By Jason Barnette
Every day of thrilling outdoor adventures requires a peaceful night of rest – that’s one of the many unwritten rules of human nature. Fortunately, the six state parks located in South Carolina’s Old 96 District offer a fine balance of both. Learn about the outdoor adventures unique to each park, the things you must do, and where to stay with this one-week itinerary.
Have you ever considered becoming a South Carolina Ultimate Outsider? The incentive program rewards adventurous people who have sought out all 47 state parks. Collect a stamp at each state park during this getaway, and you’ll be on your way to finishing them all!
Hamilton Branch State Park
Hamilton Branch State Park is one of five waterfront parks in the Old 96 District – and one of the smallest parks in the state. The only outdoor adventure to enjoy is to spend a day floating in Strom Thurmond Lake. But that’s exactly what makes this such an attractive park to visit.
Swimming and fishing are allowed along the lakeshore in the park, and boating is possible with the small public boat ramp.
The biggest attraction at the state park is the 180 campsites – all with a view of the lake and many of them waterfront. The sites can accommodate RVs up to 40’ and almost all the sites of electrical and water hookups. The chorus of crickets begins as the summer sun goes down, and the lullaby is almost certain to help you sleep better.
To Do: Spend two nights. Enjoy swimming and picnicking along the lakeshore the first day. For the second day, drop a kayak into the water and paddle around the perimeter of the park, or spend the day swinging from a hammock with a view of the lake.
Baker Creek State Park
Baker Creek State Park is one of the smallest state parks in South Carolina, but that doesn’t mean there is nothing to do. Several biking trails wind along the lakeshore and through the tall pine forests throughout the park. The biggest attraction to the park is the waterfront pavilion that provides access to swimming and fishing on a tributary to Thurmond Lake.
The state park has a small 34-site campground – almost all the sites have electric and water hookups. It’s a peaceful campground and perfect for tent camping, but the better option here would be to stay at nearby Hickory Knob State Resort Park.
To Do: Bring food to enjoy at a picnic table at the pavilion and a bathing suit to jump into calm waters. Boating traffic is infrequent, leaving the park quiet and relaxing.
Hickory Knob State Resort Park
The 18-hole golf course, hiking trails, outdoor activities, and overnight accommodations make Hickory Knob State Resort Park one of the crowning jewels of the state park system in South Carolina. The Tom Jackson-designed golf course – along with the course at Cheraw State Park –features sand traps, challenging greens, and gorgeous views of the lake while you play.
The 71,000-acre Strom Thurmond Lake plays a big role in the charm of this state park. A boat ramp and dock allow visitors to drop their craft into the lake, while the park offers kayaks and canoes for rent. Swimming is allowed – one of the best places is a small boat dock below the waterfront lodge.
Have you ever wanted to learn how to shoot skeet? Or learn about archery? Rangers offer one-hour courses – or you can just head out to the range and enjoy yourself with your own gear. Other outdoor activities include volleyball, basketball, and hiking on multiple tr
ails throughout the park.
The “resort” portion of the state park is the 70-room lodge. Waterfront rooms provide a stunning view of the lake, while interior rooms offer easy access to the swimming pool. Sixteen one-bedroom cabins come with fully equipped kitchens for longer stays. The Guillebeau House is a unique opportunity to spend a night in a 250-year-old log house moved to the park in 1983.
The campground features only 43 campsites, but it’s one of the most peaceful campgrounds in the state. Sites #6-#26 are waterfront and are frequently booked throughout the year, so make your plans early! All the campsites include electric and water hookups.
To Do: Spend two nights. Start the first day with a round of golf or book a session at the shooting or archery range. Head over to the swimming pool or down to the lake for a relaxing afternoon. On the second day, head out onto the lake with either a boat or kayak rental. Dine each night at the restaurant in the visitor center.
Calhoun Falls State Park
Calhoun Falls State Park is one of the most charming and secluded state parks in South Carolina – and that is exactly why so many people love it. The waterfront park is surrounded by the clear water of Lake Russel. A low ridge hides the park’s water boundaries from the lake’s main channel, leaving the park quietly hidden.
The beach area is the main attraction in the park. A large, sandy beach provides swimming access to the lake. Nearby, tennis courts offer some outdoor recreation. The 1.75-mile Cedar Bluff Trail winds along the lakeshore, comfortably hidden beneath the thin canopy of pine needles.
Two campgrounds provide a total of 86 RV campsites and 14 walk-in tent sites. All the campsites feature a view of the lake, and more than half are waterfront. Along with water and electrical hookups, tent pads, and showers, these campgrounds are the perfect place to spend a couple of nights.
To Do: Spend two nights. On the first day, visit the beach area to swim or just relax on the imported sand. Visit the tennis courts or go for a hike on the Cedar Bluff Trail. Spend the second day relaxing in the waterfront campgrounds and take lunch to one of the shelters in the park.
Lake Greenwood State Park
From the Drummond Center to the rock retaining wall along the lake, everything at Lake Greenwood State Park is about the Civilian Conservation Corps. Inside the visitor center, the CCC Museum is a walk through the history of the Depression-era movement to provide jobs to young men while building the infrastructure of America’s great outdoors.
Go for a walk behind the visitor center to catch the first glimpse of Lake Greenwood. The CCC built the rock retaining wall along the lakeshore and is an excellent place to fish, watch the sunset, or spend a day lounging by the water. The Point is one of the most peaceful destinations in the park – a small piece of land juts out into the lake with picnic tables and plenty of places to plop a chair.
125 paved campsites are divided between two waterfront campgrounds at the state park. The campsites can accommodate RVs up to 40’ in length with pull-through and back-in sites. Each campsite includes water and electrical hookups, showers and restrooms are available throughout the campgrounds, and tent campers are most welcome.
To Do: Spend one night. Arrive for early check-in and leave the RV at the visitor center for a short walk. After getting settled, drive over to The Point for some late evening lounging.
Battle of Musgrove Mill State Historic Site
The only state historic site in the Old 96 District, this park preserves the site of a pivotal Revolutionary War battle.
On August 18, 1780, a small group of Patriots under the command of Colonel Isaac Shelby and Colonel Elijah Clarke were moving through the South Carolina countryside to attack a nearby British fort. However, they only made it as far as Horseshoe Falls near the Enoree River before being discovered by redcoat sentries.
Outnumbered and outgunned, Shelby and Clarke quickly improvised a plan to lure the British into battle on their terms. Captain Shadrack Inman led 25 men across the Enoree River to fake an attack and then strategically retreat with the full British force closely behind. The resulting battle left nearly half the British soldiers dead, wounded, or captured. In comparison, only four Patriots were killed in action and seven wounded.
To Do: Begin at the gorgeous visitor center with an introduction to the battle with a 3D interactive map. Go for a hike along the British Trail that winds through the park where the British camped before the battle. As you leave the park, drive across the bridge and go for a short hike to Horseshoe Falls.
Jason Barnette knew at age 12 when his mother bought him a typewriter he would love writing stories. His first story was about Star Trek and he has been writing ever since then. He enjoys crafting a story with details and intrigue that inspire people to visit a destination. He sprinkles in a bit of history, adds a list of things to do, and gives the reader an amazing experience. Road Trips & Coffee is his main avenue for sharing his thoughts. #GoForaDrive is his handle!