Make a Splash

South Carolina’s 47 state parks offer incredible recreational opportunities year-round. The parks also provide many ways to overcome one of summer’s biggest challenges—the heat! From waterfalls in the mountains to the beautiful beachfront of the Atlantic, South Carolina state parks help visitors keep their cool. Read on to learn how you can cool off in South Carolina State Parks this summer.

Paddle trips

Whether you rent a watercraft or bring your own, South Carolina State Parks offer a plethora of paddling opportunities. Kick off the summer by paddling through rocky shoals spider lilies at Landsford Canal State Park. It’s a tough trek ideal for more experienced paddlers, but with the lilies at peak in May and June, summer is the best time to tackle the Catawba River.

For a more tame paddle, but one that’s equally breathtaking, try the canoe and kayak trail at Goodale State Park. Wind your way through 1.5 miles of bald cypress trees on a peaceful out-and-back trek. Coastal paddling more your speed? Join a local outfitter on a guided paddle through the salt marsh at Huntington Beach State Park. Regarded as a top birding destination on the East Coast, paddle alongside a variety of birds while enjoying cool salt marsh breezes!

Stand-up paddleboarding

Want to mix it up from traditional paddling? Try stand-up paddleboarding! Poinsett State Park rents their own paddleboards so you can test your skills on the park’s 10-acre lake—the perfect way to cool off in the Midlands. Lake Hartwell and Sadlers Creek State Parks have vendors that will deliver a paddleboard to the park for you to explore Lake Hartwell from a new perspective.

Waterfall treks

Waterfalls are one of the best ways to cool off in a South Carolina summer. Is there anything more refreshing than cold mountain water? Table Rock State Park is home to one of the most easily accessible, and enjoyable, waterfalls in the state. Carrick Creek Falls is just 100 yards up the trail and is a great place for even the youngest adventurer to cool off. Rent a boat, or bring your own, at Devils Fork State Park and head out on Lake Jocassee to find the four waterfalls hidden along the shoreline. Lake Jocassee itself is the perfect place to cool off in the summer. But under a hidden waterfall? Even better!

Swimming holes

There’s hardly a better way to cool off in a South Carolina summer than at an old-fashioned swimming hole. While they’re offered at parks across the state, Paris Mountain State Park offers a classic spot in Greenville, in the shadow of the park’s historic Civilian Conservation Corps bathhouse. Cheraw State Park is home to one of the more popular swimming destinations in the Cheraw area. Grab a picnic table, warm up with some volleyball and cool off in gorgeous Lake Juniper. Feeling brave? Tackle a classic high-dive at Table Rock or Oconee State Parks.

Beach day

South Carolina is lucky enough to have almost 200 miles of coastline, and there are four unique coastal State Parks that provide unparalleled access. Among those, Myrtle Beach State Park stands out with its maritime forest and large pier. Cool off with an ice-cream cone from the pier store while dipping your toes in the Atlantic Ocean. On just about the opposite end of the coast, Hunting Island State Park grabs attention with its lighthouse (the only publicly accessible one in South Carolina) and beach access (the only public access in Beaufort County). Worried about crowded beaches? Reserve a picnic spot to guarantee a parking place and a spot on the sand. 

Float on

Paddling is great and all, but the best way to really relax and soak in cool waters in the South Carolina summer? Floating! Whether you’d rather stick to a raft along the shoreline at Colleton State Park or hop in a tube and float down the river at Givhans Ferry State Park, the Edisto River is the perfect way to stay cool! Fun fact—the parks are 23 miles apart as the river flows. Not quite possible for a float trip, but a great way to spend a day if you’re an ambitious paddler.

Splash pads and pools

South Carolina’s natural resources provide plenty of opportunities to cool off in the warmer months, but those natural resources play host to a few manmade opportunities as well. Head to Sesquicentennial State Park to beat the heat in Columbia. Some 26 sprayers work to keep you cool in South Carolina State Parks’ first splash pad! And if you’re staying at Hickory Knob State Resort Park, take a break from the golf course or skeet range to cool off in the swimming pool.