PARKS & NATURAL RECREATION AREAS
With Charleston's ideal sub-tropical climate and its superb array of nearby public parks, forests and boating facilities, outdoor recreation is a year-round pleasure.
In the very heart of the city, along the banks of the scenic Ashley River, the 664-acre Charles Town landing State Park offers incredible natural and historical treasures. Created at the site of South Carolina's original 1670 settlement, the park features 80-acres of breath-taking riverfront gardens that include an elegant alley of centuries-old oaks. The park's expansive Animal Forest is a stunning spectacle of open habitats that feature elk, bison, alligators, timber wolves, alligators, black bears, cougars, foxes, deer, otters bobcats and waterfowl in lively natural settings. There's also a self-guided history trail through the original settlement area that includes a full-sized replica of a colonial sailing vessel, as well as an interactive museum.
County parks and facilities near Charleston include beachfront and riverview locations, historic plantation rice fields, climbing, biking, hiking and horseback riding trails, off-leash dog parks, challenge courses, as well as marinas and boat ramps.
Mount Pleasant's Palmetto Islands County Park features 943 acres in a pristine setting among tidal creeks and lush marsh islands. Miles of trails and boardwalks offer magnificent views of coastal wildlife species such as osprey, egrets, herons, woodpeckers, woodstorks and deer, as well as access to crabbing and fishing docks, outdoor grills and picnic areas, and an observation tower. The park's Splash Island Waterpark is one of three such family-fun facilities located in Charleston County parks, including the Whirlin' Waters Adventure Waterpark at North Charleston's Wannamaker County Park, and Splash Zone at James Island County Park.
James Island County Park's beautiful 643-acre riverfront area includes the state's tallest climbing wall. The 50-foot facility features more than 4500 square feet of climbing space and up to 14 top-ropes available for climbing. In addition, the park includes a campground, canoe and kayak rentals and instruction, as well as historic Civil War fortifications.
For those who enjoy oceanfront recreation, Kiawah Island's Beachwalker Park, Folly Beach County Park and the Isle of Palms County Park feature prime locations facing surf, sand and dunes, and include dressing rooms, restrooms, lifeguards and outdoor showers. Folly Beach also features a separate oceanfront park location with an extraordinary 1045-foot fishing pier that offers astounding views, fishing tournaments, and a full-service restaurant.
The Caw Caw Interpretive Center in the West Ashley area is a 654-acre site that was once part of an historic rice plantation. With its fascinating system of canals and water control systems still intact along rivers, marshes and creeks, the park is a magnet for wildlife, and offers eight miles of interpretive trails through nine distinct coastal habitats that feature towering cypress and live oak, wild turkeys, birds of prey, and alligators.
The Mullet Hall Equestrian Center at Johns Island County Park is part of a 738-acre coastal setting that features more than 20 miles of horseback trails winding through forest and meadows. Activities at the park include horse shows, festivals, exhibitions and trail rides. The Cooper River Marina features long-term and transient slips up to 125 feet, as well as floating docks, convenience store, laundry, restrooms, showers and dockside service, and is one of 19 public boat ramps located for easy access to Charleston Harbor and its surrounding rivers, creeks and waterways.
Twenty minutes north of downtown Charleston, the 250,000-acre Francis Marion National Forest boasts one of the most pristine settings and most complete recreational opportunities in the Southeast. This flourishing area of pine and oak forest, cypress swamp, tidal creeks, coastal marsh, river deltas, and wildflower meadows is excellent habitat for otters, beavers, bald eagles, osprey, coyotes, black bears, wood storks, ibis, foxes, deer and multitudes of song birds. Public forest recreation areas include hiking and horseback paths, kayak and canoe trails, boat ramps, campsites, picnic areas, interpretive sites, mountain-biking areas, bow and arrow target range, and rough roads for ATV and motorcycles.
Adjacent to the Francis Marion National Forest is the 22-mile coastline stretch of the Cape Romain National Wildlife Refuge, which consists of 66,267 acres of barrier islands, maritime forest, marsh estuary and coastal waterways. A pristine, protected habitat for waterfowl, shorebirds and diverse plant communities, the refuge features public boat ramps for access to beautiful Bulls, Cape and Lighthouse Islands, where public activities include hiking trails along forest and beaches, boat tours, and volunteer opportunities for preservation of endangered species such as the red wolf and the loggerhead sea turtle.
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