The Palmetto State is most popular for the beaches, but the National Park Sites should not be ignored. Ranging from Fort Sumter National Monument, where the Civil War began, to the beautiful Congaree National Park and Kings Mountain National Military Park, South Carolina has an NPS site for any taste. Revolutionary War, Civil War, hiking, horseback riding, or canoeing. It’s all up to you at these six NPS sites in South Carolina.
Fort Sumter National Monument
On April 12, 1861 the first shots of the Civil War exploded over Fort Sumter. But that’s not the end of the history of this coastal fortification built as a result of the War of 1812. The fort was later used during World War I and World War II, modified heavily, and later sold as surplus to the National Park Service in 1948.
Today visitors board a ferry at either Liberty Square in Charleston or Patriots Point Naval & Maritime Museum in Mount Pleasant. The thirty minute ride is accented by an audio tour of Charleston Harbor, Castle Pinckney, and Fort Sumter. Once docked with the fort (only tour boats are allowed to dock with Fort Sumter) visitors are given about forty minutes to explore the excavated ruins of the casemates and the World War II additions.
340 Concord Street, Charleston, SC | 843-883-3123 | www.nps.gov/fosu/index.htm
Fort Moultrie has been a fortification of some sort under various names since 1776. After the Federal troops abandoned Fort Moultrie just before the start of the Civil War it was taken over by South Carolina forces and used during the initial bombardment of Fort Sumter.
The fort was declared surplus along with Fort Sumter in 1947 when both properties were transferred to the National Park Service. This fort operates as part of the Fort Sumter National Monument, but it has its own unique features to explore. A small museum at the visitor center is a great start before heading across the street to walk through the main entrance.
Once inside there are various rooms and buildings to explore including deep inside the walls of the fort. World War II additions include a spotting tower with a staircase visitors can climb for a beautiful view of Charleston Harbor and Fort Sumter in the distance.
1214 Middle Street, Sullivan’s Island, SC | 843-883-3123 | www.nps.gov/fosu/learn/historyculture/fort_moultrie.htm
Charles Pinckney National Historic Site
This 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
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
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
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