South Carolina National Parks include beautiful historic sites, fascinating forts, gorgeous parks, legendary trails, and so much more.
South Carolina National Parks
South Carolina National Parks! We’ve got eight incredible national park sites for you to see on your next visit to the Palmetto State.
South Carolina National Parks includes historic sites, fascinating forts, gorgeous parks, legendary trails and more.
To be clear, these are national park sites (as in managed by the National Park Service) but they are not capital letter National Parks. There are only 63 of those (so far).
We’re going to give you eight reasons why you’ll want to make South Carolina your next vacation destination.
1. Charles Pinckney National Historic Site | South Carolina National Parks
For me, one of the best parts of traveling to a national park site is how much I’m able to learn about people, places and events. For example, when you travel to the Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historical Park in Kentucky, no one needs to tell you who he was or what he did.
But what about the Charles Pinckney National Historic Site in South Carolina?
Did you know that Charles Pinckney was an American Founding Father, planter, and politician? He was also a signer of the United States Constitution.
Pinckney was elected and served as the 37th Governor of South Carolina, later serving two more non-consecutive terms. He also served as a U.S. Senator and a member of the House of Representatives.
With the support of Alexander Hamilton, Pinckney even became the Federalist vice presidential nominee in the 1800 presidential election.
Charles Pinckney’s Major Contributions To The Constitution
According to scholars, among Pinckney’s major contributions to the Constitution were the following:
The elimination of religious testing as a qualification to office.
The division of the Legislature into House and Senate.
The power of impeachment being granted only to the House.
The establishment of a single chief executive, who will be called President.
The power of raising an army and navy being granted to Congress.
The prohibition of states to enter into a treaty or to establish interfering duties.
The regulation of interstate and foreign commerce being controlled by the national government. (Source: NPS)
Things To Do At The Charles Pinckney National Historic Site
The Charles Pinckney National Historic Site is a 28-acre remnant of Charles Pinckney’s Snee Farm. The farm was a rice and indigo plantation that once fed the Charleston and overseas markets.
The site is home to an 1828 Lowcountry coastal cottage which serves as a museum and a visitor center. Park grounds include ornamental gardens and towering canopies of live oak and Spanish moss.
Exhibits tell visitors the story of Charles Pinckney and his contributions to the U.S. Constitution, of the United States as a young and emerging nation, and of 18th century plantation life for free and enslaved people through the history of Snee Farm inhabitants. (Source: NPS)
There’s much to see and do including archaeology displays, exhibits, films, etc. You can walk the grounds, bring a picnic, or stretch your legs on a nature trail. Learn about a man who was a forgotten founding father while soaking up all of the beauty of his gorgeous country estate.
2. Congaree National Park | South Carolina National Parks
Visiting this national park is like going back in time. Here you’ll discover ancient cypress trees and waterways that once dominated the coastal southern United States but now are found only in a few pockets of protected land.
Congaree happens to be one of the more forgotten parks on the east coast which is great for those of us who like to avoid crowds!
Most people don’t think of South Carolina when they think of national parks, but you’ll definitely want to add this magical 26,000 acre park to your bucket list.
Things To Do At Congaree National Park
A great place to begin your visit is the Harry Hampton Visitor Center. Visitors can see exhibits on geology, animal life, and human history that are native to this part of South Carolina. There’s an 18-minute film to introduce you to the various natural wonders of the park.
Congaree National Park features over 25 miles of hiking trails and 2.4 miles of boardwalk. The Boardwalk Loop Trail provides access to Weston Lake and other trails that wind through the Congaree floodplain. Bring your camera as this trail is a great place to get that perfect shot.
You can go canoeing or kayaking at Congaree. Cedar Creek is one of the best places to launch your vessel into the water. It marks the start of thae managed Cedar Creek Canoe Trail. Keep an eye out for otters, turtles and the occasional alligator as you paddle along. And have fun!
Congaree is home to one of the largest loblolly pines in the whole world. You should definitely check it out while you’re there.
There Are Hiking Trails, Leaf Strewn Forests & Southern Plantations Too
Another wonderful stop is the Congaree Bluffs Heritage Preserve on the south side of the national park. It’s a magnificent maze of hiking paths and leaf-strewn forests.
It covers 201 acres, encompassing groups of hickory, oak, and tupelo tree, often clad in beautiful clusters of Spanish moss.
If you’re looking for a little history then you don’t have far to look. Near the park is the Millford Plantation Historic Site. You can explore a 19th century plantation household that was home to more than 600 slaves prior to the Civil War.
3. Cowpens National Battlefield | South Carolina National Parks
Our national park sites have a story to tell about the history of our nation. It’s a story that goes beyond the textbooks by giving visitors the opportunity to see the places where our history happened. The Battle of Cowpens is a case in point.
It was fought as part of the American Revolution on January 17, 1781, near Thicketty Creek, South Carolina, on a 500 square yard grazing pasture. Brigadier General Daniel Morgan was being pursued by 1,100 British soldiers under the command of Lt. Colonel Banastre Tarleton.
Morgan picked his ground for what would be a defensive battle. The battle began shortly after dawn. It resulted in a devastating defeat for the British army, ending a brief string of victories for the Crown in the southern colonies.
The victory at Cowpens proved to be a massive morale booster for the Continental Army and a crucial step in securing the South for the Patriot cause.
Things To Do At Cowpens National Battlefield
I always recommend beginning at the visitors center if your a first-timer. There’s a fascinating eighteen-minute live-action theater film, “Cowpens: A Battle Remembered.”
There’s also a museum which combines exhibits with weaponry from the colonial period. The National Park Service operates a wonderful bookstore which offers visitors over 100 publications and theme-related items for sale on the battle and the Revolutionary War.
Depending on when you’re planning your trip, there are special programs including guided battlefield walks and weapons demonstrations.
Of course, you can walk the battlefield without a guide and see the Green River Road (Mills Gap Road) where armies not only traveled, but also fought each other.
Take A Deeper Dive Into The History Of The Battle & The War
So many books, so little time. I enjoy researching and writing articles for the Pattiz Brothers who also happen to be my sons. And, the best part of all is that they pay me in books! It works for them and it works for me too.
The only one it doesn’t work for is my wife who tells me that we’re running out of bookshelves, but I digress.
There are some wonderful books on the Battle of Cowpens if you would like to take a deeper dive. Three of my favorites are: A Devil of a Whipping by Lawrence E. Babits, Battle of Cowpens: Primary & Contemporary Accounts by Andrew Waters and Kings Mountain and Cowpens: Our Victory Was Complete by Robert W. Brown Jr.
4. Fort Sumter & Fort Moultrie National Historical Park
We go from the American Revolution to the Civil War, but the good news is that you don’t have to leave the state of South Carolina while we do it. Actually, when it comes to American history, this is a two-for-one special.
There are two forts at the entrance of Charleston Harbor. Fort Moultrie, which had its humble beginnings as a palmetto log fort, was originally crafted by patriots in the days of the American Revolution. It later served a strategic role defeating the British Navy in 1776.
Fort Sumter | A Fort Built After The War Of 1812
After America became a nation, work began on a second fort. It would be called Fort Sumter. It was named after Thomas Sumter who was a hero of the American Revolution.
Sumter dates back to the War of 1812. It was built after the burning of Washington D.C. in 1814. This fort was intended to protect America from future sea-going invaders such as Great Britain.
Believe it or not, the fort was still incomplete in 1861 when hostilities erupted into Civil War. The Confederate attack on Fort Sumter, which commenced on April 12, 1861, was the opening salvo in what became the bloodiest conflict in American history.
Did You Know That There Was A 2nd Battle Of Fort Sumter?
Did you know that there was a 2nd Battle of Fort Sumter? For the Union, it didn’t end any better than the first one did. In the first battle, the fort had been cut off from its supplies and Major Robert Anderson was forced to surrender.
The Second Battle of Fort Sumter took place on September 8, 1863. It was a failed attempt by the Union to retake the fort. Although the fort was reduced to rubble, it remained in Confederate hands until it was evacuated as General Sherman’s Army marched through South Carolina in February of 1865.
Tour Forts Sumter & Moultrie
The good news is that you can tour these historic forts. Fort Sumter is only accessible by the concession-operated tour boats however.
Fort Sumter Tours provides the only National Park Service authorized access to Fort Sumter. You have to purchase tickets for the tour boat, but the fort does not charge an admission fee.
As for Fort Moultrie, visitors are required to purchase an entrance pass at the Fort Moultrie Visitor Center upon entering the site.
A visit to Fort Sumter and Fort Moultrie National Historical Park provides a window into the life and trials of America’s heroes, from the Civil War to today’s modern conflicts.
It’s a great way to walk in the footsteps of those who helped give birth to the new nation and those who fought to preserve it.
5. Kings Mountain National Military Park | South Carolina National Parks
Thomas Jefferson called it “The turn of the tide of success.” The Battle of Kings Mountain, which was fought on October 7th, 1780, was an important American victory during the Revolutionary War.
It was the first major patriot victory to occur after the British invasion of Charleston, South Carolina, in May of 1780. The Kings Mountain National Military Park preserves the site of this important battle.
It Was The Patriots Vs. The Tories At Kings Mountain
A force of 1,800 backcountry or “Overmountain” men defeated a force of 1,000 Tories at King’s Mountain on October 7, 1780.
According to British commander Henry Clinton, the American victory “proved the first Link of a Chain of Evils that followed each other in regular succession until they at last ended in the total loss of America.”
Kings Mountain marked the first major American victory following the British invasion in Charleston that took place 6 months earlier. This pivotal battle destroyed a significant section of Lord Cornwallis’ army and halted the British advance into North Carolina.
Things To See & Do At Kings Mountain
Believe it or not, most of the battles/skirmishes of the Revolutionary War actually took place in South Carolina. At Kings Mountain, you can learn about an hour-long battle which changed the course of the Revolutionary War.
I recommend beginning your adventure at the Visitor Center. There you will be treated to a 26-minute film, which provides a historical overview of the battle and its importance.
There’s also an exhibit area where you will learn more about why the battle happened, who the Overmountain Men were and how the outcome of this battle helped to change the course of the war.
Then, when you feel like you’ve had enough indoor history, there’s a 1.5 mile battlefield trail you can walk. It’s a beautiful path which takes you along the battlefield. Along the way, you’ll pass several markers for important figures from this battle.
Looking For More Exercise At Kings Mountain
If the battlefield trail is not a good enough workout for you then there are three backcountry hiking trails offering 16 additional miles of outdoor adventures.
- Park Loop Trail – This 16-mile loop trail goes through both parks. Plan on spending a full day hiking this trail.
- Browns Mountain Trail – This 2.5-mile trail leads from the visitor center to the top of Browns Mountain. This is not a loop trail. You must backtrack to get back to the visitor center. A total hike of 5 miles.
- Clarks Creek (Lake Crawford) – This 3-mile trail leads from the visitor center to Lake Crawford (located in the state park). This is not a loop trail. You must backtrack to get back to the visitor center. A total hike of 6 miles. (Source: NPS)
6. Ninety Six National Historic Site
What’s in a name? It was the immortal William Shakespeare who once said, in Romeo & Juliet, “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” So a rose by any other name is still a rose. But what about a number?
In this case, it’s Ninety-Six. Ninety Six National Historic Site, also known as Old Ninety Six and Star Fort, is 96 kilometers south of Greenville, South Carolina. It’s a national historic site that preserves a small town established in the early 18th century. So, what’s so special about this town?
I’m glad you asked. Ninety Six had become a prosperous village of about 100 settlers by the time of the American Revolution. It turns out that the first land battle of the war in South Carolina (known as the siege of Savage Old Fields) happened there.
Nathaniel Greene Lays Siege To Ninety-Six | South Carolina National Parks
It took place on November 19–21, 1775. Major Andrew Williamson of the Ninety-Six District Regiment of Militia tried to take away ammunition that had been seized.
Major Williamson was outnumbered, however, and decided that discretion was the better part of valor so he reached a truce with the offending Loyalists.
Ninety-Six became a Loyalist stronghold which General Nathaniel Greene attempted to break with a 28-day siege in 1781. Despite having superior numbers, Greene was unable to take the town however.
Visit Ninety-Six Today
Today, this national historic site sits on 1,022-acres. It’s located two miles south of the present-day town of Ninety Six on South Carolina Highway 248.
There’s a visitor center that includes a small museum. It contains artifacts found at the site, as well as other period artifacts. There are also paintings of the battle and local leaders of the American Revolution.
Visitors can watch a short film about the battle. There’s a gift shop too. You can rent a self-guided audio tour of the park.
While there, you can take a one-mile interpretive trail from the visitor center to the remains of Star Fort as well as the original site of Ninety Six. There’s also an old unidentified cemetery (believed to be a slave cemetery from post-colonial times).
7. Overmountain Victory National Historic Trail | South Carolina National Parks
Stretching 330 miles through four states (Virginia, Tennessee, North and South Carolina) the Overmountain Victory National Historic Trail traces the route used by patriot militia during the pivotal Kings Mountain campaign of 1780.
You can follow the campaign by utilizing a Commemorative Motor Route which uses existing state highways marked with the distinctive trail logo, or 87 miles of walkable pathways. (Source: NPS)
8. Reconstruction Era National Historical Park | South Carolina National Parks
Reconstruction was the period in American history which lasted from 1865 to 1877. Its main focus was on bringing the southern states back into full political participation in the Union, guaranteeing rights to former slaves and defining new relationships between African Americans and whites.
Was it a success? Keep reading to find out.
It included three Constitutional amendments which altered the status of African-American rights. The 13th Amendment formally abolished slavery in all states and territories. The 14th Amendment prohibited states from depriving any male citizen of equal protection under the law, regardless of race.
And the 15th Amendment granted the right to vote to African-American males.
The Failure Of Reconstruction Meant Widespread Disenfranchisement Of African Americans
“Presidential Reconstruction” emphasized Southern states’ rights to self-governance. What this meant in practice, however, is that once federal troops were withdrawn by President Rutherford B. Hayes, the southern states were able to pass a series of “Jim Crow” laws which effectively disenfranchised African-Americans.
The most infamous form of this retrenchment was racial terrorism which included torture and murder (lynching). In conjunction with coercive labor agreements, the subsequent disenfranchisement and societal segregation meant the reassertion of white supremacy throughout the south.
Things To See & Do At The Reconstruction Era National Historical Park
Reconstruction Era National Historical Park, established on January 12, 2017, recognizes the historic significance of the years between 1861–1898, from the early Civil War through the start of Jim Crow segregation.
Visitors can explore the visitor center and the Beaufort National Historic Landmark District.
Many of the historic homes, churches, and commercial structures located throughout the Beaufort National Historic Landmark District served as offices, hospitals, and quarters for military officials during Reconstruction.
Visit Camp Saxton At The Beaufort County Fort Frederick Heritage Preserve
I would also recommend visiting the Beaufort County Fort Frederick Heritage Preserve. It was there that Camp Saxton, home to the 1st South Carolina Infantry (later renamed the 33rd United States Colored Troops), was established.
While in Beaufort, you might also want to see Porters Chapel. It’s a Reconstruction era Freedman’s Chapel located in the Naval Heritage Park just outside the main gate to Naval Hospital Beaufort.
More Than Just Parks
Now Here’s A Fun Fact | The Patriot
South Carolina is home to so much Revolutionary War history. And, as it turns out, it’s also home to one of the most successful Hollywood films about this war. The Patriot, starring Mel Gibson, was filmed in rural Berkeley County, South Carolina.
Benjamin Martin is a veteran of the French and Indian War who is called upon to vote for South Carolina joining the American Revolution. Martin is initially impartial, explaining that he believes in the cause, but is not willing to fight in a war for it.
His neutral stance ends when a group of Redcoats attack his home and their leader, Colonel William Tavington, murders one of his sons.
Martin is also horrified by British atrocities committed against innocent civilians especially when the citizens of Pembroke are locked in the church and burned alive.
Benjamin Martin Was Based On The Swamp Fox
While there was no Patriot militia leader called Benjamin Martin who fought in the Revolutionary War, the film’s screenwriter, Robert Rodat, explained that the character is based on several different real historical figures: Francis “Swamp Fox” Marion, Thomas Sumter, Nathanael Greene, Andrew Pickens and Daniel Morgan.
Francis Marion appears to have been the primary influence, since many details of Benjamin’s character – including his role in the French and Indian War, his use of guerrilla warfare tactics, his gathering and leadership of militiamen, and his use of ambushes to gather intelligence – are lifted straight from Marion’s biography.
(Source: The Patriot True Story: What Really Happened In Mel Gibson’s Movie, by Hannah Shaw-Williams)
Take A “Patriot” Tour
At More Than Just Parks, we pride ourselves on being more than just parks. We like to give you a little something extra. So, if you’re planning on making South Carolina your next vacation destination then why not consider a “Patriot Tour” while you’re traveling to all of these wonderful national park sites.
Check Out The Following SC Locations
If you’re interested in learning more about the places where The Patriot was filmed then consider the following locations as possible places to stop while visiting South Carolina:
- Darby Farm in Chester County served as the location for many of the film’s battle scenes as well as the largely cut scenes of Valley Forge. The farm also served as the production base of operations for nearly four months and is where many of the reenactors camped out in between shooting days.
- Production headquarters were also located in Rock Hill, S.C. Revolutionary War reenactment battles were also staged in Rock Hill.
- Brattonsville served as the location for the Continental Encampment and the plantation in Camden used in the film. It was also used for parts of Charlotte Selton’s (Joely Richardson) plantation. Interiors of the Howard’s home were also shot in Historic Brattonsville.
- Exterior shots of Charlotte Selton’s plantation were filmed at Mansfield Plantation in Georgetown County.
- Randolph Hall at the College of Charleston was used for interior shots of assembly meetings.
- The King’s highway skirmish scene was shot at Fort Lawn.
- Lowrys provided the locations for the Battle of Camden, Benjamin Martin’s farm, and the town of Pembroke.
- Cypress Gardens was used for the location of the Old Spanish Mission Black Swamp Militia’s secret island headquarters. (Source: SCIWAY)
Map Of The Sites For The “Patriot Tour”
Now Here’s A Fascinating Film Fact | The Patriot
Remember the dramatic scene in which the citizens of Pembroke are locked in the church and burned alive. Critics argued that it painted an unfair portrait of the British during the war.
Actually, it was based on a real historical event, but not from the Revolutionary War.
In Limoges, France during World War Two, German soldiers locked 452 women and children in a church. They tossed smoke grenades through the window, set the church on fire, and then raked the place with machine guns. There was only one survivor.
“Top 10” Historically Misleading Films
Time Magazine labeled The Patriot as one of the “Top 10 Historically Misleading Films.” This was because of the film’s portrayal of British soldiers as evil, bloodthirsty sadists. Does this mean that the British were a bunch of nice guys during the Revolutionary War? Not so fast!
Case in point: While British forces declined to execute American POWs for treason, they did subject them to a grueling captivity aboard filthy prison ships in New York harbor and in damp stone prisons in England and Scotland.
According to author Steve Sheinkin, one prisoner’s account described how there was so little space in fact, that the hundreds of prisoners stuffed into the hull of one prison vessel didn’t have enough oxygen to even light a match.
Over half of these men perished in British hands. General Washington was urged to retaliate. Washington refused as he was adamant about British POWs receiving humane treatment.
The Paoli Massacre
And then there’s the Paoli Massacre. On the evening of September 20, 1777, near Paoli, Pennsylvania, General Charles Grey and nearly 5,000 British soldiers launched a surprise attack on a small regiment of Patriot troops commanded by General Anthony Wayne in what became known as the Paoli Massacre.
At approximately 1:00 a.m. on September 21, the British came howling through the woods right into the slumbering American troops.
Charles Grey’s Orders
It wasn’t necessarily the act of the surprise that differentiated this battle from others; it was simply one key order that British General Charles Grey made to his troops. British Major John Andre describes General Charles Grey’s orders:
It was represented to the men that firing discovered us to the Enemy, hid them from us, killed our friends and produced a confusion favorable to the escape of the Rebels and perhaps productive of disgrace to ourselves.
On the other hand, by not firing we knew the foe to be wherever fire appeared and a charge (of bayonets) ensured his destruction; that amongst the Enemy those in the rear would direct their fire against whoever fired in front, and they would destroy each other.
The Americans Were Cut To Shreds
Not only were the majority of the American troops sleeping, but because musket shots weren’t giving away the British’s position, the Americans could not see to defend themselves.
One wave of British troops after the other swept through the American encampment, stabbing and slicing the troops to shreds.
The Americans had little to no organization at the time, and could not be sure that those whom they fired at were truly the enemy. (Source: The Paoli Massacre: A Battle Won By Bayonet, by Max Hunsicker)
The truth is out there. We’re determined to help you find it. So enjoy your next vacation whether it’s to South Carolina or some other wonderful destination.
Map Of South Carolina National Park Sites
List Of South Carolina National Parks
- Charles Pinckney National Historic Site
- Congaree National Park
- Cowpens National Battlefield
- Fort Sumter & Fort Moultrie National Historical Park
- Kings Mountain National Military Park
- Ninety Six National Historic Site
- Overmountain Victory National Historic Trail
- Reconstruction Era National Historical Park