So, you’re in Columbia, and you want to get outside and see some nature, but for whatever reason, you’ve only got time for a day trip. Fear not: As you may have heard, we are perfectly situated in Columbia between the mountains and the coast. Even better, we have a plethora of incredible destinations right at our doorstep.
We've narrowed down a few trips that highlight the beauty of our state and region.
Want somewhere in town?
- Harbison: Just 20 minutes north of downtown, this is truly a gem in Columbia. You get to see the rich ecosystems that exist in the Midlands, from river basins to scrubland. The varied topography makes it awesome for relaxing forest walks and intense hikes — plus, it's a great place to mountain bike or trail run, if that’s your thing. Be sure to check out the Broad River overlook at the far east of the park.
- Congaree: We’ve got a national park right in our backyard, and it’s absolutely worth taking advantage of. It is a unique place where you can explore by foot or by boat, and exploring by boat is highly recommended. The experience and perspective of the park are entirely changed by being on the water as you're enveloped in the history and mysterious aura of the hardwood bottomland. As we come into the fall, the experience is only improved by the rich colors of the changing trees. You can also paddle at Bannister Bridge canoe access. Consult the “Canoe Trail Information” page on the Congaree website for more tips regarding canoeing.
- Rivers and riverwalks: If you didn’t notice, we have quite a few rivers in Columbia. They provide endless opportunities, from tubing and white water kayaking on the river, biking or walking along the greenways or even having a picnic on the shores. This is perfect for any time you want to get outside for a few hours or all day. On the west bank, a popular location is West Columbia Riverwalk Park, and on the east bank, there's Columbia Canal and Riverfront Park.
Want somewhere by the beach?
- Botany Bay: Just under three hours from Columbia and south of Charleston is a beautiful heritage preserve and beach called Botany Bay. It is a perfect spot to lounge, wade and hammock for a day. The palms, Spanish moss-covered oaks and drowned trees give the bay the feeling of an island paradise far from the concerns of daily life. It is seriously gorgeous. You can also check out the nearby heritage preserve.
Want somewhere in the mountains?
- Crowders Mountain and Dixon School Boulders: Outside of Charlotte is the beautiful Crowders Mountain State Park. Crowders has incredible views from the summit and is home to great roped rock climbing. Dixon School has a boulder field close to the trailhead, and you can follow the ridgeline toward Crowders peak. The climax forest is wonderful year-round. Make sure to check out the trail information on the state park website.
- Table Rock: Sitting at the top of South Carolina in the northwestern corner of the state, Table Rock is a classic day-hike. The steep ascent is best matched with the gorgeous colors and cooler temperatures of fall. From the lakes at the base of Table Rock to the waterfalls and creeks on the way up to the sheer granite faces, this is a showcase of Upstate South Carolina.
If you’re interested in joining an active community of students who love the outdoors, check out Carolina Mountaineering and White Water Club on Garnet Gate! The club does weekly trips to destinations such as these, in addition to backpacking, rock climbing and rafting. Have fun in the gorgeous landscapes around Columbia, and always be respectful of our wild spaces by following Leave No Trace principles!