Sure, we all have Yosemite, Zion, Joshua Tree and The Grand Canyon on our bucket lists, but what about something a little more under the radar of US national parks? Something like Congaree National Park, one of the least visited national parks in the country? Don’t let this ranking scare you. This underrated park has some of the most unique features of any other US national park.
Declared a national park in 2003, Congaree has a humid subtropical climate and boasts the largest concentration of Champion trees and tallest tree canopy in the world. Pretty impressive for a park that attracts such little foot traffic. Congaree has 25 miles of green trails, and 6.6 miles of Cedar Creek runs right through the park. Hike the trails, canoe or kayak down the river, fish on the banks or camp in the free camping sites offered. Most camping spots in the park are primitive.
Perhaps the most unique part of Congaree National Park is the annual synchronous firefly display. Every year, for 2 weeks only, Congaree shows off with a light display that illuminates the entire forest. For a chance to witness this natural wonder, you’ll have to enter a lottery because only 120 vehicles can enter the park for viewing each night. This is an effort to preserve the fireflies’ habitat and provide a better visitor experience.
One of the most popular trails is the Boardwalk Loop. It’s an easy trail, as the entire walk takes place along a boardwalk. This gorgeous stroll is wheelchair accessible as well!
There are quite a few campgrounds in the area but be prepared for primitive camping or limited camping facilities. For more accommodating arrangements, you’ll want to book a hotel outside the park or find a rental on AirBnb.
Take a guided kayak tour along the Cedar Creek. The three hour out and back trip includes a tour guide with abundant knowledge of the park ready to answer any questions. The tour costs $75 a person and includes a kayak, vest and paddle. Make sure to dress comfortably, wear clothes you don’t mind getting wet or dirty and apply bug spray before you head down to the landing. Book the tour at fareharbor.com
Look around at all of the amazing flora and fauna that inhabit the park. The notably huge trees that are some of the biggest in the world will leave you awestruck. Be sure to keep an eye out for some of the creatures that roam the forest such as alligators, deer, wild pigs, coyotes and otters.