just about as peaceful and quiet as national park campgrounds get.

Tucked away far from the reaches of civilization, this walk-up campground requires you to park your vehicle and walk roughly 100 yards to your campsite. 10 individual campsites and 4 group campsites are available. Although private and spread apart, you’re still able to see your neighbors.

The atmosphere is quiet and restful sheltered by plentiful shade trees. Bring your hammock and go hammock camping here. Vault toilets are available but there’s no running water onsite (running water is available at the nearby visitor’s center).

Learn more about Longleaf Campground.

Bluff Campground

Bluff Campground is the second campground in Congaree National Park. It requires a roughly 1-mile hike to reach.

You park in the same parking lot as Longleaf Campground and simply continue down the same trail past the closest campsites. This provides even more in the way of privacy. Beautiful foliage surrounds the 6 individual campsites.

Do know that this Congaree National Park campground doesn’t have any restroom facilities, not even fault toilets, or running water. Think of it like backpacking and remember to pack out everything you pack in, including human waste. Consider bringing a camping toilet along for a little extra comfort.

Learn more about Bluff Campground.

Backcountry Camping in Congaree National Park

Cyprus Forest in Congaree National Park

In a sense, all camping in Congaree National Park is backcountry camping since both campgrounds are walk-up only.

But if you prefer to get a little more off the beaten path, backpacking is the way to go. Thanks to the park’s numerous waterways, canoe and kayak camping are also more than possible.

A free permit is required to camp in the backcountry. No designated campsites are available, although some rules and restrictions apply. Make sure you’re in the actual backcountry – not the frontcountry – before setting up camp for the night.

Remember to follow all park backcountry rules and regulations, including party size limitations and fire restrictions. Always adhere to the Leave No Trace principles. Pack out everything you pack in (including human waste).

Learn more about backcountry camping in Congaree National Park.

Other Camping Near Congaree National Park

Barred Owl in Congaree National Park

Camping in Congaree National Park is limited to just two walk-up campgrounds. For car camping and RV camping, look just outside the park’s borders.

Here are a few of the best campgrounds near Congaree National Park:

  • Poinsett State ParkTry Poinsett State Park for a less rustic camping near Congaree National Park. The quiet campground has 26 tent campsites plus 24 RV campsites with water and electric hookups.
  • Santee State ParkAnother state park campground near Congaree, Santee State Park actually has two separate campgrounds: Cypress View Campground with 50 campsites and Lakeshore Campground with 108 campsites. RV hookups are available at both campgrounds.
  • Santee Lakes KOAFor full-blown RV camping near Congaree National Park, look no further than Santee Lakes KOA. Full hookups and spacious campsites are available for even the longest RVs. A grassy tent camping area, cabin rentals, and countless amenities, including Wi-Fi and a swimming pool, are also available.
  • Magnolia CampgroundStop in at the spacious Magnolia Campground on your way to Congaree. Tent camping and RV camping are welcome, although most campsites are set up for RVs with full hookups and a dump station available.
  • The Barnyard RV ParkEnjoy camping in South Carolina with a stay at the Barnyard RV Park. Spacious, level, and fully equipped campsites greet RV campers. Plentiful shade trees help keep you cool and comfortable here.

This is just a small selection of the available camping near Congaree National Park.

Best Things to Do in Congaree National Park

Bench on Boardwalk in Congaree National Park

Camping in Congaree National Park sure is great, but don’t forget about all the other enjoyable activities and must-see destinations. Here are some additional things to do during your visit:

  • Hiking – From short walks along the boardwalk to grueling backcountry treks, Congaree National Park has a hike for you. The 2.4-mile Boardwalk Loop is one of the most popular hikes in the park. It’s ideal for hikers of all ages.
  • Canoeing & Kayaking – Thanks to its many waterways, exploring Congaree by canoe or kayak is ideal. Backcountry canoe and kayak camping is allowed. Bring your own watercraft, rent from an outfitter, or take a guided tour!  
  • Fishing – Pick up a South Carolina and head to Congaree for fishing. The activity is allowed almost everywhere in the park, except for a handful of areas. Fish from shore or your non-motorized watercraft.
  • Ranger Programs – Visitors of all ages will enjoy the ranger programs offered at Congaree. These include campfire talks, guided walks, and more.
  • Wildlife Viewing – This national park is alive with activity no matter which time of year you visit. Deer, turkey, and otters are common sights. You might even get lucky and see a coyote, bobcat, armadillo, feral pig, box turtle, or even an occasional alligator. Mid-May to Mid-June is one of the best times to visit Congaree thanks to the stunning synchronous fireflies colorful mating season.

Here are even more things to do in Congaree National Park to better help you plan your visit.

How to Plan Your Congaree National Park Camping Trip

Wetland in Congaree National Park

Here are some additional tips and tricks to help you plan your next Congaree National Park camping trip:

  • When to Visit – Spring and fall are the best times to visit Congaree. Summer is hot and humid with sudden rainstorms, so be prepared for camping in the rain. Snow is relatively uncommon but winter flooding is frequent and can occur with little to no warning.
  • How to Get There – Congaree National Park is less than 20 miles from Columbia, the capital of South Carolina. It’s roughly 100 miles from Augusta, Georgia and 100 miles from Charleston. Most visitors arrive by car or RV.
  • Entrance Fees – Visiting Congaree National Park is completely free. There’s no entrance fee. Camping is also free of charge.
  • Getting Around – Congaree is easiest to explore by car, although some visitors do get around solely via bicycle.
  • Dining & Groceries – No restaurants or general stores are located within the park, but many options are available in surrounding communities. Stock up in nearby Columbia before visiting. Consider local favorites like seafood gumbo, shrimp and grits, or fried green tomatoes for a taste of the Lowcountry.  
  • Lodging – No lodging is available within the park itself, but plentiful cabins, motels, hotels and Airbnb are located in the surrounding small communities as well as nearby Columbia.
  • Bringing a Pet – Pet lovers rejoice! Dogs are welcome on all trails and in both campgrounds in Congaree National Park as long as they are kept on a leash at all times.
  • RV Camping – There is no RV camping in Congaree National Park, although RVs are welcome at most surrounding campgrounds, including the state parks. Several nearby South Carolina RV parks offer full RV hookups.
  • Visiting in Winter – Congaree is open year-round, although winter is known for flooding, often unexpectedly and within warning. In fact, areas of the park can flood even when it’s not raining. That said, winter temperatures are mild making winter camping somewhat pleasant.

Don’t hesitate to let us know if you have any more questions about camping in Congaree National Park in the comments below!

What Next?

Sign in Congaree National Park

Our state camping guides and national park camping guides are the best way to plan your next family camping adventure.

Before you head out, don’t forget to doublecheck your family camping checklist to make sure you have all the right camping gear, including a tent, sleeping bag, cookstove, and more.

Finally, don’t forget to check out our camping recipes, including 47 camping meals that require no refrigeration and 25 make ahead camping meals to feed the whole family.

If you have any other family camping questions, just ask us in the comments below!

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